Facing Retirement Wave, Firms Get Serious About Training New Advisors

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Running up against the limits of a recruitment strategy based on swiping advisor talent from their competitors, leading wealth management firms are trying a new ploy: Growing their own.

With so many regionals, wirehouses and independents intent on poaching top talent in recent years, there has been little to no emphasis on cultivating a new generation of advisors. “They may have taken their eye off the ball when it comes to developing fresh young talent,” says Bill Butterfield, a research analyst with Aite Group.

But faced with a rapidly aging advisor workforce—the average advisor age was 51.5 in 2012 and is advancing each year, according to data from Cerulli Associates—a tentative shift is taking place, as a number of top firms have put programs in place over the past few months to train new advisors from within their own ranks.

Although modest in scope, these programs are a sign that the wealth management industry may finally be getting serious – and creative – about expanding the pool of potential new advisors.


Raymond James & Associates recently introduced a new training program to turn its registered service associates into financial advisors. The company hopes to build a pipeline of new advisors to replace retiring veterans and to further diversify its advisor workforce by drawing more women into its ranks.

The 10 trainees in the year-long program will receive mentoring from members of Raymond James’ Women’s Network Advisory Council as well as an outside business coach to prepare them for an exam to earn an accredited asset management specialist designation. Though the program is small in size and only 60 days old, Raymond James president, Tash Elwyn, says the firm is intent on growing it. “We are in our infancy, but we are very excited about this,” he says.


Janney Montgomery Scott is also launching a training program—its first—in April.  According to Jerry Lombard, president of Janney’s private client group, the 700-advisor regional firm eventually hopes to source between 3% and 7% of its financial advisors from the program, which is open to current Janney employees.

 “There are a number of senior FAs that are looking for junior teammates. We’re creating a pipeline for them,” Lombard says.

Aite’s Butterfield notes that new advisors face a steep learning curve and intense pressure to meet revenue targets, but that a training program that provides mentorship and allows the newcomers to work on a team can ease the process.


With that goal in mind, UBS is expanding a pilot training program that it launched last year.  Trainees in the two-year program work under the guidance of a complex director in a team setting.  Trainees first become wealth planning analysts, while they work towards their CFP designation, and then transition into positions as financial advisors.

The Swiss bank started with two classes of about 30 students each and will add three more classes, with about 25 students each, this year. The classes will be staggered so that there will be a senior and junior trainee at each UBS complex.

Although the program is small, Nilesh Parikh, head of new financial advisors and wealth planning analysts at UBS Wealth Management, hopes it will provide a steady stream of high-quality talent to bolster the ranks of its advisors and replace retiring veterans. Many of the candidates will be drawn from other industries and will be chosen because they have a high probability of success. “We don’t have a desire to hire a ton of people and then figure out who we want to keep,” Parikh says.


Experiments in training aren’t limited to regional and wirehouse firms. Securities America, an independent broker-dealer with $50 billion in client assets, is ramping up the advisor coaching program it launched three years ago.

Roger Verboon, the IBD’s director of continuity, succession and acquisition, says the online program will help its advisor network add staff and find successors for retiring advisors. The training course consists of 22 modules, which take approximately three months to complete and focus on developing skills in marketing and client acquisition, business management and providing client advice.

Verboon says the program will be a mainstay for how Securities America and its advisors hire and train new recruits. While senior advisors will usually recruit the trainees, Securities America will provide the training framework for them. Between six and 10 advisors are in the training program at any given time.

The online module approach is well suited for Securities America’s advisor network, many whom have developed specific marketing and client niches. “Unlike the very large institutional firms, which train advisors in a specific way,” Verboon says, “the independent world doesn’t operate like that.”

Read more:

How to Train New Advisors
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Practice management Financial planning Succession planning Wirehouses Regional banks