A year into her job at Rogers Group Financial, Cecilia Tsang wrote a test that would have a profound impact on her career. But it wasn’t tied to any designations or certifications. The result would help her gain entry to the group’s articling program, a lengthy mentorship opportunity.

For Tsang, who was just starting out in financial services, the program would provide a personal guide and a framework for her progress in the business, helping with practical goals like timelines for designations, and broader benchmarks for her development as a young advisor.

The new advisor generally arrives with a newly minted degree but little client experience. Enter the mentor. Bill Gates had one—the iconic Warren Buffett—and so did Charles M. Schwab, who learned key business lessons from Andrew Carnegie. In Tsang’s case, the lessons were crucial.

“The learning doesn’t stop,” she says. “It starts immediately and continues as you work. It takes quite a bit of time to have the knowledge and skills to be a good advisor.”

And turning that learning curve into a formal mentor-novice partnership can yield personal and professional
dividends for both teacher and student.

Beyond basic training

Junior advisors aren’t completely alone at the starting line, but having a mentor can take their introduction to the business to a new level. The program at Rogers Group is modelled on the articling program all law students complete and can last anywhere from two to five years, says Clay Gillespie, managing
director at the Vancouver-based firm.

Read: Veterans’ advice for young advisors

New advisors learn the ropes by spending the first stage in research and planning mode, preparing plans for
clients while under supervision. Tsang recalls doing trades, paperwork and GIC renewals under Rogers Group chair Brett Simpson. Mentorship is a day-to-day process punctuated by regular meetings to track progress.

“They need some training and cutting of teeth,” says Gillespie. “We don’t believe that somebody, after six weeks of training, is capable of giving the advice required.”

But it’s much more than basic training. Having a mentor as a sounding board and teacher “is critical for the success of the individual and in our case, of our firm,” he says. “You’re teaching the culture of the firm, and [you’re acting like] a parent, not letting them make the same mistakes you made.”

Once mentees become associate financial advisors, their training moves into business building, including solo prospecting and marketing. “They start using their own personality and their own resources, and you just try to direct them in the right direction,” Gillespie says. “Their success is based on what they do.”

And that success is tied to that of the firm, which has 15 advisors under its roof. “Our goals are to build another generation in our firm,” says Gillespie. “Our entire second generation came through this process. Now, we’re trying to work on the third generation.”

Better business

Not all mentees are new to the business. That’s the case at Wise Advisory Group, where CEO Julian Wise mentors two advisors: one with several years of investment experience who wanted to develop his skills, the other a former financial services senior executive “who’s never worked on our side of the street.”

Read: How to be a good mentor

Wise takes a looser approach to mentoring. He works with his mentees daily, and holds progress meetings every two weeks. “Our goals are determined by the clients we’re developing —we will sit down and talk about the clients, what needs to be done and [get] input on how to make it happen.” Goals are also specific to each new advisor’s strengths: one may need to shore up on technical knowledge, while the other might need help drawing up a question list for new clients.

Like Gillespie, Wise links mentee development and the progress of his Oakville, Ontario-based firm. The current partnerships “directly relate to money and income,” he says. But there’s also another gain: “The non-tangible measurement of our sense of the person’s growth, how they are filling their new shoes versus their old shoes, and how their outlook has expanded.”

Eyeing retention

GAMA International Canada focuses on measurement before the apprenticeship has even begun. There, mentoring—in the form of Sun Life Financial’s six-month Career Academy program—is built on good matchmaking, says Greg Powell, the firm’s president.