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Practice Management > Building Your Business

What Older Advisors Don’t Get About Younger Ones

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By now, most baby boom and Gen X financial advisors know about the great generational shift that’s happening in the financial services industry. They know that technology is more important than ever, that their practices must become more scalable to survive into the future, and that any new people they hire must be tech-savvy.

The only problem is that older advisors are still trying to figure out how to connect on a personal level with the millennials whom they hope will some day take over their practices. And those millennials, meanwhile, are trying to decide whether they can be happy building a career and a business in the advisory industry.

“The best advantage older advisors have is that millennials are the most connected generation in history,” said business expert Nigel Dessau in a phone interview. “The downside is that the baby boomer or Gen X advisor is motivated by status, power and money. The millennials are less focused on these things and more focused on whether their life has purpose.” Dessau, chief marketing officer at Boston-based Stratus Technologies and author of Become a 21st Century Executive, said millennials have grown up knowing how to network, and they network often with technology—which is a real advantage for advisors.

“If you’re a financial advisor, the lifeblood of your business is retaining your clients and bringing in new clients. Millennials can bring new life into your advisory business,” he said.

Leadership Aspirations

A sticking point is that most millennials — fully 91% of them, according to a new survey conducted by — aspire to be leaders, and 58% of them think they already have the skills to be leaders. In addition, they prefer to have fewer managers, with 83% saying they would prefer to work for a company with fewer layers of management.

Yet millennials tend to view leadership differently from their seniors.

“Almost half of millennials define leadership as ‘empowering others to succeed,’ and when asked what their biggest motivator was to be a leader, 43% said ‘empowering others,’ while only 5% said money and 1% said power,” reported.

Rather than view millennials as spoiled children, baby boomer and Gen X advisors would do well to see them as idealists who want to find meaning and even a sense of family in their careers, Dessau said.

“Millennials are more focused on how their life has purpose,” he said. “They haven’t had to struggle for what they’ve got, and they want a work life that extends to what they care about. Fortunately for advisors, one of those things is helping people.” Meeting Clients and Emotional Intelligence

Indeed, there’s an inverse correlation between age and job satisfaction, and younger advisors currently tend to quit the profession because they’re often stuck away in back-office jobs and prevented from meeting clients, writes Laurie Belew, president-elect of the Financial Planning Association’s NexGen community.

“Young advisors deserve to be treated as professional adults with attainable career aspirations,” Belew writes. “While performing the tasks of the job description is necessary, the room to go above and beyond is where true engagement happens.”

True engagement will also happen when millennials turn off their digital devices, said Teresa Leigh, chief financial officer of Household Risk Management, who has interviewed hundreds of people of all ages for positions with family offices and high-net-worth families.

“Some applicants are better at reading people than others,” Leigh said. “We’re seeing more of a lack of people-reading ability because of technology. People in their 20s stare at their screens all the time now instead of interacting with other human beings. They don’t have the same levels of emotional intelligence and ability to read body language. For example, if you the employer stand up, it’s time for them to leave. The kids don’t know it’s time to go.”


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