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How to Find Innovation & TD Ameritrade Works to Close Talent Gap

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Jay Shetty, a motivational video blogger (or vlogger), former Accenture executive and ex-monk, told the Financial Services Institute OneVoice 2019 conference crowd recently assembled in New Orleans that he liked “to test companies … and see what is happening inside the minds of innovators and the mindset they have developed.”

These insights can help advisors and broker-dealer leaders, he said, so they can see — rather than miss — opportunities “that are right before our eyes.”

We “are so locked into our daily lives that we miss the things that come up behind us and steal the show,” Shetty said, referring to Blockbuster’s three chances to buy upstart Netflix. “We see this consistently. Opportunities are right in front of us, and we miss them … because we don’t have the mindset of an innovator.”

A Harvard poll concluded that future leaders will need to be “connected thinkers,” he said, and be able “to find associations between seemingly non-associated things, patterns and anomalies.”

And these connections aren’t obvious, Shetty added; they come from broad networks and different fields — such as how Steve Jobs mixed art and computers at Apple.

When looking for innovation and direction, “The answers in technology do not always come from technology; for finance, not from finance; and for media, not from media,” he explained. In other words, “You need fresh eyes.”

His second message was to “go all in” with personality and to fully embrace it in your coaching and support of others. If you are an introvert, extrovert, taskmaster or people-pleaser, work with those attributes and don’t focus on changing them. And when it comes to tackling tough projects and problems, keep in mind that “the brain cannot be logical and truly creative in the same day.”

Finally, the speaker urged indie advisors and firm leaders to “have a coding mindset, meaning be a consistent, innovative learner.” Shetty suggested diving into different issues and following varied news trends on Twitter: “Be curious and refresh the mind continually. Adopt a behavior of learning by keeping the mind active, stress-free and on a path of progress. Constantly learn and grow.”

Looking at the future, economists suggest the following traits for success, according to Shetty: being a complex problem solver, thinking critically, being creative and being comfortable managing people. “All of [these four traits] will help you to be an innovator of the future,” Shetty said.

‘Tours of Duty’ Author and tech entrepreneur Ben Casnocha said it’s time for financial firms and advisors to talk honestly with employees about their careers. When businesses “treat people like free agents,” they do not get much commitment or great results from them. Instead, it’s best to work with employees as allies.

“On the first day or so, have honest conversations about what is realistic … and take it slow” as you would a personal relationship, Casnocha said at the FSI OneVoice 2019 closing general session.

In an article he wrote with LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and Chris Yeh, the speaker discussed a new framework for working with employees around specific projects or multi-year plans, aka tours of duty, which has four elements: a mission objective, benefits to employees’ careers, benefits to the company and a concrete time horizon or duration.

“No one has to leave the company” automatically when this task is done, Casnocha said. Rather, the framework serves as “an ethical compact to describe expectations.”

It also aims to be a way for managers to have “high-quality career discussions” that can be referred to on a regular basis for “check-ins” with staff.

Managers can ask employees, “What do you want your resume or LinkedIn profile to look like in two years? What should be new?” And, he stressed, “Make this discussion really concrete. Look at marketable skills, which recognizes the open, free market for labor” that exists today.

It’s also advantageous to help employees expand their “soft assets,” which includes having a robust professional network, strong skills and knowledge, as well as a formidable reputation or brand.

“If you grow your soft assets … you make more money over time,” Casnocha said. This makes it valuable for employees to know and to receive coaching on, rather than being focused on the next raise or change in job title. “Look at the big picture,” he explained, “which produces both wealth and satisfaction.”

The popular speaker admitted that it is “very hard to be a manager today,” when employees are looking for self-actualization, a purposeful life, professional success and more. “You may hire employees, but human beings show up,” Casnocha said.

For your advisory practice or wealth firm to be more than “a career parking lot, make it a career launching.” As advisors do with investor clients and prospects, they should do with staff: Craft conversations carefully, be honest and open up on your vulnerabilities to build trust, he added.

News from TD Ameritrade At another important industry event, TD Ameritrade Institutional’s recent LINC conference for advisors in San Diego, Managing Director Kate Healy said, “It’s been the year of diversity; it’s really taken hold.” Across the industry, professionals have homed in on the lack of diversity and inclusion in financial planning and begun to take steps to rectify the situation.

CFP Board research confirmed the startling lack of diversity in the profession in a report last year. “We all knew the numbers are low,” she explained, but “when you see it in your face” that only 3.5% of the 80,000 certified financial planners are Latino or African-American, “you know it’s not right.”

It also doesn’t reflect how the country looks now, and the country is changing faster than many advisors realize, she said. Millennials are the most diverse generation in the nation’s history, and they tend to react negatively to the lack of diversity in any organization.

Diversity isn’t just about ethnicity. It’s also about having a diverse array of experiences and insights that comes from being a woman, for example, or a career changer or a former member of the military. Attracting a more diverse population to the profession can also help solve the talent shortage, Healy explained.

TD Ameritrade Institutional is doing its part in exposing younger people to the profession. Over the past 10 years, 370 students have attended its national conference, Healy reported, from 30 colleges and universities. This year, there are 63 students from 30 schools attending; five of those 30 schools are historically black colleges and universities (or HBCUs).

The firm doesn’t just welcome students from those schools; it pays for the students and their program directors to attend. Moreover, in past years, two HBCUs received TD Ameritrade Institutional “emerging grants” of $25,000 to help those schools establish their financial planning programs.

What can individual advisors do to expand diversify and help address the talent shortage? One step is to understand the value of diversity for their firms and build a staff that is more diverse in terms of gender, ethnicity and even sexual orientation; another is to support financial-literacy programs in high schools or even elementary schools, she said.

There are many good financial-planning programs in colleges and universities, but not enough graduates to close that talent gap, according to Healy. A way to overcome this challenge is to improve the awareness among younger people not only that financial planning exists as a profession, but also that there are many job duties that exist in financial planning firms, such as in operations or customer service.

For its part, TD Ameritrade Institutional provides an internship guidebook for RIA firms to ensure that those interns rotate through all the different roles in an advisory firm. Internship programs are a very economical way to attract new staffers to an RIA firm, she said, since, depending on location, a firm can hire an intern for $15 an hour or spend “maybe $8,000” total for an intern’s services.

Healy said there’s also a big need for planners to serve as adjunct professors in college financial-planning programs. “We have to invest in the profession,” and firms support of students might help older advisors with their current staffing problems and eventual succession-planning issues, she explained.

RIAs attending LINC benefit from rubbing elbows with younger people, she added. For instance, one advisor took a student along to a technology demo to get additional input and insights on the latest technology.