Members of Generation Y are looking for meaningful jobs that will lead to long, satisfying careers. Firms are responding with revamped recruiting techniques that appeal to would-be advisors

By Fiona Collie | March 2014

After years of working in sales at an electronics store, Jon Duplessis of Saint John, N.B., felt he needed to apply his skills to something he would find more meaningful.

"I really get a good feeling when I help somebody," Duplessis says. "And I realized, coming from the service industry, that there's a lot of things out there that people need help with. And one of those things was their finances.

"So, that's why I moved into the financial services sector," adds Duplessis, 31, who joined Investors Group Inc. as a consultant in 2011. "It's to help people out."

Duplessis is similar to many of those in his age group in his search for more meaning in his career, according to Lauren Friese, founder of TalentEgg Inc., a Toronto-based online job site tailored for students and recent graduates. That is one of several changing characteristics that financial services firms and practices looking to recruit younger advisors need to acknowledge.

As the financial advisor population ages, succession planning is becoming an important topic throughout the sector, which is taking steps to attract younger advisors. Financial services firms are working to identify the characteristics that young people are looking for in a job and to attract the next crop of advisors. You can learn from these firms' techniques and apply them to your efforts to recruit young talent to your practice.

Meaningful work

"A characteristic that I think is unique to Generation Y is a demand on the workplace that work be meaningful and that as a worker, you feel passionate toward your work," says Friese, whose organization has partnerships with a number of financial services firms, including Royal Bank of Canada and Sun Life Financial Inc., both of Toronto, and London, Ont.-based Freedom 55 Financial.

Generation Y, also known as Gen Y or millennials, are people born between roughly 1981 and 2000, according to New York-based Catalyst Inc.

The average age of a Canadian financial advisor is 49, according Investment Executive's 2013 Advisor Report Card series. That number has been rising steadily and is expected to increase further in the years ahead. Advisors in the mutual fund dealer channel are the oldest in the sector, with an average age of 53. The need to recruit young advisors to take up the torch is undeniable.

The financial advisory sector in general - and small dealers especially - must focus on recruiting Gen Y advisors, says Greg Pollock, president and CEO of Advocis in Toronto: "They need a succession plan in place. And probably one of the best places to start is with individuals who are much younger than the existing advisor. What is needed is a way and a means to recruit those individuals."

Although not dangerously behind, the sector has yet to make great strides toward wooing this younger demographic, according to Friese. But firms and individual advisors can take advantage of techniques already in practice to quickly make some Gen Y-friendly changes to their organizations:

Commit resources

Firms and advisors need to commit enough resources for any recruitment or retention strategy to work.

"Provide [young recruits] with the proper tools, provide them with support, provide them with opportunities," says Pollock, "and I think you're going to find that they succeed very, very well."

In the past two years, Freedom 55 and Mississauga, Ont.-based Edward Jones have each made a commitment to recruit a younger demographic with the creation of targeted recruitment and retention programs.

The Freedom 55 program, which targets candidates between 25 and 40 years of age, was created with the company's future clientele in mind.

"If we make that investment today in a new generation of advisors," says Cathy Hiscott, assistant vice president, field management/new advisor value proposition, with Freedom 55, "we believe they're going to be here to serve our clients in the years to come."

Edward Jones is focusing on recruiting younger advisors for similar reasons.

"Roughly one-third of the population in Canada are millennials," says Craig Hayman, principal responsible for branch development, recruitment and training development with Edward Jones. "And, ultimately, millennials will age and the people who will serve them likely need to be from the same generation."

Edward Jones' program, called the Financial Advisor Career Development Program, began about 18 months ago, Hayman says, and the company already has plans to expand its enrolment in 2014 to 30 recruits from 20 last year.

To grab the attention of a generation used to watching YouTube videos while checking their text messages, you need to find ways to get the word out about career opportunities by using a variety of strategies.

Social media can help financial services companies build awareness among members of Gen Y about the financial services sector as a viable career option.

Freedom 55 has a Twitter campaign to promote the virtues of working as a financial advisor, with the #55reasons and #lovethiscareer hashtags. These discussions emphasize the entrepreneurial side of being an advisor.

Edward Jones employs LinkedIn to connect with younger recruits, Hayman says. The firm uses the social media platform to search through pools of potential candidates and find those with the right skills in economics, business or finance for the job. Like these large firms, individual advisors can use social media to connect with young people looking for a career in financial services.

Once you have the attention of a potential Gen Y recruit, it's important to be clear about what this candidate can expect from his or her job as an advisor, especially regarding salary and what the job entails.

