Advisor recruitment evolves to suit client needs

By Todd Humber | October 21, 2022 | Last updated on October 21, 2022
4 min read
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As the criteria for what makes a successful advisor evolves, firms are taking a different approach to new advisor recruitment.

Two decades ago, the talent pipeline was full of university graduates, said Craig Meeds, head of investment management practices and insurance at TD Wealth in Toronto.

Then, people with more junior careers in finance, including investment banking and commercial banking, were added to the mix. Now, there is a real priority on people who are in the later stages of their careers, he said.

“The only real criteria we’re looking for is talented folks who are really engaged in client relationships,” Meeds said.

That openness to hire people from varied backgrounds is something Canada Life has also embraced, according to Abbie MacMillan, vice-president, advisor practice development and talent, in London, Ont.

“It helps to have some sort of business degree or experience in banking, insurance or finance,” she said. “Equally important are skills like empathy, active listening, the willingness to understand a client’s needs. We can train the financial acumen side of things.”

Sun Life also places a premium on non-financial skills when hiring, said Katina Michelis, assistant vice-president, recruiting and strategic growth in Toronto. The firm values people who are self-motivated and highly driven.

“An entrepreneurial mindset is very important,” she said. “Somebody wanting autonomy, not the traditional 9 to 5 type of role.”

People who are looking for meaning in their work also tend to be successful advisors, she said, such as people who volunteer and are involved in their communities.

Another big priority for Sun Life is diversity, equity and inclusion. It wants to ensure its advisors — and its recruiters — reflect the communities they’re serving, she said.

“The more inclusive leaders are, the more inclusive they’ll build out their teams, the more inclusive they’ll build out the advisor population,” Michelis said.

Sun Life’s best source of new talent is referrals from its own pool of advisors, she said.

“Successful employees know what it takes, what’s required in this industry,” Michelis said. “They provide us with, I would say, roughly 40%–45% of candidates.”

Once a new hire is in the door, a robust training program kicks in that goes beyond providing support for requirements like licensing, she said. The typical onboarding training program runs for seven weeks, alternating between classroom learning and in-field application.

The amount of time it takes an advisor to be fully independent varies, she said. But every advisor, regardless of the stage of their career, is paired with a local leader as an “ongoing coach,” so they have a place to turn for help if there is something they have not yet mastered.

Covid has accelerated digital capability, which has allowed advisors to grow their businesses beyond the limited geography they may have served in the past, she said. Sun Life has digital consultants to help advisors get comfortable with collaboration tools such as Zoom or e-signing software.

At TD Wealth, training programs have also evolved in recent years, said Meeds.

“It hasn’t been scaled back, but it has changed,” he said.

Decades ago, the focus would have been on hiring and developing advisors and asking them to grow their business organically. Now, the focus is on bringing associate investment advisors into established teams so they can learn from experienced professionals.

“They can not only look at best practices from experienced advisors, but they can also add their unique skills to the broader team,” he said.

The associate program has been running for more than five years, and more than 75% of the advisors hired into that program are still with TD Wealth, Meeds added.

RBC Wealth Management is investing more money than ever in developing advisors, according to Mike Scott, Toronto-based senior vice-president and managing director. It recently added more than $1 million to its training program, he said.

That’s in part because advisors need additional skills to serve their customers, such as estate planning or advice for aging parents.

“I’m really hoping we’re driving the client to expect more, because we realize it’s about a lot more than just money management,” Scott said.

The training program is extensive, and includes a 90-day orientation, branch training and classroom training that runs a total of about 18 months, he said. Some of that has moved to a virtual setting as technology was adapted throughout the pandemic.

Kale Wild, a financial advisor with Contego Wealth Management of Raymond James in Ottawa, began his career before the firm had the formal rookie program that’s in place today. Instead, he spent a lot of time in his early days cold calling to try and drum up business. “It was miserable,” he said.

The internship program in place today at Raymond James is “ideal,” he said. It pairs new hires with a senior advisor mentor.

“I think that makes a lot more sense than most rookie programs, where you’re on your own trying to bring in clients and having never managed money before,” said Wild. “That helps build your confidence a lot quicker and enables you to have success a lot quicker.”

Todd Humber

Todd Humber is an award-winning journalist who has reported on workplace, HR, employment, legal and occupational safety issues for more than 20 years.