From the July 2013 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

July 1, 2013

Catch a Fire

I no longer fear the future. Despite all the hand wringing and teeth gnashing over the source of advisors to come, a dinner at a Vietnamese fusion joint in San Francisco (it’s a Gen Y thing) went a long way in reassuring me we’ll be just fine.

The dinner (a roundtable—literally—of the young Turks of the advisor business) featured Michael Kitces, Bill Winterberg, FPA Executive Director and CEO Lauren Schadle, FPA 2013 FPA President Michael Branham and past FPA NexGen President Sabrina Lowell. If we could somehow bottle the passion and enthusiasm of those at the table that night and use it to recruit, we’d have something.

What struck me most, and a big part of my relief, was that none originally set out to be the independent, fee-based advisors they are today. Rarely do young people set out in the same profession in which they end up—I was going to run ski areas until I realized I loved the sport and hated the business—but it’s different when you end up in a career you didn’t even know existed.

Boston Philharmonic conductor Benjamin Zander was the keynote speaker at the FPA NorCal conference, the reason we convened in the city by the bay. If you haven’t seen him, he makes a great point about the low number of classical music enthusiasts (3% of the population, currently). It’s not that the other 97% don’t like classical music, “it’s just they don’t know they like it yet,” Zander said. Introducing and explaining the genre is all that’s needed.

And that’s really the rub. It’s not a shortage of qualified advisors to fill the pipeline; it’s getting the word out that it exists at all. Mention “financial advisor” and wirehouses still come to mind. A young mother on a recent consumer panel wasn’t sure if her money man was a broker or an investment advisor. Far from the materialistic yuppies of the ‘80s or the depressed narcissists of the ‘90s, today’s young people want to make a difference, and the independent, conflict-free model is exactly what they’re looking for.

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