They’re coming: How to fit gen Z advisors into your practice

By Todd Humber | November 30, 2022 | Last updated on November 30, 2022
3 min read
Multinational group of cheerful students studying in the university library
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Passing the torch to the next generation of advisors will be an exercise in patience and stereotype busting.

Older workers may be mystified and slightly concerned about the work habits of generation Z, the cohort born starting in 1997 that is entering the workforce, said Mark Beal, an assistant professor with the Rutgers University School of Communication and Information in New Jersey.

“They’ve got a different approach to work. They’ve got a different approach to careers,” said Beal, who has written three books on gen Z.

Beal, who is in his mid-50s, said his generation lives to work.

“This generation doesn’t do that. They work to live, they work so they can go out and enjoy life, enjoy experiences, all those kinds of things,” he said. “It’s a nuance, but it’s important.”

But toss out any notion this next generation is lazy, he said.

“They have incredible entrepreneurial spirit and mindset,” Beal said. “I know 13- and 14-year-olds who have launched their own company. They’re just looking to be invited to [put] that spirit … to use for the greater good.”

That doesn’t mean they can immediately be unleashed. Kevin Burkett, portfolio manager with Burkett Asset Management in Victoria, B.C., said many young financial advisors don’t yet understand the value of relationship building.

“It’s that old adage: ‘Clients don’t care what you know until they know that you care,’” Burkett said.

Retiring advisors have a lot of knowledge and wisdom to pass on, and generation Z professionals need to absorb it, he said. If they don’t, their clients could leave.

“I’ve had cases where advisors at other firms, who are retiring, aren’t happy with how the succession planning happened [and] are then sending clients over to our firm just because they like what we do better,” Burkett said.

He also cautioned against arrogance in the advisor-client relationship: “If you’re a young advisor in a wealth management practice, especially where you’re working with very high-net-worth category folks, there’s a good chance most of your clients are going to be much smarter, or at least wiser, than you.”

Burkett isn’t concerned about young advisors’ work ethic because the industry demands you “run fast,” he said. “If you do a little calculation of the value of what your time is worth, it’s worth it every time to chase as fast as you can.”

To attract the next generation, there are some critical things to focus on, Beal said.

“Gen Z is the most diverse and most inclusive generation, and they wear that like a badge of pride,” he said.

They want an environment where they feel valued, not just like a cog in the machine. Further, they’ll demand the best technology.

“The CMO of MTV says it’s the first generation that learned to swipe before they wipe,” Beal said. “When they go to a workplace, no matter the industry, they’re really looking for a place that has the latest technology.”

They also want to be efficient, he said. “It’s not about putting 12 hours a day in. It’s about what are you doing in the hours that you are working and what value are you delivering?”

Beal’s advice is to harness their entrepreneurial spirit and make them what he called a “ZEO.” Put them in charge of finding new revenue streams, or new ways to approach clients or prospect, he said.

“Empower them with opportunities to test, to learn, to try something new and suggest things to the company,” Beal said. “You may find ways to be more collaborative, more efficient and more effective.”

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.