Looking for and developing talent is important for growing advisory firms. A Schwab Advisor Services study released Wednesday asked second- and third-generation leadership at various firms what lessons they learned not only in working in the business, but handling a changing generation of clients.
Key findings from 11 interviews of former SAS graduates were:
- Firm leaders see a more complex future for their businesses.
- Emotional intelligence is the new essential skill.
- Firms are offering more services in a quest to become “irresistible” to their target clients.
- A diverse team can differentiate a firm through expertise, service and innovation, but is hard to build.
- New technology is exciting, but needs a balance.
A panel of three graduates of Schwab’s Executive Leadership Program, started in 2014 with more than 200 professionals, who spoke at the Schwab Impact conference, provided insights not only on how they dealt with today’s clients but also discussed how they found and developed new talent.
The panel, moderated by Lisa Salvi, vice president of business consulting & education for SAS, was made up of graduates of the SAS leadership program. They included Ryan Caldwell, class of 2016, whose firm, Wacker Wealth Partners, has $938 million in assets under management; Heather Fortner, class of 2015, whose firm, Signature FD, has AUM of $4 billion; and Stacy Haubenschild, class of 2017, whose firm, Henssler Financial, has AUM of $2 billion.
All panelists agreed that emotional intelligence, or EQ, is the new essential skill. The study found these communication skills have become part of training, and that firms mentor staff today as so often they have “difficult, often intimate conversations with clients and clients’ children about their lives, and providing development opportunities that infuse EQ in leadership approaches and team dynamics.” Salvi added that EQ has become an important topic in all Schwab sessions.
Fortner told the audience that “we have focused on IQ in the business, but now we do EQ, which is harder to quantify.”
She came into the business as an intern and worked from the ground up, noting that the “journey to leadership was just a relentless pursuit of knowledge.” She also wanted to get an advanced degree, but not in finance, but in professional counseling. “I had been in enough client meetings by that time to see that families with substantial wealth usually had some sort of emotional issues around that wealth,” she said. “There was some sort of family dynamic that can either hinder or help how the plan is laid out and how well they can reach their goals.” She added that her firm allowed her not only to get the degree, but “to utilize that unique skill set.”
Finding talent and developing it has been a key topic in the business. Salvi said the study found that 76% of advisory firms were hiring this year, up slightly from last year’s 71% that were hiring.
Speakers found that one way to find new talent is to look outside the industry. Haubenschild was recruited from the medical administration business. Other examples include an attorney from a nonprofit, a retired Army Ranger who also was an executive coach or those with communications backgrounds.