What Advisors Need Today; What the Profession Needs Tomorrow

In a recent discussion with Susan Hirshman, I asked her what she thought were the big issues facing advisors today.

Susan had until recently been a wealth manager herself and a managing director at JP Morgan. She has written for Investment Advisor and Wealth Manager and our sites on topics as diverse as advanced tax planning—she’s a CPA in addition to being a CFA and a CFP—and on women and money—she just published a book designed for women called “Does This Make My Assets Look Fat?

Anyway, Susan said there was only one issue that advisors cared about: in a time when little in the way of new wealth was being created, the only issue for advisors was getting and keeping clients, especially the right kind of clients. It’s likely that those clients would be found in somebody else’s book of business, so more than ever, you need to differentiate yourself from your competitors. You need to have a clear message, and deliver that message in traditional and, for many of you, untraditional ways, such as through social networking utilities like Facebook or Twitter.

Some recent research bears out the changing ways we are communicating with each other, especially the young, though if you happen to know the joy of having teenage children, it may not be a surprise. A New York Times article cited Nielsen research on cellphone usage by 13- to 17-year-olds, finding that the average teenager sent or received 3,339 text messages a month, far outstripping mobile phones’ usage for voice calls. For teenage girls, “the average figure is an astounding 4,050 text messages a month, or eight each waking hour,” the article reported.

Older “younger” people text less frequently—18- to 24-year-olds get or send “only” 1,630 messages on average a month, the research showed.

Sure, you probably don’t have any teenage clients, though I imagine many of your clients have teenage children, and I know the best advisors are always looking for ways to connect with the offspring of their clients who, some day, may well decide whether to stay with their parents’ advisor—or no—after said parents die or are disabled. Moreover, the young people you hire to intern or work in your offices are of the texting, Facebook and Twitter generation. How are they communicating with each other, and with clients, and with staff? Are there privacy or compliance concerns that your HR manual doesn't address?

That brings me to what may be the most important point about the profession. Getting the right clients may be your most challenging task now, but having the right advisors to serve those clients is the profession’s biggest concern moving forward.

That seems to be the primary concern of Tom Potts, president of FPA. In my next blog I’ll relate what Potts said about the next generation of advisors in an interview he gave me during the recent FPA Denver 2010 annual conference.

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