ORLANDO, FLA. When a roomful of advisors at Raymond James' summer development conference were asked if they were thinking of taking on a junior advisor, half the audience gave a resounding yes.
It's easy to understand why. Hiring a junior advisor into a practice brings many obvious benefits: a clear succession plan and a boost to business.
But landing a junior partner isn't easy. It's a long process that takes patience, a willingness to mentor, as well as creative thinking about how to get that young advisor up to speed, advisors say.
"We're four years into this process and we're still adjusting," says Raymond James advisor Jeff Harring, who added his son, Matt, to his team.
Young advisors not only have to learn the business, they need to adapt to the practice they are joining. Harring says that he and his son developed a plan when he joined the practice three years ago, helping to outline how the process would unfold. And he notes that establishing regular points of communication helps them keep tabs on their progress.
"I think it is important on a quarterly business, at a minimum, to ask are we on track?" says Harring, who is based in St. Petersburg, Fla.
But patience isn't just a virtue when dealing with an advisor still learning the ropes. It also helps when working with clients who are used to dealing with more seasoned veterans.
Laura Steckler, a Raymond James advisor in Coral Gables, Fla., notes that she developed an intimate rapport with many of her clients, well before her junior partner, Matt Perrelli, joined the business in 2011.
"Matt [Perrelli] will give the same advice that I would give, but the client may say, 'That sounds great, but please have Laura give me a call anyways.' And then I'll have the same 25 minute conversation," Steckler says.
BEING THE MENTOR
The senior Harring tells his fellow advisors that they need to be willing to invest the time into mentoring their younger counterparts.
"I would warn senior advisors that we can get into a bit of a rut, and not leading as we should. I've been so used to doing my own thing, with a great team, that I did not have in my DNA the role and mentality of a mentor. I had to develop that," he says.
Advisors note that traditional paths into the industry, such as cold calling potential clients, are not viable methods to build a business. It's forced some advisors to get creative about their methods for developing a client base.
The younger Harring started a program within his father's practice called "Millionaires of Tomorrow." He notes the restrictions that some firms have placed on serving smaller accounts; Merrill Lynch, under certain conditions, will not pay advisors serving household accounts of less than $250,000.
"There aren't a lot of people prospecting them," he says.
His father says that he recognizes that this profession is also about getting new business, and he therefore wants his son thinking not only about their existing clients but the ones that he will be bringing in.
The younger Harring notes this is a critical part of his development as an advisor and team member.
"It is honestly difficult, but it helps solidify me as a member of the team," he says.