Like workers in other industries, future financial advisors are demanding more. The firms giving them what they want are finding it easier to hire in a competitive market.

By Grace L, Williams, RIA Intel featuring JC Abusaid, President, COO

On the Miracle Mile Advisors website, employees of the wealth manager can be seen dressed in typical business casual attire in front of a drab gray background. But when a visitor hovers their cursor over employee headshots, the staff are suddenly revealed in different settings — like skydiving, rappelling down a cliff, dancing, and more — that might not be the first things someone associates with a wealth manager.

Matt Granski, a 28-year-old partner at Miracle Mile, says the digital trick helps send prospective clients — and potential new employees — a clear message: there is more to life than work. “We’re not just these people who sit behind computer screens all day and manage your money,” Granski told RIA Intel. “We’re individuals who have experiences and lives.” Showing that is an important part of the hiring effort at Miracle Mile, as it works to attract new college graduates and other young professionals. Based on projections made before the Covid-19 pandemic, college enrollment is expected to increase 2 percent between fall 2018 and fall 2029, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. Still, wealth managers must make material changes to replenish their ranks. In the next decade, more than 111,500 financial advisors — representing one-third of the workforce and assets under management — are expected to retire and not enough people want to fill their shoes. But along with their energy, fresh perspectives, and specific talents, younger generations are bringing new expectations of their employers. They are demanding a better quality of life, flexibility in many forms, and they want to work at companies with similar values, hiring managers say. Some wealth managers competing to hire young advisors are meeting those demands, plus offering more, and they are attracting more than most other companies.

Plant the Seeds That Are Interns

Some new full-time employees at Halbert Hargrove, a Long Beach, California-based RIA managing $2.7 billion, are not new to the organization when they start. Many hires interned at the wealth manager while going to school and choose to work there after graduation, JC Abusaid, COO and president at Halbert Hargrove, said.

An advisor recruiting a student or young professional to their firm can say anything. But nothing replaces valuable work experience and showing that Halbert Hargrove is a good place to work.

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Interns at Halbert Hargrove are not saddled with unimportant tasks. They work with different departments and are assigned jobs other employees would do. It’s also a six-month to yearlong internship, compared to the length of a summer, or even a winter break between semesters, that other firms might offer. The willingness to let interns explore, while making them a part of everyday operations, has made the internship itself attractive and is helping the pipeline of new talent at Halbert Hargrove, according to Abusaid.

Treating young talent like competent advisors in training is a relatively new phenomenon that some older generations might not have experienced.

“A lot of places that allowed people to get experience and a foothold got gobbled up,” said Robert Santos, CEO of Arrowroot, who got his start as a college intern at what was then Bear Sterns. “That was hard for a lot of people that were just graduated at that time.”

The result was a market awash in potential new hires who wanted to gain experience and potentially pursue the independent route.

“We spend a lot of time on the people we hire and what success means for them,” Santos said. Giving new hires a seat at the table also means “the ability to have a say in how we’re going to grow and give them the opportunity to have a significant part of responsibility in helping us to do that in a way that they’re excited about.”

Arrowroot tries to have at least five interns at all times. A 2020-2021 cohort had 15 interns. Over the last two and a half years, the 12-person company has hired two interns to be full-time investment analysts.

“By training our analysts and associates to fulfill specific roles [operations, trading and rebalancing, research, financial plan preparation], we can then have them support a number of advisors, Santos said. “This is much more profitable than assigning a designated [operations employee], or analyst per advisor.”

We’re Going to Invest in You

As the cost to attend college continue to rise, so does the debt burden for many students after graduation, including those intent on becoming financial advisors. Some wealth managers are offering to help pay down that debt to entice young professionals to join them.

Halbert Hargrove covers the cost of master’s degrees for employees and many join the firm expecting to take advantage of the perk.

“Education is a core value of the firm, so we make sure there’s a plan that gets made for each person for every year,” Abusaid said.

One of Santos’ brightest team members is just about to fly the nest. While it’s a sad milestone he is long since familiar with, at Arrowroot, the investment they pour into next-gen talent includes the expectation that eventually, they will move on.

“We send them off into the world with the strength of what we thought our brand stands for and what our people stand for. And hopefully with enough education for them to succeed out in the world,” he said.

Work To Live, Not Live To Work

The Covid-19 pandemic forced employees to work from home and blurred their professional and personal boundaries. Employees are pushing work-life balance as much as ever, including ones considering careers in wealth management.

“They’re saying we want more time with our family or they want [to work at] a company that cares about their well-being,” Katie Cullen, chief strategy and innovation officer at Wipfli, an accounting and business consulting firm with 2,900 associates.

Wealth managers would be smart to consider the balance at their companies — something that older employees might appreciate, too.

A Welcoming Place

In the eyes of recent college graduates, how diverse, equitable, and inclusive a wealth manager is could make it a sought-after place to work, or one to avoid.

Like investors, younger professionals are also more aware of and interested in environmental, social, and governance factors when investing. But that consideration doesn’t stop with their investments, it permeates their entire lives. They also want to work at companies considering those factors for themselves.

“You have to go below the surface and really understand who the people are who work for you. What do they care about? What are they struggling with? Is there an initiative that you all have where you get to know your employees?” Cullen said.

Younger generations are asking those questions. Wealth manager without good answers might find it harder hire them.

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