One of the best parts of my job over the last several years has been the opportunity to mentor college students and recent graduates who are potentially interested in joining the financial advice industry.
For financial advisors, my key takeaway from these conversations is that our industry’s success in recruiting the next generation of talent will come down to one question: How do we inspire them?
One thing I’ve noticed about today’s young people is that they want to leave a mark, striving not only to have a successful career but wanting to make a difference as well.
To make our industry more attractive, therefore, we need to go beyond “just the facts” about the advice business and do a better job of connecting on an emotional level. That approach will help them appreciate how fulfilling a career in financial services can be.
The following are some of the strategies I’ve used — most recently as part of Ladenburg Thalmann’s Link to the Future Program — to introduce our industry in a more compelling and inspiring way to young people:
1. Drop the jargon (for now) and get to the good stuff.
Experienced advisors know how important it is to minimize jargon when speaking with clients. Yet some of these same advisors seem to turn off their jargon filters when speaking with college students.
Nothing dulls a young person’s enthusiasm for our industry more quickly than being overwhelmed with a barrage of acronyms. If you want to see a set of glazed eyes, tell them a story about an IAR under a corporate registered investment advisor recommending an IRA.
In due time, prospects will, of course, need to understand what broker-dealers are, what registered investment advisors do and which securities licenses they will need. Initially, though, focus less on technical details in favor of big-picture concepts that are more likely to inspire and encourage them to enter our profession.
2. Tell stories.
People often think of a career in terms of how it could define them. Doctors, for example, are typically looked upon favorably, with many seeing them as being devoted, smart and hardworking.
Our industry sometimes isn’t viewed quite the same way. In large part, that’s because the public narrative surrounding it is often at odds with what advisors actually do.
Indeed, many college students think being an advisor involves sitting in front of a terminal all day crunching numbers. Others, meanwhile, may have formed impressions based on “The Wolf of Wall Street” or other not-so-pleasant depictions of financial services in popular culture.
To combat these misperceptions, it’s useful to provide real-life client scenarios. Something as simple as how sound planning helped a single mom send her son to college can be a very effective way to demonstrate the positive force advisors play in the lives of their clients.
Making it clear what an advisor does day to day is another useful way to tell our story. Talk about everything from client reviews, to market research, to prospect event planning. A realistic illustration of daily tasks helps the next generation grasp precisely how they will spend their time.
The common thread between these two strategies is that they both focus on stories. Some may be concrete and tactical, while others are high-level and uplifting. The point is that storytelling helps young people imagine themselves in a financial advisor’s shoes, going a long way toward creating a positive impression of what it is like to fill that role.
3. Tell them about the tech.
In addition to telling positive stories, advisors should leverage our industry’s growing technology savviness to serve as an entry point for young people. Many students don’t realize the extent to which technological tools and platforms enable virtually every aspect of a financial advisor’s role and how, in a sense, they’ve been training to use those tools their entire lives.
Since this generation has come of age during a time when it’s routine to have important personal interactions through messaging and social network platforms, they are unbothered by — and usually excel at — making connections in this type of environment. Therefore, the same communication skills (subject to relevant rules and regulations) can easily be applied to prospecting for new clients and communicating with current ones.
The lesson is that many young people may already have the skills to succeed in our field, but it’s up to advisors to connect the dots for them and inspire them to explore our profession more seriously.
There is no question that some aspects of our industry are unglamorous. Few people get excited about regulatory complexity or having to get professional licenses.
At the same time, however, there’s plenty about financial services that make it an attractive career destination. We must to do a better job of making it relatable and approachable, which will help young people picture themselves having a bright future in this field.
Amy Rehn is chief operating officer and chief marketing officer of Triad Hybrid Solutions and senior vice president, Advisory Services, at Triad Advisors, subsidiaries of Ladenburg Thalmann. She is a member of the Ladenburg Institute of Women & Finance Committee and a coordinator for the Link to the Future student outreach program.