The average age of the financial advisors surveyed for Investment Executive‘s annual Report Card series has been rising over the course of this decade – to 49.3 years of age this year from 47.7 in 2010. Thus, there’s no surprise in advisors paying more attention to succession planning and taking notice of the lack of new advisors at their firm.

In particular, most advisors said their firm’s efforts in attracting and retaining new advisors are sorely lacking – and this has significant implications for the future.

“We need younger advisors coming in now,” says an advisor in Atlantic Canada with Toronto-based Assante Wealth Management (Canada) Ltd. “There’s a problem here.”

“[The firm needs to] commit to an associate program more,” says an advisor in Atlantic Canada with Montreal-based National Bank of Canada. “[And] bring in more young people.”

Sam Albanese is industry director of insurance and wealth-management programs at Toronto-based Seneca College’s Centre for Financial Services. He oversaw the launch of the college’s financial services practitioner program in 2006, and says, “Firms are not doing enough” to bring in fresh blood into the financial services sector.

Although Albanese says financial services firms do a great job of promoting themselves and their brands to clients, these same firms are doing very little to promote the careers that are available in their business.

“The [sector] does not have a good image [among college-age students],” Albanese says. “The image is that of a used-car salesman peddling a product.”

However, once students learn about the estate and wealth planning side of the business, working in the sector becomes far more appealing, Albanese says.

“There’s a difference between a job and a career,” he adds. “We’re trying to promote a career. You’re providing full service to your clients. That’s more exciting.”

Thus, Albanese suggests that financial services firms bolster their training programs for new recruits: “[The financial services sector] is the only one that doesn’t have an apprenticeship program. Doctors and plumbers work with a senior person [at first].”

Winnipeg-based Investors Group Inc. has answered that call. Investors Group has a specific training plan in place for new advisors, says Todd Asman, senior vice president of products and financial planning with the firm.

“For somebody coming in new to the industry, we have two different levels of training: One is at the local level, underneath the division director, who directly oversees new advisors coming into the business,” Asman says. “[These rookie advisors] have one-on-one [training] or their own material to walk through. Once they’ve reached a certain level of achievement, the division director will sit with them while they meet with clients to provide expertise or knowledge.”

Mississauga-based IDC Worldsource Insurance Network Inc. (IDC WIN) also has made an effort to integrate new advisors entering the business by pairing them up with senior, more experienced advisors.

“IDC WIN’s succession program is great,” says an advisor with the firm in Alberta. “The firm is starting to get young people partnered up with older people. [IDC WIN] stands out in the industry.”

In contrast, many firms have little training for new advisors – a “sink or swim” mentality. As such, once rookie advisors have sold products to all their family members and friends, those advisors often don’t know where to go next, Albanese says.

“The industry needs support systems in place,” he adds. “Some sort of salary so you can be around over the next 12 to 18 months and know you’re going to get some money.”

Firms could bolster their succession plans in order to integrate new advisors better because a lack of fresh blood will have serious implications as the baby boomers age, Albanese adds.

“You go into any meeting today and you’re going to see a sea of bald and grey people,” he says. “Maybe 10 years from now, 40% of these advisors will be gone and no one will be replacing them. This is a very serious problem.”

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