When it comes to high-level wealth management talent, it’s still a seller’s market.

“It’s a talent-constrained market,” says veteran executive recruiter Jane Swan, the former co-head of global wealth management at Korn/Ferry who just joined London-based Sheffield Haworth as a managing director and head of the firm’s Americas wealth management division. “Firms are looking to grow by bringing on advisors with books of business, and there is a big gap between those advisors and those who are looking at retirement.”

Indeed, finding and retaining qualified talent was cited as the top human resource challenge of family offices, according to a new study released by Family Office Exchange.

Family office executives have to be willing to “wear many hats, and do whatever it takes to ensure that the owners are satisfied,” according to Jane Flanagan, senior consultant and lead researcher for the FOX study. “Finding the right cultural fit is often just as challenging as finding the correct skill set.”

Demand is high for experienced executives across all channels, according to Swan. While advisor migration to independent RIAs remains the dominant trend, large wirehouse and bank players are also very much in the game for talent, she maintains.

“As the world continues to shift, wirehouses and banks are looking more closely at what it takes to be a leader, what they need to do differently than RIAs, and what it will take to be transformational,” Swan says. “I think you’ll see them approach the business very differently ten years from now than today.”

Multi-family offices are also seen as “highly attractive and viable platforms” for advisors, according to Swan.

The attractions cited in the FOX report include “continuous learning opportunities, deep client relationships, ability to have long-term impact, an entrepreneurial environment and flexibility.”

Nonetheless, family offices are still faced with a reputation for paying less than advisory firms, having limited opportunities for a career path and the restraints that come with working for demanding family patriarchs.

According to the FOX study, about 70% of surveyed family offices do not offer employment contracts. And while most family offices offer executives short-term compensation incentives, only about a third offered long-term incentives such as co-investment opportunities, deferred compensation and performance awards.

One of the biggest advantages independent advisory firms have over their rivals is the ability to offer equity, according to Swan. “Equity is a big draw and has a lot of appeal because of the entrepreneurial make-up of advisors,” she says.

But increasingly advisors are being wooed across the board by firms offering “more specialized platforms that serve the needs of particular types of advisors servicing particular types of clients,” Swan says.

Advisors considering leaving their current employers need to do their homework and have “a clear understanding about why you are leaving and where you want to go,” Swan says. “Your reason for leaving should be more about the destination than the departure.”

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