Recent college graduates considering a career as a financial advisor are getting a hand in joining the profession.

Regional broker-dealer D.A. Davidson & Co. is launching a new advisor training program for newly minted graduates and has recruited former Merrill Lynch executive Jason Woodward to oversee the program.

The three-year program will complement an existing training program for more experienced individuals, explains Nataleah Dietzmann, senior vice president and director of marketing at D.A. Davidson.

The company has had a training program for well over 20 years, she said. But as candidates came in and interviewed for that existing training program, the company found that many weren’t quite ready to become financial advisors.

In the new program, apprentices will learn financial planning and study for licensing exams at Davidson's headquarters in Great Falls, Mont. in the first year. They will then work in different parts of the firm and play different roles, which Dietzmann says will allow them to build their skillset, familiarize themselves with the firm and build their network.

The young apprentices also will be mentored by experienced financial advisors, learning first-hand how to build a business, she says. "That will put them in a distinct advantage of watching other successful FAs making a difference."

Industry observers say that programs like this are necessary for injecting fresh blood into the advisor ranks.

"It's hard for people to come out of college and get into this business. We don't do cold calling anymore. So the question is, ‘How do you help these people have success,’” notes Kathy Freeman, president of the Kathy Freeman Co. an executive search firm specializing in wealth and asset management.

"I think one of the keys we need to address is to institutionalize the business of mentorship. Institutionalize the knowledge that so many successful advisors used to build their businesses," she says.

Dietzmann says the program's size has yet to be determined.

"I can tell you purposively that we’ll begin slow. As we see success, we'll begin to ramp it up," she says.

The 80-year-old firm currently has about 400 advisors and offers financial services in 23 states. Woodward will oversee D.A. Davidson's training programs as well as its internship program for current college students. He was previously responsible for advisor training for the Southwest Market of Merrill Lynch, according to a statement from Davidson.

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