Young job-seekers may have unrealistic salary expectations, says Sam Albanese, industry director, insurance and wealth management, with Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology in Toronto. Often, his graduating students tell Albanese that they expect to make $80,000 or more to start.

"That just isn't going to happen," he says, "For the most part, it's going to be $35,000 to $40,000 - and you're lucky if you even have a job."

New recruits have to understand that it takes a lot of work to succeed in this business, says Jeffrey Wellwood, an investment advisor with RBC Dominion Securities Inc. (DS) in Toronto. "There's no shortage of people who are interested [in this job]. But it's not as glamorous as they think it is."

Many rookies in the business think being a financial advisor is all about managing money, says Wellwood, 34, who joined DS as a rookie three years ago. But it takes hard work and a lot of phone calls and meetings to bring in new clients.

Another key to catching the attention of Gen Y is making sure all of your company's information is both current and easily accessible. Young people expect to have instant access to the information they want 24 hours a day, Friese says.

Freedom 55, for example has posted video testimonials by younger advisors on its website to help potential rookies learn about a career as a financial advisor. The company also has a presence on job-related websites such as TalentEgg.

Similarly, Edward Jones works with online job sites such as CareerBuilder.ca, Indeed.ca and Workopolis.com to make sure its job offerings are easily accessible to potential recruits.

Having a strong presence online is important to any recruitment strategy, but it doesn't completely replace the need to meet young candidates in person.

Working with universities and colleges is one way to meet recent graduates interested in the financial services sector. Edward Jones' recruitment team, for example, has built a relationship with McMaster University's DeGroote School of Business in Hamilton, Ont., and Edward Jones reps often speak to the school's investment club meetings.

At Freedom 55, new recruits meet with field managers when going through a selection process, says Hiscott, which includes job simulations and market assessments. "The younger generation," she says, "really wants to know what to expect, day to day."

Work/life balance

Once in the door, getting Gen Y recruits to stick around may mean making some changes at the office. Being able to make time for things outside of work, whether it's family or a favourite hobby, is extremely important to Gen Y, and these young people are looking for employers who are willing to accommodate them.

Says Duplessis: "Having the ability to spend family time when I want to spend family time is very important."

You should be willing to make allowances for your employees' personal time at the practice level as well.

Many Gen Ys, after seeing their parents being laid off and understanding that the job market can be unstable, don't expect to be at any company for long, says Hiscott. To counteract that mentality, businesses at both the firm level and the advisor level need to talk candidly about future career opportunities.

"They're an entrepreneurial group," Hiscott says of Gen Y. "[They] need to be challenged, and need to know the big picture and what they need to do or how they can get to build their careers."

Freedom 55 recently trained its field managers to emphasize these concerns when talking to candidates, Hiscott says. For example, field managers bring up growth opportunities such as adding associate advisors to their businesses, working out of their own offices and moving up into field management.

Opportunity for advancement

At the advisor level, keep the long term in mind when discussing employment with applicants and new hires. Discuss opportunities for advancement and how the prospective employee's career path would take shape over the years and decades.

Both Wellwood and Duplessis intend to remain with their respective firms and focus on growing their businesses and building their careers.

"I say this is the last job I'll ever have - that's my expectation," Wellwood says. "I'm just hoping to keep growing the business and growing my network."

Duplessis hopes to move eventually into management at Investors Group. "I would like to advance into the directors' roles," he says, "which would be still dealing with clients face-to-face, but it would also [involve] hiring new consultants like myself."

To give new Gen Y recruits the best chance of success in the business and at your firm, training programs must be targeted to their individual learning styles. Says Hiscott: "Today's generation learns by being online and by collaborating - what we call 'social learning' - and by mentoring and seeing people in the field."

Freedom 55 completely revamped its training manual as part of its recruitment program. The firm now focuses heavily on skills development in a six-week classroom training program.

Edward Jones' career-development program rotates new hires through various branches of the organization. The program includes a 90-day training program in which the recruit works as a transitional advisor for a client roster whose advisor is on a leave of absence or has left the firm.

As a rookie, Wellwood appreciated the training he received at DS. The firm's new investment advisor program gave him the opportunity to ask questions of seasoned advisors. "The trainers were outstanding," he says, "at helping me overcome those issues and objections."

Gen Y recruits pay close attention to the culture of an office when deciding whether or not to stick around. Often, Friese says, recent graduates say liking the people they will be working with is crucial in deciding whether to go with a certain employer.

The culture at Investors Group's Saint John office was a big draw for Duplessis.

"Coming into the environment - into the office space - everyone's work ethic seemed great," he says. "They felt like they were there to help me, and that's really what I needed."

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