Concerns have been raised that advisors are not participating fully in their industry organizations.

Forty-five years ago, when Tom Hazell entered the insurance business, joining an industry association and volunteering your time for that organization was “just something you did.

“You had to give back,” says the president of his own Midland, Ont.-based underwriting firm. But these days, he laments, advisors coming into the business “just are not volunteers. They don’t perceive they have the time or that it is in their best interests.”

That new advisors don’t participate is a matter of some concern among industry organizations. But no one is sure why the newest entrants to the financial services market are not joining their professional groups or volunteering their time in the same numbers as older members. Perhaps, some speculate, it’s a generational thing.

“They’re simply not joiners,” says Jim Rogers, chairman of Rogers Group Financial Advisors Ltd. , in Vancouver. He speculates that younger advisors coming into the business are influenced by an environment that negates some of the call for volunteering.

For one, he says, they get a lot of their information on the Internet: “Product manufacturers have filled a void by providing education information electronically, particularly to advisors and planners. This is something associations might have done in the past. Now, the advisor is saying, ‘I don’t have to join financial advocacy associations because I’m getting the practice-management skills I need without my having to pay for them or attend monthly meetings’.”

Steve Howard, president and CEO of Advocis, also suspects there’s an age demographic at work. He says mutual fund and insurance licences are held mostly by more senior advisors, and this is reflected in the makeup of his organization’s volunteer groups.

“We find that the new entrants to the industry are harder to encourage into a volunteer capacity because there are fewer of them and they’re busier,” Howard says. “A more successful or established advisor is simply more able to devote time to volunteerism.”

Howard believes that young people who don’t volunteer for industry committees are missing out on a range of benefits, including the advantage of an advocate to act on their behalf while they concentrate on the day-to-day business of their professions.

And volunteers, he says, enjoy networking, a chance to hone their own leadership skills and a first-hand connection to the industry: “As a volunteer in our organization, you’re interacting with the people who are the most successful. And we find that those individuals who feel it’s important to give back are the same ones who are going to be successful.”

Still, Howard says, any fallout from dwindling volunteer numbers has yet to take effect at Advocis. Some 600 volunteers donate between 15 and 2,000 hours a year to a variety of roles, he says, adding that other associations seeking to enjoy that same degree of participation need to define their mandate to attract volunteers.

“Either you’re a volunteer-driven organization or you’re not,” he says. “If you’re not, then asking volunteers to play roles that are not integral and meaningful is not going to entice them in today’s age, when there are so many demands on their time.”

Another industry association that has no trouble getting people to participate is the Investment Funds Institute of Canada. John Murray, senior vice president of IFIC, says the organization has ample participation from members.

“In fact, all of our various committees and working groups are frequently oversubscribed,” he says. “We have to turn people away because we don’t have room for them in our boardroom.”

In order to accommodate volunteers, IFIC developed a “guest” policy, in which individuals who are interested in the work of a particular committee or working group don’t become committee members (such groups are limited to 15 members) but can participate in related conference calls.

Murray says the majority of participants are over the age of 30, but: “That’s just because of the experience that they need in order to be able to participate.”

Scott Robertson, vice president of the Institute of Advanced Financial Planners, says that organization has not experienced difficulty getting young people to volunteer. However, he is concerned that fewer young people are coming into the industry.

“I’m not speaking from any form of study — just looking around at some of the grey hair at the conventions and meetings,” he says. “I am saying that there’s not the renewal you might hope for.” IE