In an industry filled with old hands, Shaun McDuffee, senior vice president at North Star Resource Group in Austin, is doing his part to bring in new blood.
McDuffee’s division only hires college graduates to fill open positions, starting them out as interns and then developing them into full-fledged advisors through an intense internal mentoring program. (For more on McDuffee’s division, see: Succeeding As an Advisor — at 23.)
“If you do it right, you’ve got a 40-year career with them, potentially,” McDuffee says. “And you don’t have to unlearn any bad habits.”
That’s not to say that going the youth route is easy, though. McDuffee says it’s often hard to find young people who are interested in the field of financial advising — or who even know about it. Part of the problem, he finds, lies not with the students, but with their colleges.
“For as much press as there is about the opportunities in this field, I find that, a lot of times, the campus career offices kind of turn them off from anything that’s commission- or fee-based,” he says.
It’s particularly hard to get women interested in the field, McDuffee says, even though he’d really like to have a few more female advisors. About 80% of initial applicants at North Star are male, he says. So by the time the interview process is over, the odds aren’t always good that any of the remaining candidates will be female.
“I don’t know what it is,” McDuffee says. “I just find we don’t get many female applicants.”
North Star’s trying to change the industry’s image among young people — and college career offices — by offering its interns a lot of support from the outset. Each intern is paired with an MDRT-member mentor from the very beginning and participates in a lot of joint work. As a result, McDuffee says, the group has an 80% retention rate.
“I really don’t know, quite frankly, how someone can come into this business and make it without mentoring and doing joint work,” says McDuffee, who was mentored as a young advisor and has so far mentored seven interns himself.
McDuffee admits that financial advising isn’t for everyone, no matter how much mentoring they receive. But he’s not willing to write off Millenials as a whole; he thinks plenty of them have the drive and the interest to succeed in the business.
“Those kids are still out there,” he says. “It’s just a little bit harder to find them.”
For more on young people in the industry, see: