6. Dwight Mathis
Head of new advisor strategy at Bank of America Merrill Lynch
Dwight Mathis has spent the last two years overseeing the overhaul of the machine that trains the next generation of Merrill Lynch advisors, and he's not finished yet. "Someone asked if we're done with the overhaul of the Practice Management Development (PMD) program, and that's not our philosophy," he said. "We have a philosophy of continuous improvement, constantly measuring results of all our training and all of our programs, looking for ways to enhance it."
Several additions to the program will roll off the line this year, including PMD Impact, which requires the advisors to make a contribution to their local communities. "There's a strong correlation between successful advisors and advisors making contributions in their community - not just financial," said Mathis. If the trainees don't yet have a cause they are passionate about, their mentors or other senior colleagues will help them identify it. Merrill Lynch will make a contribution to the charity based on the number of hours the trainees volunteer. "The idea is to get them out in the community, to get them to become a leader in the community, and we're happy to put some investment into that," he says.
Mathis is quick to point out that training is not new for Merrill - the firm has been training advisors since 1947. But the 4,5000 high-achieving newbies who survived a seven-step screening process to join the program now are getting training that is more prescriptive than in the past. They are expected to complete modules covering everything from risk management to leadership. There is still sales training, but following the industry trend, there is now a firm emphasis on financial planning. New advisors learn "consultative sales skills," and less about the traditional transactional model. There is also formal training for the Certified Financial Planner exam.
In the second year of the program the PMDers are versed in the "optimal practice model" which stresses the notion of building teams comprised of six functional roles: financial planning, investment, service, business development, finance (lending) and practice management. The third year is all about personal and professional development. Modules with names like executive wellness and mental alignment sit alongside more traditional fare like business planning and strategy. There's also a formal mentoring program in place that pays senior advisors.
Although the program is administered all over the country, rather than a central training facility, as in the old days, Mathis is adamant that it be consistent. "A big part of 2013 is to make sure we're delivering on everything we've built and doing that the right way," Mathis says.
7. Michael J. Schroeder
President of Baird Private Wealth Management
Mike Schroeder is working to solve a big problem for the wealth management industry: the workforce is aging and lacks diversity. "You walk around college campuses today, there are people from all corners of the world, all different ethnicities, genders. Those are the future investors, yet the work force on Wall Street doesn't match that at all," he says.
Schroeder's solution: Work with colleges to bring the diversity of campuses into the advisor work force. In a program so new it does yet have a name, Schroeder is starting to build partnerships with major universities. The company will work with the business schools and finance departments to advance curriculums in wealth management, which has received less attention than finance and investment banking. Baird will offer some large scholarships to students, as well as hire interns from the universities. "A lot of these major universities have students with a sincere interest in pursuing a career in wealth management, and oftentimes don't know how to get their foot in the door. We're trying to make it easier," he says
As for today's candidates, Baird has two programs. To attract young college grads with about five years of sales experience in other industries who want to pursue a career as a financial advisor, there is the Professional Development Program. Most of its grads go on to join a Baird team or form a mentor relationship with a senior advisor or branch manager. The program averages about 20 to 25 people a year; Schroeder's aiming for 35 to 40 in 2013.
For those straight out of college or graduate school, there is the Foundation Program. It exposes the grads to the core elements of the wealth management business by putting them through a rotation in each of the firm's major divisions: operations, products and services, research and sales management. At the end, they know which part of wealth management they like best.