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Meet Your Replacement

Our industry's next generation is more accomplished than you might think.

David J. Drucker, 02/21/2008

I have long believed that our youth is being misspent.

No, not my youth--that ship's sailed--but rather, the youth that we will be hiring to keep our practices afloat, to carry out our legacies, to keep our profession relevant in the minds of U.S. consumers.

Much has been said about how these young people's talents are being wasted. We've all heard the stories about university interns being relegated to back offices and filing rooms, given little to no contact with clients, made to do menial tasks indefinitely. Young hires are often not doing much better. Veteran advisors like you aren't developing these young people.

We don't know if this trend is the exception or the rule, but it's disturbing. Financial services have been around a long time, but independent financial advisors are still a relatively new phenomenon, dating back to the 1970s, at best. (And to all you accountants, bankers, and other tangential professionals who still think you were doing financial planning before any professional planning designations or curriculums for earning them were put in place--get real). So, this thing we call "objective financial advice" really developed on the backs of those who will leave their practices within the next 10 years.

In other words, our industry is still young, and the human resource skills of many of our top advisors aren't fully developed. Heck, a lot of us never even figured we'd be running an actual planning firm with responsibilities to anyone other than ourselves. It's not like we took a college course on developing new talent. And then there's the most myopic view of all: "Let these young folks pay their dues like I did!" (usually offered as an excuse for why the intern has been working in the filing room for so long that no one remembers his name).

Here's the big picture, if I may: Independent financial advice is becoming a recognized profession. Advisory firm owners must continue their struggle to learn business management skills because the businesses that make up our industry are capable of living on if the right people are trained to oversee that continuity. And that means young industry entrants must be respected and appreciated for the strengths they bring to your firm. Those owners who recognize this will thrive ahead of others.

Now, if you have any doubt on the quality of young people available to you and your firm, let me introduce you to two Texas Tech students who you'd be lucky to hire: Joshua Mungavin and Irene Quartey-Papafio. I met Mungavin and Quartey-Papafio at the January 2008 Technology Tools for Today conference I organized with fellow Morningstar writer Joel Bruckenstein--the third in a series of annual conferences designed to show independent advisors how to maximize practice automation and efficiency. (For information on the conference that just ended, visit www.virtualofficenews.com). These two students are taught by Deena Katz, still functional as chairman of her Coral Gables, Fla., firm of Evensky & Katz, but perhaps better known these days as an associate professor in the personal financial planning division at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas.

It was our idea, as conference organizers, to include a panel on what CFP-candidate-students know about technology and how they might advise established advisors to better use it--demonstrating their value, not only as developing advisors, but also as people with life and work experience potentially valuable to you.

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