The discussion about bringing new blood into professional organizations has amplified as more advisors retire

By Tessie Sanci | Mid-October 2016

As Canada's financial advisor population continues to age, some professional investment industry associations are looking to rejuvenate their membership base with strategies designed to attract younger advisors who are short on money and time.

The discussion about bringing in new blood into professional associations has amplified in recent years as the numbers of retiring advisors have become significant, according to Nancy Allan, executive director of the Independent Financial Brokers of Canada (IFB) in Mississauga, Ont.

"We need to look at how we're going to support those [retiring advisors] and how we're going to help their clients by making sure there's continuity in the level of service they're receiving," she says.

However, many of the less experienced advisors who will be critical in moving the relationship-based aspect of the industry forward are not like their predecessors. Advisors in their 20s and early 30s tend to be more tech-savvy and thrive on receiving instant access to information. These younger advisors also are beginning the challenging process of building a client base. These characteristics have forced some industry associations to rethink how they connect with, and extol their benefits, to these individuals.

The IFB is rolling out an online Facebook-like platform that will connect members who want to buy a business with advisors who intend to sell one. The program, called Coming Up Next, also can be used to connect members who are interested in developing a mentoring relationship.

"It's going to have a component through which [members] will be able to set transition goals and then be able to track their progress toward those goals," Allan explains. "We'll have a [continuing education (CE)] component, so they can take [CE courses] that support those themes."

The IFB also increased its efforts regarding technology by: optimizing its website for mobile devices; developing a stronger social media presence; and producing a series of five- to seven-minute podcasts on industry issues and business development.

The association is exploring the possibility of restructuring its annual summits, which typically are one- to two-day events, depending on the host city. Half-day workshops and shorter events are a possibility, Allan says.

"Two days out of your office, or even three days if you're coming from a distance, often is more time than somebody has available if they're in the business-building phase," she says.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Institute of Financial Planners (CIFPs) in Mississauga began to notice an increase in members who were retiring approximately five years ago.

In turn, the CIFPs realized the traditional professional association that focused on networking and volunteerism wouldn't be sustainable with a younger cohort who are trying to build a business, says Keith Costello, president and CEO of the CIFPs.

"We have to provide cost-effective products that maximize [advisors'] time and [help them] build their business," he says. "We realized that getting people to volunteer is tough under the old, traditional association model."

This realization has led to ensuring that CIFPs programs emphasizing professional development and CE are included in members' annual membership fees.

The CIFPs is working closely with some large financial services firms that typically employ entry-level advisors. The CIFPs seeks to help those advisors become certified financial planners.

"We're educating new advisors and then they're subsequently becoming members of the association," says Costello.

The CIFPs' efforts have proven fruitful, with the membership increasing to 8,000 from 5,000 over the past two years.

Industry associations have to consider and implement services for the advisors who are going to remain in the industry over the long term in order for those organizations to be sustainable, says Costello: "You have to be the body for tomorrow because the industry is changing very rapidly."

The Vancouver-based Institute of Advanced Financial Planners (IAFP), which grants the registered financial planner (RFP) designation, has implemented a strategy designed to grow its visibility and membership after noticing members were retiring and leaving the IAFP.

"We are starting to see traction and a rebuild [of the institute], which is fantastic," says Jeff Wachman, the IAFP's vice president and chairman of its membership growth committee.

A mentoring program, through which senior planners can guide aspiring RFPs through the examination process, was implemented recently. The IAFP also provides a financial incentive to potential members who fulfil RFP requirements within a year, providing complimentary admission, worth $1,000, to an annual symposium.

The IAFP is seeing positive results, having welcomed 12 new associates - members who have not completed the RFP examination process yet - in 2016. Nine of those individuals will write their RFP exams this year, a jump from the typical addition of one RFP a year. The IAFP has set a goal of welcoming 25 new associates in 2017.

"It's very rare that we have members who join the IAFP, then leave us," says Wachman, "so the challenge is introducing them to what they do when they are financial planners."

The IAFP has worked to introduce the organization and its mandate to post-secondary students who are interested in pursuing a financial services career.

Specifically, the IAFP has developed an internship program through which students who show an interest in financial planning can work in the offices of RFPs during those students' summer holidays.

In addition, the IAFP runs an annual competition in which students can apply their financial services education to a financial planning scenario.

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