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Where Will Next-Gen 401(k) Advisors Come From?

Professional Development

As we grow our retirement plan advisor firms and look to ensure lasting future success, we need technically knowledgeable, well-trained team members committed to our industry.

Are we going to hire from each other or develop our own talent pool and succession plan?

As an industry, many of today’s leaders came up through the ranks of mutual fund, insurance, and administration companies.

With consolidation and outsourcing, there are fewer and fewer of these proving/training grounds to develop our emerging leaders.

Where will the future talent come from to build and grow our advisor teams?

One answer is to grow from within, to organically hire, train, and mentor the next generation of leaders. 

As an industry, we need to develop and make the educational curriculum and collaborative forum widely available to develop, incubate, and organically create and grow these well-rounded, technically knowledgeable retirement plan advisors. 

Working for a fund company that also did retirement plan administration and record keeping historically provided the perfect training grounds for creating the existing pool of talented advisors. They had first-hand, in-depth exposure to the critical elements needed to create a great advisor:

  • Investment management, analytics, and construction
  • Plan administration and compliance
  • Plan design
  • Employee communications
  • Regulatory insights
  • Record keeping, including how pricing works and what the drivers are for a profitable plan

In finding and growing our future talent pool, we need to ensure we are speaking to and reaching students, graduates, and heads of departments at colleges and universities.

But we must also expand our search for talent beyond where we’ve typically looked. 

Many successful advisors and industry professionals hail from entirely different industries or backgrounds that don’t include college. Talk with many of our industry leaders, like our COO, Deane Mayerhofer, and she will tell you that these professionals’ success is due not to their background or degree, but to the passion, curiosity, hard work, and intellect they bring to work every day. This is what has and can create that success.  

As we recruit, help potential candidates see the amazing opportunities and career paths that exist as a retirement advisor. Create tracks and course content that are subsets of the finance and business majors. Acknowledge that success in our industry does not necessarily require a college degree. Encourage more people from more backgrounds to enter our profession.

Can we create a well-developed, easy-to-use national “intern engagement program” that retirement plan advisory firms can use to engage and train college interns and do something similar for new hires who may not come from the traditional background?

Team, culture, mentorship, succession planning, growth; these buzzwords all converge around this topic. What can we as an industry do to help ourselves? We need to collaborate as an industry to cultivate this culture of developing our future leaders.

Many of us do this internally but think of how powerful it would be if we all collaborated as an industry to create this. A stronger industry is better for all of us, which will undoubtedly strengthen each of us and our industry as a whole.

Jamie Worrell is a Founder and Managing Director with Strategic Retirement Partners.