Last month, I visited four CFP Board-registered programs across three states. I was scheduled to visit a fifth school as well, but the administration was not keen on the idea of their students joining an RIA, preferring banks and insurance companies. During these visits, I interviewed 52 aspiring financial planners, spoke to a handful of Ph.D.s, and gave six presentations to roughly 200 students to help them understand the financial planning world they will soon be entering. Below are some notable highlights from my trip.
I met a lot of students and had some great, average and not-so-great interviews. On the plus side, I found many students are ready and eager to enter the financial planning world, and their preparedness has improved compared to prior years. For instance:
100% were dressed appropriately for an interview.
100% brought a hard copy of their resume. However, I asked several to follow up afterwards with an updated soft copy to reflect the changes I had made. Few did.
90% had prepared questions for me.
70% followed up with a thank-you note, up from 65% last year.
80% had internship or work experience in the profession.
60% were willing to relocate, about the same percentage as last year. Washington D.C.; Columbus, Cincinnati and Cleveland, Ohio; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Nashville, Tennessee, were the areas most heavily targeted.
Still not a lot of work samples, but an increasing number of interviewees included results from various personality assessments on their résumés.
However, while there are some great new planners out there to hire, some are not well prepared to enter a professional planning firm.
Few had solid immediate plans to take the CFP exam. Several continue to think they have to wait three years to take the exam, a theme that has resurfaced for several years. Furthermore, they were not aware of the two-year apprenticeship model that the CFP Board put in place over four years ago.
Few had a thorough understanding of the various business models, compensation structures, licensure requirements, recent legislation and industry issues.
After seven plane flights, four rental cars, seven hours of driving and five different hotel rooms, it’s clear that these schools can sometimes be difficult to get to, making recruiting challenging for small firms.
In fact, two of the best candidates I encountered had already accepted positions and were not pursuing a career in financial planning, one opting for investment research and the other joining a large accounting firm.
Even though the majority of the students I spoke with said they would be open to relocating, when I pushed them further most relented, stating they would prefer to remain closer to their family, i.e., parents. This is insightful because the leading edge of the millennial generation, now in their mid-30s, was eager to get away after 18 years of parental rule!
The number of women enrolling in these programs is steady. This year, the ratio was still about 50% female to male. One school even set up a women-only event, which was very well attended.
Finally, the lack of a strong leader who is vested in students’ career development, who provides mentoring on the softer skills and overall professionalism, is holding some schools back. It is a dilemma very familiar to stakeholders within academia and in the industry as well. Most professors have been hired to teach courses, conduct research and bring in funding via grants, not necessarily take dozens of students under their wing. Some schools are fortunate to have multiple champions, and it shows in the quality of the new professionals leaving those schools.
The students in the four programs I visited have been exposed to an excellent education. However, just because the opportunities have been provided, it does not mean all students have acquired the same level of knowledge and skills. Similar to how a client’s experience with one CFP compared to another varies drastically, so do the capabilities and career readiness of students in these programs. It is important to examine candidates beyond the level of courses completed, grades acquired, and basic professional and interpersonal skills.
— Read To Attract Students, Colleges Offering Loan Debt Insurance on ThinkAdvisor.