Should financial advisors who are going independent use recruiters to lure more talent?

It might be a great time to take advantage of the industry's "seven-year itch" as advisors leave wirehouses as their contracts signed after the financial crisis seven years ago begin to expire.

Headhunters can find the talent that matches the culture of a newly independent firm, especially if that talent doesn't want to blatantly advertise that they are looking for greener pastures, says Tom Daley, founder and chief executive of recruiting firm The Advisor Center in Lake Zurich, Ill.

"If an advisor is looking to recruit another advisor, one of the challenges they run into is the confidentiality issue. Some advisors may not want their current firms to discover that they are looking for opportunities," Daley says.

"If they go to other firms directly they don't know if the principal is a friend of their manager, so they'll work with a recruiter to learn more about the offering," he says. "This also gives them a chance to learn the value proposition of the other firm."

RELYING ON RECRUITERS

Indeed, experienced recruiters can provide insight into a firm's culture, the types of products in which it specializes, and the competitiveness of its payouts and employment packages, as well as introduce an advisor to those who have recently joined through the recruiter, says Jennifer Woods Burke, securities attorney and founder of compliance consulting firm CompliGuide in Palisades, N.Y.

Recruiters are particularly useful for finding specialized talent, such as a high-level expert in stock options, says Mark Cussen, a financial author and educator in Leavenworth, Kan.

But some firms say that they find talent in other ways.

Premier Heritage managing partner Gregory Alerte and senior managing partner Serge Pinard have a relationship with the director of growth and development of the firm's custodian and broker-dealer, AXA Advisors, who works closely with them to match them with new candidates, Alerte says.

"It takes that responsibility off our plate and frees our time to focus on building client relationships and not just on the growth of new associates," Alerte says.

OTHER WAYS TO FIND TALENT

Kevin Meehan, regional president at Wealth Enhancement in Itasca, Ill., says that he has used headhunters for partners, but for other employees, recruiters have proven to not be "any more effective than the many job sites."

Catherine Seeber, a principal and senior advisor of Wescott Financial Advisory Group in Philadelphia, which has about $1.2 billion in assets under management, doesn't use headhunters, as the firm's internal vetting process is "rather intense."
In addition to her human resources staff, Wescott employs a director of organizational and talent development who uses tools from Caliper Human Strategies to determine "the proper alignment of talent and competency," Seeber says.

"As a result, we have a rather extraordinary cohesive group with very little turnover," Seeber says.

The firm also learns about prospective hires through referrals, LinkedIn, trade group career centers at trade organizations and word of mouth, she says.
Katie Kuehner-Hebert is a freelance writer in Running Springs Calif. She has contributed to Financial Planning, On Wall Street and American Banker.

This story is part of a 30-day series on going independent.