As Canada’s financial advisor population continues to age, financial services firms may have to update their training programs in the coming year to ensure they’re finding recruits who can meet client expectations.

“Many of the rookie programs still focus on strategies that used to work in the past but don’t work anymore,” says Sara Gilbert, founder of Montreal-based Strategist Business Development. “Often, rookie programs still focus on asset-gathering. But when you take a holistic approach to wealth management, you need to have a different mindset.”

Several financial services firms, such as Toronto-based Raymond James Ltd., Winnipeg-based Investors Group Inc. and Toronto-based TD Wealth Private Investment Advice (TD Wealth PIA), have done some soul searching regarding their rookie recruitment efforts and have updated their new advisor programs as a result. These programs emphasize financial planning skills, formalized training and team environments.

Building teams has several benefits for firms and their advisors. In addition to providing a potential successor for an advisor who is approaching retirement, team- building gives new recruits hands-on experience through helping senior advisors meet clients’ increasingly high expectations.

“[Clients] want so much more today, and it’s very difficult, if not impossible, for a lone advisor to meet all the needs of several clients,” says Sybil Verch, senior vice president and national director, wealth management, with Raymond James in Victoria. “You just can’t do it all.”

Firms also look for a variety of skills and designations from their recruits. For example, many firms want new advisors to have the certified financial planner (CFP) designation in addition to standard credentials, such as the Canadian Securities Course. Some recruitment programs help new advisors complete the CFP designation as part of their training.

In addition to entrepreneurial skills, firms look for “soft skills” to ensure advisors get to know their clients – an effective way to differentiate advisors from the competition, says Dave Kelly, senior vice president, TD Wealth Private Wealth Management: “We look at people who are strong listeners, have great empathy [and] can build relationships with customers.”

These new programs also are an opportunity for firms to change the demographic makeup of their advisor force. For example, Investors Group focuses on recruiting individuals with specific career backgrounds, such as teachers, ex-military personnel and accountants, because these people tend to be successful as advisors.

“We’ve enhanced our screening methods,” says Herp Lamba, senior vice president, financial services, Western Canada, with Investors Group in Winnipeg. “We’re a lot more specific on who we’re looking for with specific types of backgrounds.”

As another example, TD Wealth PIA is using its recruitment efforts to create a more diverse workforce, an important goal for the firm. For example, 75% of new recruits in the brokerage’s advisor development program were either women or a member of a visible minority.

Here’s a closer look at how three firms are structuring their advisor development programs:

Investors Group is in the midst of rolling out a four-year training program for new advisors. As part of this training, new advisors will be able to work toward their CFP designation through IG University, the firm’s education division.

Investors Group also offers mentoring opportunities for recruits through traditional partnerships, in which the junior advisor remains independent, or by having a junior advisor join an established advisor’s team.

Says Lamba: “You can’t learn this business by reading a text book.”

TD Wealth PIA updated its Developing Investment Advisor Program in 2016 and hired its first batch of individuals who will make up the firm’s next generation of advisors. This year, the firm plans to enrol another 40 recruits – half in the spring and half in the autumn – into its training program.

During the first year of the program, new advisors are placed in a branch to act as a shared financial planning resource for existing advisors and their clients. At the same time, the new advisors go through practice-management training.

The following year, these new advisors join a senior advisor or an advisor team. At the end of the program, the advisor and the recruit decide whether they will continue to work as a team or if the new advisor will strike out on his or her own.

Raymond James launched its advisor internship program in December. As part of the program, the firm plans to hire 20 new advisors this year.

These recruits are expected to be licensed to sell securities and have three years of experience. Those without the necessary experience will be placed in a support role. Candidates also are required to have their CFP designation within 24 months of joining the company.

The firm pays 50% of these junior advisors’ salaries for three years, with the remaining half being paid out by the advisor team that the recruit joins. Raymond James also trains the recruits as part of the program.