Anyone worried about the “next generation” (of advisors, leaders, teachers, whatever) should talk to Amy Webber. She has so much energy and enthusiasm, we found ourselves exhausted after a simple phone call. But it’s exactly this kind of energy and enthusiasm the industry needs to bridge the succession gap, and Webber, president and COO of Cambridge Investment Research, has made it her mission.
She convened the “New Century Council” in 2009 to help identify the next generation of advisors: their wants, needs, how they communicate and what they expect, all with a goal of keeping the Fairfield, Iowa-based Cambridge “relevant for years to come.”
“It started with 12 advisors and has now grown to 23,” she explains. “They’re all in their mid-40s or younger and we speak face-to-face once a quarter. But my hope is that they are speaking with clients and generating ideas they can then shoot off to us throughout each quarter.”
What she’s found is that the younger generation of advisors, while entrepreneurial in their own way, is far more receptive to outsourcing than their older counterparts.
Another passion of Webber’s is the women’s forum she’s spearheaded, the second of which will take place in Denver in July.
“It’s really a way to understand the differences in the way men and women communicate and the way in which each likes to be served,” she notes.
That’s great—but who doesn’t have some sort of women’s conference, women’s educational platform, women’s retreat? What makes this special?
“We differentiate ourselves in that ours is not at the exclusion of men,” Webber says. “I believe in order to be successful you have to include both genders. Not all female clients want female advisors and not all male clients want male advisors.”
The genesis for the program, she said, came out of the growing awareness (or at least acknowledgment) three or four years ago of the low number of women advisors.
“There were two camps; one wanted a female community of like-minded individuals to explore relevant issues specific to women and women advisors,” she adds. “The second group was composed of women who have been in this business so long it’s almost uncomfortable to point to the fact that we’re women that have come up in the business. We thought, ‘Why not get these two groups together?’”
Other recent “wins” Webber points to include a recent internship program developed by the firm to place students with advisors in the hopes of furthering the issue of succession planning.
“We’ve built 13 internships involving students in certain colleges around the country. We had 700 applicants for those 13 spots, so we could choose the best of the best: high-quality, client-facing prospects.”
As for the issues that will most affect advisors in the near term, Webber points to regulation (of course), as it really seems to be the issue this year.
“For better or for worse, the regulatory uncertainty that we’ve been living with will continue for some time. This summer we’ll have DOL regulations handed down that deal with 408(b)(2) and ERISA 3(21) and 3(38). Some broker-dealers aren’t ready, and it will be a rude awakening for advisors in how they can conduct business.”
Webber also sees a change in the way advisors will affiliate with broker-dealers.
“We’re making our corporate RIA as flexible as possible to deal with regulation. What we’re already seeing is advisors who want to retain their dually registered status are looking for a reason to drop their own RIAs and coming back under ours.”
She notes 75% to 80% of the firm’s dually registered reps now use the firm’s RIA, a number she says has “flipped” from as little as three years ago.
“They recognize the exposure and compliance headaches inherent with coming regulation and want us to handle it,” she says.
Lastly, the importance of business continuity will become increasingly important, something of which Webber says Cambridge takes an active role in ensuring.
“Advisors realize they won’t live forever,” she concludes. “They can take care of their families through insurance and other means. This is really about how to best take care of their clients.”
Find out who was named on the 2012 IA 25 in Investment Advisor's May issue.
Check out more extended interviews of the 2012 IA 25 at AdvisorOne.