The imperative of succession planning in an industry in which the average advisor's 50th birthday is in the rear-view mirror is helping to reshape the dynamic on compensation. In researching and writing this month's cover story, we also were struck by how much the increasing professionalization of the RIA business and strategic growth goals were driving compensation trends at forward-thinking, progressive firms.
As Financial Planning senior editor Charles Paikert, the author of our compensation story, tells me, "Executives at these firms are truly convinced that if they do not adopt professional management tactics and strategies to increase both productivity of advisors and assets under management, they will be roadkill as the industry continues to consolidate. As a result," he says, "they are rapidly turning to incentives, bonuses and equity as a means to achieve that end." Increasingly, equity has become a key element in attracting, retaining and compensating top wealth managers.
The skirmish for talent means many many advisors are enjoying a robust seller's market. As Paikert tells me, "The shortage of supply and increase in demand is reflected in basic economics and stark numbers." Indeed: Firms paid 18% more to hire new senior advisors in 2013 than they did in 2012, with total average compensation rising to $218,600 from $185,650, according to industry consultant and researcher Angie Herbers.
The rising tide lifted the boats of mid-level advisors who were recruited, as well: Their average pay rose 16% to $135,250. Advisors who stayed put got single-digit percentage raises, on average, but also presumably enjoyed sufficient job satisfaction that they decided to stay put.
Satisfaction was a vital factor in determining pay in other ways, as well. Our story finds that firms are more focused on metrics other than revenue and AUM to compute incentive pay: client retention, client satisfaction and performance evaluation, for example.
The influence of "new gen" values also stood out in the creation of nontraditional compensation beyond cash that matches the younger generation's lifestyle preferences. "Flexible scheduling, more paid time off, health club memberships and opportunities to spend time doing community-based philanthropy projects will likely be part of the compensation mix in the years ahead," Paikert says.
To keep the revenue flowing and to ensure their continuity, firms can expect to have to be both extra-competitive on pay and flexible on the lifestyle terms. That's unlikely to abate once they've stocked up on talent. "Firms can't afford to let people leave," Herbers told us, "because it's so expensive to replace them."