WASHINGTON -- Worried about a shortage of qualified young advisor talent? Consider hiring younger staff, and then encouraging -- or even requiring -- junior associates to study and sit for the CFP exam and complete their experience requirements.

That was one of the takeaways from a new survey of recent graduates the CFP Board released Friday at its annual conference for registered educational programs.

In that poll, graduates of registered programs indicated that they were more likely to sit for the exam if their employers nudged them in that direction, rather than simply setting deadlines for their requisite licenses and then leaving them to build their business book.

"That employer support and that employer expectation is certainly a huge motivator," says Kristy Archuleta, an associate professor in Kansas State University's financial planning program who helped conduct the survey.

Survey respondents -- who included recent graduates who had attained CFP certification, those working toward the credential, and those who said they were planning to take the test in the future -- cited their employment picture as a primary reason for moving ahead with the process.

ENCOURAGING FIRM ACTION

Such findings put pressure on firms to take a more active role in setting professional standards, says Charles Chaffin, the CFP Board's director of academic programs and initiatives.

Nearly two dozen firms attended this year's registered program conference -- the first time the board has broadened the event to include industry participants. And Chaffin says he has been hearing from firms about the imbalance of supply and demand in advisor talent.

Although college and university faculty members do have a role to play in encouraging students to take the exam, Chaffin points to the survey's finding that today's college students -- unsurprisingly -- have their employment prospects very much in mind as they weigh their options at the bachelor's degree level.

LEAKY PIPELINE

The poll is the latest CFP Board effort to address issues contributing to the leaky pipeline of students who start out in planning programs but don't follow through to take the exam or complete the credential's experience requirement.

Last year, the board reported that more than two-thirds of the recent graduates of registered planning programs hadn't taken the CFP exam. Some had gone on to careers in fields other than finance; others were working in the industry, but in positions where they didn't feel compelled to acquire the certification -- selling stocks or insurance, for instance.

Elevating the CFP certification as a mark of professional pedigree, and presumably a ticket for career advancement, could not only set in students' mind the value of the credential, but could also drive enrollment in fledgling collegiate financial planning programs.

"Even not saying that it's required, but saying that it's preferred, that changes everything," Chaffin says. "It creates an incredible ripple effect on our campuses. And the supply will come when the demand is explicitly articulated."

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