‘If you want to learn a subject, teach the course,’ goes an old saying. In years past, new advisors would all too well have appreciated the adage, given that so many of them received only a minimum of training. That’s changing, however, as a growing number of firms see value in implementing mentorship programs for inexperienced recruits.
Such initiatives, say sources interviewed by National Underwriter, benefit new advisors by helping them to learn survival basics, diversify their practices and deepen their understanding of niche disciplines faster than they otherwise could achieve on their own. For mentors, particularly those approaching retirement age, there’s another big benefit: the ability to groom a successor to the practice.
Douglas Myers, a financial advisor at Associated Benefit Consultants, White Plains, N.Y., says he gradually transitioned to ABC from Guardian Life three years ago to diversify his practice and focus on his desired market niche: pension planning.
To that end, Guardian’s general agency connected Myers to Anthony Domino, ABC’s president and the immediate past president of the Society of Financial Service Professionals. Establishing his own practice under the dba Strategies for Wealth Creation and Protection, Myers mentored informally under Domino for 18 months, servicing ABC’s less profitable ‘B’ and ‘C’ clients and learning the company’s approach to pension planning and prospecting. After the 18-month period, Myers became a junior partner at the firm and the mentorship was formalized.
“Previously, with the tools I had in my toolbox, I would have focused mainly on personal financial planning, sold life and disability policies, and maybe done some brokerage account work,” says Myers. “I would not have done all the work related to pension planning.”
That includes collaborating extensively with other professionals. Myers observes that, with Domino’s guidance, he has jettisoned highly technical explanations in favor of “soft-selling” points when presenting solutions to accounts. To win their referrals, he also has learned to avail himself as “an information resource” and to plug his pension planning services frequently as a value-add to the accountants’ practices.
Myers concedes, however, that he’s still striving to become more like his mentor in one regard: fearless in pursuing the very large client. “Anthony plays big,” says Myers. “He’s terrific at it. It’s going to take me awhile to reach his level.”
To be sure, Myers is levels above mentorees who just are starting out, many of whom spend much of their initial training period crunching numbers in advisors’ offices, rather than meeting with clients. Example: Joshua Pierce, a new hire at Leon Rousso & Associates, Ventura, Calif.