Last month, I sat on a panel about attracting and retaining professional talent at the FPA Northern California Conference in San Francisco. As if often the case, I felt the questions and comments from the advisors in attendance were the best part, and on that day, they were nothing short of eye-opening. From my consulting work, I’ve known for years that most financial advisors don’t train their junior professionals, and the ones who do try are, for the most part, pretty bad at it. But I never really understood why, until San Francisco.
What I realized, sitting there listening to experienced advisors talk about their frustrations and challenges with young associates is that when it comes to training, advisory firm owners generally fall into three camps: They don’t feel it’s their job to train young advisors, and therefore they try to hire experienced professionals; or they honestly want to train their associates, but don’t have the time to make more than a cursory effort to do so; or, they have trained their professional employees only to have them leave the firm time and again, until the firm owners have just given up.
The first strategy, of course, has contributed to the current bull market in young professional talent, which only promises to get worse as demand continues to outstrip supply. The second, to unhappy employees, frustrated owners, and short relationships. The third approach, just giving up, leads to burning out firm owners, and putting a cap on the growth potential of their firms. I’d like to suggest a another alternative, one that’s proven to get advisors the help they need to grow their firms and reduce their workload: Effectively training young professionals to shoulder half your burden, in one hour a week, for six months.
Like Losing Weight, It’s Simple if You Follow the Plan
I know it sounds like an infomercial for washboard abs, but believe me, my clients will tell you that the solution is just that simple. It only requires two things: A formal training program, and the commitment to spend one hour a week working with your young professional.
What’s the catch? If there is one, it’s creating a clear job description of what you want your junior associate to be able to do in six months. Something like: assume responsibility for all advisory processes for all types of firm clients–prospective, new, and existing–except interacting with the clients. Seems like a tall order, right? Well, it really isn’t, if you just break down exactly what you do for your clients and how you do it.
The first step in the training program is to teach the new advisor about all the computer programs used in your practice. If they’re well trained, they’re probably familiar with most of your software. But what they don’t know–and this is key–is how you use those programs.
To impart that knowledge, take one program each week, spend an hour explaining how you use it, and let them spend the rest of the week learning the program and working on projects just using that software. Next week, new program, one hour, work with that program. Do that for Naviplan, Goldmine, your custodian/BD trading platform, Principia, or whatever your technology is. In most firms, that will take four or five weeks.
Next, they need to understand what you do for each type of client you have: prospective clients, new clients, ongoing clients, and attracting clients through marketing. Each week is devoted to a different client group. Starting to see a pattern here? Take an hour, explain your entire process for handling prospective clients, what information you need up front, what documentation you take to the first meeting, how you follow up, etc. Then let them spend the week working on sample clients. Do that for each client group. It will take four weeks.
The third month is the key: teaching your trainees how you apply each software program you use to your process for each type of client. This is where most advisory firms fail, and as a result, even two or three years later, their junior associates are still only qualified for menial tasks, which is a waste of their education and your money.