May 24, 2011

For Young Advisors, Better Advisor Technology Equals More Jobs

 

I’ve been hearing a lot lately about how the technology explosion in advisory firms is reducing job opportunities for young advisors. The idea seems to be that the increased use of software and Internet platforms in today’s advisory practices is performing many of the functions that advisors used to hire junior advisors to do, leaving them with fewer jobs to fill throughout the industry.

In my experience, just the opposite is true: That the greater reliance on technology in the advisory world is creating more opportunities for young advisors than ever before. Sure, the efficiencies created by digital technology do reduce the need for some jobs, but not the jobs that young advisors are trained to do. From typing to answering phones to executing trades, today’s technology has greatly reduced the number of people—and hours of labor—needed to make a thriving advisory practice work. But, even 15 years ago, young advisors were rarely hired for those jobs anyway.

The growth of the independent advisory business has always been about leverage: leveraging senior advisors so they can work with more clients, and bring in more new business. Hiring clerical staff is typically the first step toward that leverage. The second was hiring a junior advisor or two to take even more functions off senior advisors’ plates—writing financial plans, researching investment options, rebalancing portfolios, etc. In recent years, technology has added a whole new level of leverage, some that replaces clerical staff, but mostly with applications that greatly expand the capabilities of those junior advisors.

So instead of replacing junior advisors, technology actually makes them more valuable to their firms. Young advisors can now do much more in portfolio management, client management, client communications, financial planning, compliance and in the back office. And they can hit the ground running with most platforms that advisors use, thanks to extensive technology training in many of today’s collegiate financial planning programs.

In fact, I think it’s fair to say that as technology continues to expand in its myriad applications and sophistication, young advisors will play an increasingly vital role in their firms.  Someone has to make all this new technology work and work in the right ways. The truth is that the younger generation is just simply better at doing that. From a firm’s website, to its CRM, to its portfolio management platform, to the interface with its custodian or B/D, young advisors are becoming essential to keeping the business up and running.

With young advisors taking over most of the operations of many firms—and the tremendous leverage that creates—the real issue that our industry will have to face sooner rather than later is that the need for senior advisors may fall dramatically.

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