As I see it, the problem is actually a mismatch between career development programs, and the current and future needs of financial planning. Our firm has created a career development program, but the majority of financial planning firms have no career path for newly hired professionals.
The firms that are going to succeed must provide a solution in order to help develop the next generation of great advisors. Without the right guidance, new hires may become disillusioned, and the planning business may lose important talent.
ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK
Those were the words posted at the entrance to a 4.5-mile trail at the rim of the Grand Canyon. Experienced guides know it's dangerous on the trail if you don't know what you are doing, or are unprepared for the journey ahead.
You could symbolically put the same sign at the entrance to the Career in Financial Planning Trail. If you don't know what to expect when you enter this industry, there could be danger, and you may not end up where you want, when you want, doing what you want. Here are three trails where new recruits might find themselves in the most danger:
* The product sales business model. Since most college graduates and career-changers have no training, skills or inclination in sales, this route often leads to less-than-positive experiences for entry-level hires. The career path? Sell more!
* No-selling support role. Professionals often wait years to work in an advisory capacity because their employer does not formally articulate any explicit means of advancement. The career path? Huh? What career path?
* A trust company, bank or other large financial firm such as an insurance company. Entry-level professionals do get to talk with clients early on, but the engagement philosophy limits what they can do to help clients over the long term. The career path? Clearly zzzz.
If new hires aren't clear about what they're getting into, "dangerous" entry-level jobs can create frustrating and disillusioned advisory firms and financial planners. How can hiring firms and new advisors guard against taking the wrong paths?
GET A JOB GPS
When you use a GPS, online maps tell you where you need to go. New employees need a Job GPS that can chart the way forward and tell them what to expect along the way. The Career Path Program we've developed does that by providing a clear track with training, experience and accomplishment goals along the way.
Our program has four milestone positions: planning assistant, planning associate, senior planning associate and client relations manager. Each position has education, training and experience levels. Here is how our Career Path Program manual describes some of these positions:
* The planning assistant. This is the initial position in the firm dealing directly with financial planning. The assistant will learn about the operations of our planning department and will be involved in all facets of financial planning.
An assistant will assist the client relations manager in the collection, recording, compiling and analysis of data and information. The assistant will perform financial analyses as directed. (The firm has a detailed procedures manual.)
The assistant must demonstrate mastery in all aspects of the position to be considered for a promotion to the position of a planning associate in the firm. In order to become a planning associate, the assistant must have fulfilled specific company and professional requirements. This includes additional reading and education in preparation for testing to receive the CFP certificate. (Eight books are currently on this list.)
* The planning associate. In order to become a planning associate, the individual must have earned the CFP designation, which means passing the challenge exam and fulfilling the requirements for experience in the profession. In addition, the meeting and financial plan preparation requirements described in our Requirements Chart (not shown here) must have been mastered.
The associate must continue to demonstrate reasonable interpersonal and technical skills in relating to clients both on the phone and during client meetings. These skills will be developed and evaluated by attending a minimum of 500 client and prospect meetings, updating 100 existing retirement plans and developing 30 new retirement plans, all under the supervision of the client relations manager and vice president of planning.