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Sourcing Financial Planners

Where do you go to hire the right talent?

David J. Drucker, 09/18/2008

Independent advisors have for years lamented the fact that it's so hard to find good financial planning talent. You'd almost never know that more than 200 universities throughout the U.S. have financial-planning curriculums, not to mention placement programs.

Much has also been said about planners' difficulty in absorbing students and other new hires into their firms. It's still a shock to many that in order to grow, they must shed the sole-proprietor-wears-all-the-hats mindset and learn to manage both their business and the people in it. Hence, students with demonstrable planning and even client-interaction skills often find themselves sandwiched in between file cabinets in the advisor's back office doing menial work because the advisor can't see and exploit for everyone's benefit their true abilities.

The typical advisor response to the newcomer is, "Stop whining and pay your dues the way I did; you can't expect to be a financial advisor like me overnight." While the typical response is something like, "Yeah, but how do I make you aware of my skills? You've got me doing administrative chores that don't even acknowledge my readiness to help prepare client plans and to participate in client meetings!"

We can compare this phenomenon with parenting. Some of us had parents who were better role models than others. Some parents know how to help their children grow, while others are hopelessly self-centered, providing their children with life's necessities, but little else. We learn parenting from our own parents and, while some may vow to improve on what their parents did, we all repeat at least some aspects of our own parenting--good or bad.

Our hiring and development of employees is similarly constrained. If we never had good people-management role models, we need to get some training, find a partner who has adequate skills in that area, or forget employees and outsource work to independent businesspeople that aren't looking to us to play a role in their personal or professional development.

Yet, results of the brief survey I'm about to present suggest that some of us are learning the value of university grads and other young talent, as well as learning how to properly acknowledge and reward that talent. I talked with a dozen advisors and found they'd hired their last financial planner from these sources:

Universities (4)
Client or support service person already known to advisor (2)
Classifieds (2)
Related professions (e.g. CPAs) (1)
Professional association job exchanges (1)
Wirehouses (1)
Staffing agencies (1)

College Students
Dan Joss of Fox, Joss & Yankee, LLC in Reston, Va. recognizes the value of students coming out of CFP-preparatory universities and says his firm has hired two Texas Tech grads in recent years. Fox, Joss & Yankee evaluates the success of its advisors on the basis (among other things) of how they fit into its existing team culture, whether they are receiving positive feedback from clients and others employees, and whether the firm's lead planners are aware of an obvious savings of their time because of the assistance they get from the new hires. It would be difficult for new planners to meet the firm's criteria if they were being hidden in a back office and not being given substantive work. This obviously isn't the case at Joss' firm. New hires are expected to make a noticeable impact and to attract positive attention from the firm's leaders.

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