Consider this: of the 17,500 CFPs in Canada, 44% are over age 50 and will be retiring in the next 10-15 years. However, only 10% of CFP professionals are under the age of 35.
That means there are awesome opportunities for younger advisors to succeed older planners as they exit their businesses. The opportunities are heightened by the sheer volume of Canadians who are on the cusp of retirement, and in dire need of younger wealth planners who can help manage their resources during their retirement years.
Succeeding in the financial advice business isn’t easy. The failure rate for beginners during the first five years in the business is notoriously high. But despite the attrition rate, there are rookies—both fresh graduates and career-changers—who thrive in this industry. And many of them credit their success to sound training and the support they’ve received from their firms.
Every year, about 50 people join the President’s Club – RBC Dominion Securities Inc.’s three-year rookie training program. There, they learn the technical, financial and social aspects of how to build a book of business. The formal part of the program lasts 90 days, and offers in-branch systems training, product and service awareness and different strategies for running their business.
The rookies get paid for an eight-month period, after which they start to grow their own books and receive fees from their business.
Mike Scott, managing director, RBC Dominion Securities, says the profile of rookies who apply for the training program has changed a lot over the years—from recent graduates to seasoned career-changers with a solid financial background. The gender landscape is also shifting. “We’re seeing a lot more female advisors coming into our business trough the rookie classes. If I go back about 23 years ago, when I started, it would have been a pretty much male-dominated group. Now it’s pretty much half and half.”
The reason, according to Scott, is that most rookie training programs have a real and growing emphasis on the comprehensive wealth management approach that female advisors are very good at and enjoy.
ScotiaMcLeod Inc.’s Investment Executive Training Program for its newbies includes formal classroom training and mentoring. Trainees are even videotaped during interactions with actors posing as clients, and their performances are extensively peer reviewed. They follow a curriculum that helps them obtain the IIROC licence.
Recruits who’ve been in the business for fewer than three years, have hit certain asset and revenue targets, and run compliant shops get invited to the annual Executive Council black-tie event.
Edward Jones, whose Canadian operations are based in Mississauga, Ont., splits its mentoring programs into two camps. One serves university graduates, the other focuses on career-changers. The firm pays recruits a salary while they obtain their securities and insurance licenses.
A three-month program allows fresh graduates to apprentice under a successful veteran. They assist the senior advisor with marketing, organizing seminars, booking appointments, sitting in on appointments, opening new accounts, and observing how he or she manages client meetings and portfolios.
Edward Jones holds three sessions a year: January, June and September. Classes average 12-to-18 rookies.
When picking recruits for the training program, the firms considers the candidate’s major, level of participation in leadership roles, involvement in extra curricular activities and varsity sports, club memberships, and any part-time jobs.
“We . . . keep about 75% of the rookies we train,” Yong Kim, Edward Jones recruiting leader. “We recognize we need to get younger people into the industry. Training is an investment; not an expense.”
Derek Weisbeck, wealth advisor at Scotia McLeod’s Edmonton office, says his prospecting strategy includes being constantly on the phone and speaking at industry events. Cold calling isn’t his favourite but he says if you do enough of it, it does bring in clients.
“When meeting prospects for the first time, it’s very important to try and establish trust as quickly as you can. Let them know you’re on their side and will help them achieve what they’re looking for, says” Weisbeck
Jolene Laing is based out of White Rock, B.C. and started in the finance industry just after turning 19 in 1999. She’s been at Scotia McLeod for four years now.
Despite her youth, Laing’s client base consists largely of retirees. In an industry where silver hair spells experience, she says her youth and energy are her selling points. Her clients tell her: “You’ll be around for me and my kids.”
When seeking prospects, Jolene is a big proponent of being involved with community. She’s on her city’s council board, and sure enough, some of the members on community boards are her clients.
Doug Eberlee, RBC Dominion Securities, recently graduated from the firm’s three-year training program. After more than 20 years of investment banking on Wall Street, he decided to move to Calgary four years ago and do something local that capitalized on his experience and investment expertise. Becoming a financial advisor seemed a natural choice. So he switched sides from working with companies that sell stocks and bonds to working with the investors who buy them.
“You have to be a specialist in terms of how you deal with each of your clients, but broadly speaking I consider myself a generalist because I like to have different clients under my roof,” he says. “Communicating clearly and articulately can be the differentiating factor in this business when a lot of the people you’re competing with are 20 years younger.”
Eberlee made a conscious decision to stay selective in terms of whom he approached early on. He spent periods of the executive training program refining a list of people he wanted to make first contact with. Locally, he tried to identify all the small businesses—for example people who own the car dealerships—and sent them a thoughtful letter in a hand-written envelope. “None of this is terribly important but sometimes it’s the details that matter,” he explains. “I told them I’d follow up with a phone call in the coming days and then follow up with that phone call, while they still remembered the letter. That resonated with some people.”
Eberlee manages a fee-based wealth management practice and his average client has investment assets of just under a million dollars. “One of our trainers once told us: ‘Fix it now, or fix it later.’ That stayed with me because if you take on small clients you’re going to have to fix it later in order to grow. At this stage, I don’t have the ability to effectively manage 250 clients.
Chelsia Chu started with Edward Jones in October 2008. A fresh finance graduate from the University of Saskatchewan, she was recruited to the apprentice program at a career fair. “The program let me see firsthand what financial advisors really do,” she says.
A self-starter, Chu focuses on face-to-face contact for prospecting. “That’s the only way to build a personal relationship.”
She’s has taken the time-tested traditional approach to prospecting—she goes door-to-door, introducing herself and her services. She’s already built a base of 18 households, 25 clients, and plans to take the CFP soon. “It’s been a really good response. I’ve been in the business for a year and the formula works. I’ve made it through.”
People, she says, start out by being wary of my age and inexperience. “But when I focus on building personal relationships it really doesn’t matter how old I am if I have a connection with them.”
Don’t miss the body language
Brent Keylock: Body language is one of the most important aspects of client interaction for Brent Keylock. “If clients cross their arms or lean in, it means different things and advisors must learn to pick up on the body language and have the appropriate response,” he says.
“It’s important to look for cues to make sure the client is engaged. If a client crosses his arms, for example, it could mean he has a question he’d like clarified. Maybe you should try and rephrase what you just told him.” Keylock adds.
He also suggests asking open-ended questions to get clients to open up. “Don’t ask questions they can answer with a mere yes or no.”
Just like his colleague, Keylock too sees his youth as an advantage in an industry where an average client is about 50 years of age. “We are enthusiastic, energetic and eager to help. We have the desire to help our clients do well, because when our clients do well we do well.”
Keylock says professionals related to the financial world such as accountants and lawyers make good prospects. “If I use their services, they’re more likely to be open to be using mine. It’s very important to focus on what they do and how you can help them in their business. A lot of people make the mistake of making a sales pitch to these professionals and that usually backfires because they can get that from anyone.”