In 2015, there’s a commonly shared belief by smart people in the industry that the financial planning profession faces a talent shortage, and that the best firms not only intentionally recruit young talent but supply them with the structure and training that provides them with a real career track. Owner-advisors are not doing this out of the goodness of their hearts: They realize that the future success of their firms—and that of their own exit or succession plans—requires embracing younger people and putting them in positions of increasingly responsibility.
Those younger people, and that structure and training, will also make their firms more valuable and provide continuity for clients. So custodians and broker-dealers and software companies are providing cash and technology to undergraduate and graduate programs, and are sponsoring scholarships and internships and executive leadership programs, all in an effort to reduce that talent shortage.
It wasn’t always that way.
Ten years ago, 25-year-old Angie Herbers raised a ruckus by writing about what was then an under-reported issue. In the February 2005 cover story of Investment Advisor, “The Great Divide,” Herbers wrote that there was a “crisis faced by the financial planning profession,” and said that “the gap between successful planners and the next generation is wider than most people realize, and it’s growing.”
Herbers didn’t stop with writing one article (Disclosure: Herbers has written columns, feature stories and blogs for Investment Advisor and ThinkAdvisor since 2005; view her author page and recent writings on ThinkAdvisor). In her writings and speeches and research since, in her electronic mentoring of many frustrated young advisors—and in her day job at her eponymous company, Angie Herbers Inc.—she has been proposing solutions to bridge that gap, offering tough-love advice for both veteran owner-advisors and younger planners, using the wisdom beyond her years gained from her consulting work and networking to support the different generations and raise the discussion about how the entire profession can and should evolve. She’s still not averse to challenging the shibboleths of the profession, as seen, for example, in her November 2014 cover story for Investment Advisor, “The Rainmaker’s Reign Is Over.”
Last year, Herbers merged her firm with Kristen Luke’s Wealth Management Marketing, and in mid-April, the firm was rebranded as Kaleido, which offers a free business assessment tool to advisors—the Kaleido Scope. Kaleido’s goal, Herbers said, is to help advisors “look at your business in a different way” to overcome growth hurdles. “What got you here,” she said, “won’t necessarily get you to the next level,” since “how you run a $1 million firm is totally different from a $10 million firm.”
The Kaleido Scope is meant to address a basic problem faced by advisors hoping to grow. “They’re good at identifying the problem,” she said, but “bad at coming to a solution.” Owner-advisors faced with the problems of growth tend to “go down the wrong paths” in search of solutions and wind up “getting frustrated—they lose enthusiasm, confidence,” at which point the owner-advisor “is certainly not a leader, which you need to build your business.” What Kaleido hopes to do for its advisor clients is to teach them, and show them, that to grow an advisory firm, you have to follow an entire process, not just start a marketing plan or find a niche or add a piece of technology. “Like grief,” she says, “you have to go through the process.”