From the June 2008 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

Fishing Where the Fish Are

Here are a few suggestions for making your firm as attractive as possible to job-hunting young pros looking for greener--and saner--pastures:

Don't enter a bidding war. For the first time in years, it will soon be a buyers market for experienced advisors. They want to leave their current jobs, and there won't be many firms hiring, and even fewer firms that can offer the better environment they are seeking. Certainly, you have to offer a fair comp package, and reasonable benefits, but you don't have to outbid their current firm. Instead, focus your efforts on creating and promoting a better working environment, which is what they really will be looking for.

Manage your growth. The prospect you're trying to recruit is leaving her current firm because it mismanaged its growth. You have to be different, to offer what the other lacks. That means you'll need to do what you should be doing anyway (but probably aren't): anticipating client growth; projecting the effects it will have on your firm, on your staff, and on you; and creating a plan to meet those challenges. Attracting an experienced young professional or two can be a big part of that plan, but you'll also need to know how the increased workload will effect every member of your team, where the bottlenecks will be, and how to fix them. Don't do this alone: often your staff has a much better handle on how to handle clerical volume than you do. Ask for their input, and listen to what they tell you.

Don't skimp on support. Even trained and experienced young advisors need support. They need direction, monitoring, and feedback on how they're doing. They need additional training so they can grow as professionals. And they need mentoring to listen to their fears, their concerns, and their aspirations, and who will offer constructive counseling and moral support. It's easy to cut back on training and mentoring when the senior advisors are over worked. But if they're managed well, the additional leverage that experienced advisors bring to the table will far outweigh the time and effort you need to put in.

Sell your plan. Once you've created a working environment for young professionals that is better then one they are leaving, you need to tell you recruits about it. Listen to the reasons they give for wanting to make a move, and talk about how your firm solves those problems. Let them know that you understand exactly what problems the down market creates at many firms and what you've done, are doing, and will do to meet those challenges, and take advantage of the current growth opportunities. You're getting a shot at some young advisors that you probably never have, and maybe not ever get again. So don't hold back: sell yourself, sell your firm, and sell your plan to succeed in this environment--with their help.

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