“We’re not going to go out and just recruit for purposes of recruiting,” says Chris Flint, head of Lincoln Financial Securities and senior vice president/head of Advisor & Acquisition Strategies for Lincoln Financial Network.
Flint recently paid a visit to our sister site, ThinkAdvisor’s, New York office.
“We first focus on retention strategy, and we look at how we drive improved productivity throughout our existing population of advisors,” he added. “To go out and acquire new talent for purposes of acquiring new talent, meaning the end retail advisor, can be a zero-sum game.”
Flint manages the recruiting process throughout Lincoln Financial Network, which is the independent wealth management division within Lincoln Financial Group and supports nearly 8,500 advisors across the country.
Flint says 2014 and 2013 were LFN’s best recruiting years ever.
“We’re relatively a large footprint nationally,” he said, adding, “We had a 2 percent net growth in our advisor headcount.”
When it comes to recruiting, LFN focuses on three demographics within the organization: asset gatherers, financial planners and insurance planners.
“When we look at the type of firms we recruit from, they tend to be wires, independents and other independent insurers,” Flint says.
LFN has also taken several initiatives within the past year in its approach to advisor recruitment.
An early-2014 grassroots initiative — born out of a conversation with some of its top female practitioners — became what is known today as Lincoln’s WISE Group. WISE, which stands for Women Inspiring, Supporting, Educating, supports female advisors within the firm and female clients in their pursuit of knowledge and services within the financial planning industry. Flint describes WISE as “a cooperative that was born out of the field and is now joined to our corporate initiative to creating more diversity.”
Another recent initiative called GEN 2 is a Lincoln Financial Network joint venture with The Resource Group (TRG) — a group of elite advisors working together to provide networking opportunities, support and intellectual capital to the larger advisor community.
GEN 2 focuses on the next generation of advisors, Flint says. The program is designed to help an identified advisor successor develop a plan with an established advisor to integrate into the advisor’s practice. It provides industry training, coaching and practice management insights.
LFN’s other initiative, Flint says, is bringing in more diversity, in terms of gender, ethnicity and race.
“Those are important components of how you affect change within the industry and those are all key strategic investments that we are making in the context of growth [and] in the context of creating a superior client experience with the end retail investor.”
As Flint says, LFN’s approach to advisor recruitment isn’t necessarily a growth strategy.
“We’re looking for consistency,” he says. “We’re going to grow on our terms. We’re going to attract advisors who are aligned with the way we think the consumer needs to be served in the marketplace. We’re very focused on changing the composition or complexion of the industry.”
Which prompts the question: What does Lincoln Financial think the consumer needs to be served in the marketplace?
Lincoln Financial is taking an active effort to move financial planning to “comprehensive wealth management” and “wealth protection expertise.”
After getting results from a study the group released in September — which showed that the majority of Americans in the Measuring Optimism, Outlook and Direction (M.O.O.D.) of America Survey said that protecting their wealth is more important today than it was five years ago — Lincoln Financial decided that “comprehensive wealth management is where we think we need to be, think the industry needs to be,” Flint says.
“Advisors and clients [need to] move from this accumulation phase to distribution and helping plan and manage outcomes, goals, objectives through retirement,” Flint says, adding that “the goals and objectives that a client has ultimately drive advisor behavior, advisor needs within the organization.”
The study found that, regardless of age, gender or assets, 58 percent of respondents reported a strong need for wealth protection, and the significance of protecting wealth increased with age when income accumulation typically slows — 72 percent of those 69 and older cited the importance of protecting wealth compared to 43 percent of the younger baby boomer generation, or those age 50 to 60.
“Comprehensive wealth management” — or as Lincoln Financial also calls it “wealth protection expertise” — means planning through rising health care costs, evolving tax policies, inflationary pressures and concerns, longevity in retirement and market volatility.
“If you’re providing solutions in an independent advice model that meet the objectives or needs of the retail investor, you’re going to attract the types of advisors that want to serve that clientele,” Flint says.