Competence counts for more than age.
So say observers questioned by National Underwriter as to the importance of the advisors age in securing baby boomer clients. Producers in their 40s and 50s do retain a natural edge over younger colleagues because, having shared life experiences, boomer advisors and prospects can often more easily establish a rapport. Producers stress, however, that the advisors skill trumps age as a factor.
Shared experiences do make it easier for me, as a boomer, to gain access to this [boomer] population, says Vicki Brackens, a financial planner with Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, New York, N.Y. But winning over the client ultimately depends on the individual advisors dedication to the market.
Richard Tanner, president and founder of Ownership Advisors, Cleveland, Ohio, agrees, adding that age only becomes a handicap when the advisor lacks the in-depth expertise needed to thrive in a narrowly defined practice.
Age is a huge disadvantage if you dont have the skills, experience or focus of a specialist, says Tanner. There is often a presumption that young advisors dont have the requisite knowledge. You have to prove that you have something to offer.
Tanner notes that his expertise in charitable giving, employee stock ownership plans and values-based planning have enabled him to secure the confidence of much older and wealthier clients.
So, too, the ability to sell the collective capabilities of his financial planning firm. Generation-X producers, Tanner stresses, would do well to affiliate themselves with an ensemble practice, or advisory team, before entertaining a fee-only-based independent practice. That lets them hone their craft and garner designations over a period of years while earning a salary.
Richard Harris, an advisor and managing member of BPN Montaigne LLC, Clifton, N.J., says a strong referral, especially from a professional colleague, such as a CPA or estate planning attorney, also can help young advisors quickly establish their credentials with boomer prospects.
Just as important as the advisors expertise and organizational resources is how and when to present these assets to the boomer client. T. Phillip Web, president of Adams & Associates, a Fairhope, Ala.-based affiliate of Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, says some young producers tend to overcompensate for any perceived knowledge gap by talking too much.