How the Best Advisors Are Like Olympic Athletes

This summer when we joined millions of spectators around the world in watching the Rio Olympics, we only saw athletes in action for a few minutes, or maybe even seconds. But those performances didn’t just happen—long hours of hard work and dedication over many years created the excellence that appears so natural and seamless to the untrained observer.

While their expertise may differ, the participants of our G2 Institute share that same drive for excellence. We saw that talent and dedication first-hand while working with those “second generation” advisors from some of the industry’s most well-known firms for the past nine months or so.

We call this group of executives the “second generation,” but that designation refers to their relationship to their firms’ founders, not their ages. These are experienced, highly motivated individuals who are tempered with the wisdom and experience of years in the trenches, but still retain the enthusiasm and curiosity of the crop of advisors just out of grad school.

What have we learned? The industry is in good hands, full of driven entrepreneurs eager to take the reins.

First, let’s take a closer look at what “talent” is. When we talk about talent among the next generation of advisors, we don’t mean just their natural abilities, although that plays a part. Equally important is how those advisors choose to use their talent. They have a deep level of conviction and the same wherewithal to focus on long-term goals that we see in Olympic athletes who train relentlessly for a competition that occurs only once every four years. Like those athletes, the best advisors are prepared to seize their moment when the opportunity appears.

Another shared trait is adaptability – not just successful as individuals, but are just as committed to the success of the team. Take Michael Phelps as an example – he excelled in individual events, securing gold medals in more than one, but he was equally as critical to the success of the relay teams. Like these exemplary athletes, the best of the next generation of advisors are no one-trick ponies. So while  clients have a wide range of needs from financial to personal that advisors must be prepared to meet, they must also keep in mind the best interests of the firm to ensure its success in the long-run.

One of the things that most impressed us about these next generation leaders was their eagerness to meet their peers, share best practices and face the challenges of the future head-on. They understand the advisory profession is still a young industry and there is much we all have to learn. Olympic athletes continually refine their training regimens to improve performance (and beat world records year after year!). Similarly, advisors must adapt to a constantly changing environment, so they are curious and eager to find new ways and best practices to tackle the latest and future ideas.

Of course, a successful advisory firm is not the result of one individual’s efforts, but rather the cumulative result of a team working together toward a common goal. Just as Team USA found athletes medaled in a wide variety of events, the teams running simulated firms in the G2 Institute represent the diversity of roles in any large firm. They’re COOs, CCOs, CIOs, senior portfolio managers, relationship managers, IT execs and back office specialists—and it’s their cooperative and coordinated efforts that determine their success or failure.

Also imperative to their success is the relationship between G2 participants and their firms’ founders. Think about the widely circulated photo of Michael Phelps and then 9-year-old fan Katie Ledecky, who a decade later won three golds and a silver in Rio. The next generation looks to their predecessors for mentorship and wisdom, but they are also eager to forge their own paths. In return, leaders need young talent to do well to ensure the future stability of the firm – it’s a strategic imperative.

The next generation is not looking to overwrite what their firm founders have created, but rather to write the second chapter of their very exciting story. And if these individuals are any indication of the level of talent and dedication throughout the industry, the profession’s future is very bright indeed.

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Bob Oros is executive vice president and head of the registered investment advisor (RIA) segment for Fidelity Clearing & Custody, a unit of Fidelity Institutional. Philip Palaveev is the CEO of The Ensemble Practice LLC. Together they lead the G2 Institute program helping to train the next generation of advisory profession leaders. The Ensemble Practice is an independent company and is not affiliated with Fidelity Investments. Listing them does not suggest a recommendation or endorsement by Fidelity Investments.

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