A growing number of baby boomers prefer to get their financial advice from fellow boomers, insists Paul Mauro, chief executive of Legacy Financial Advisors Inc., Milford, Mass.
Mauro thinks boomers value life experience over advanced degrees and youth in their financial advisors. It’s for that reason that he is focusing his recruitment efforts on candidates in their 50s and 60s who are interested in second careers as financial professionals.
A scarcity of qualified advisors is forcing him to recruit candidates from outside the industry, he explains.
“There’s a talent shortage,” Mauro says. “There’s no shortage of hacks, of people who aren’t honest, sorry to say. But there is a dramatic shortage of true financial advisors who approach consumers without an agenda.”
Moreover, boomers relate well to other boomers who have been through the same financial issues they face, Mauro believes.
“Our clients are 50 to 75 years old,” he explains. “They do not relate well to young professionals with fresh degrees and new suits. They regard their advice on financial and estate planning as theoretical. To our clients, a Ph.D. in life is more valuable than an M.B.A.”
Mauro defines someone with a “Ph.D. in life” as an individual with extensive business experience who has walked through life’s many corridors, including supporting college-age children, caring for aging parents and making their own retirement and lifestyle decisions.
Major financial firms are also interested in experienced business people who want to begin a second career as financial advisors, agrees Carri Degenhardt-Burke, president of Degenhardt Consulting, Jersey City, N.J., a recruiting firm.
“A lot of times, it’s for their contacts,” she says. “They know a lot more people than someone who’s coming out of Harvard.”
Howard Diamond, chief operating officer of another recruiter, Diamond Consultants, Chester, N.J., has observed the same trend.
Financial firms “are looking for a second-career person with a Rolodex, someone who has more savvy than someone out of school,” he says.
Diamond notes that Morgan Stanley recently fired hundreds of trainees because many just weren’t cutting it. But they still need financial advisors.
“We were told by Morgan Stanley that among the candidates they’re looking for are second- or third-career people,” he says.
Diamond recently interviewed an older candidate with a science background and extensive sales experience.
“He took his contacts and went independent for one of the regional brokerages,” he says. “It’s an interesting twist. Firms are not necessarily looking at boomers as such, but they do want the kind of depth that could be molded into a good financial advisor.”
Mauro acknowledges not every one can start a totally new line of work successfully.
“A financial advisor career takes a lot of time and training,” he says. “I can teach them to be a financial advisor but can’t make them have the life experience. I’ve trained a lot of advisors out of school, but I can’t always wait for them to grow up. You can’t teach persistence, honesty, etc. My experience with kids out of college is that many are good at testing and at interviewing. But it’s much easier to get smoked as an employer by younger people.”
Older boomers are less likely to get their company into trouble over compliance or suitability issues because they are willing to take their time with a sale, Mauro explains.
“I find a little slower is better,” he says. “I like the older advisors for their tempo, big world perspective and the fact they have something you can’t learn in college.”
Other qualities Maura looks for are the willingness and ability to take direction. “That’s not common at an older age,” he acknowledges. “They’ve got to be coachable and willing to learn a whole new field.”
Not every boomer is cut out to be a financial advisor, he acknowledges.
For instance, if they are not extroverted, they need to be able to learn how to become so, he points out.
“It may not be appropriate to recruit someone who’s been a computer-aided designer sitting by himself in a room for the last 10 years,” he observes.
Beyond that, Mauro also looks for financial stability.
“If someone has been responsible in handling their own money, that’s an indicator of how they’ll be in business,” he says.
He believes that assigning advisors to the right kind of account is also important to their success. He generally assigns new recruits to middle-income boomers.
“Some of my middle-aged boomer advisors are not going to manage $50 million estates but can be very helpful to a consumer with a $1 million estate,” Mauro says.
A new career in financial advisory services is not for everyone, he points out. Among other qualities, ideal candidates should be able to invest 6 months or more without earning significant income, be willing to take formal classes, and be willing to work as a team member, he says.
Jim Mack is a Legacy financial advisor who joined the firm 4 years ago after 30 years of working for various corporations and owning his own businesses.
“I’ve done what my clients want to achieve and have life experiences to draw upon, including my mistakes,” Mack says. “That makes me valuable to them.”