Growth. Talent. Technology. These are pain points the financial advisors say are most acute.
“Depending on the environment and particular firms, you know, situations, one might be higher than the other, but they're intertwined, right?” said Gabriel Garcia, managing director of RIA Client Experience at SEI. “You know, growth requires capacity, growth requires talent. Growth requires a client experience driven by technology.”
Sometimes, talent can be found in unlikely places.
Ten years ago, over lunch, Glenn Ullmann, managing partner and president of Jacksonville Beach, Florida-based Ullmann Wealth Partners, saw a spate of clients dealing with divorce. He spoke with a peer practicing family law and during the discussion thought the friend would be great in wealth management.
“Make me an offer,” Ullmann recalls his friend saying. Ullmann did, and he now has a divorce advisory group.
“I found the talent, and then figured out the role,” he said.
Ullmann recruited his firm’s director in a similar way. Brian James started as just a neighbor who worked at a hedge fund.
“I wasn't really looking for him, and frankly, didn't have a spot for him,” said Ullmann, who said the men met through their wives. “But any time you can find great talent, and that's true throughout our organization, we just try to hire the talent,” Ullmann noted. “And then we'll figure out, you know, job descriptions because people generally, you know, create their own job descriptions as they go along.”
Other times, new hires may be found in other corners of the industry.
Mike Durso, founding partner and chief executive officer of Red Bank, New Jersey-based Shorehaven Wealth, posted a Wall Street Journal article in which he was quoted on LinkedIn. A connection who worked at BlackRock commented, which led to another BlackRock connection, an internal wholesaler. The internal sales rep, John Lyons, left BlackRock to join Shorehaven about six months later.
At Shorehaven, there isn’t a cookie cutter hire — "we’re always open to looking for people with interesting backgrounds,” Durso said.
"[O]ne of the cool parts about our industry is that you can find talent in all different places. And if you have like a good internal process in place around investments and relationship management and operations, then you can train people on that,” he said. “[I]t really comes down to individual personality and skill set. And then tying that into what you want for your firm specifically."
However, there are caveats to the talent search, and a big one is experience, said James Hering, managing partner of Bordeaux Wealth Advisors. Hering tends to focus on recruiting from other RIAs and CPA firms.
“It's hard for us to find people just right out of school because they don't know the industry yet. And a lot of them come trained in one of the disciplines, but we need people that are sort of broader and deep,” he said. But Menlo Park, California-based Hering is also paying attention to colleges and universities that offer wealth management programs.
“They could become a more effective source of younger talent for us, coming into the industry,” he noted.
Some firms develop more senior talent in-house.
Edelman Financial Engines, for example, runs a “one-year rotational development program” called “We Aspire.”
“[The program] expands their knowledge and skill base to prepare them for a career in financial planning and creates a pipeline for ready-now talent within our organization,” Joe Loparco, a spokesperson for the Boston-based shop wrote in an email response to questions.
“A dozen participant-cohorts went through the first round of the program, resulting in a number of promotions and offers to more senior planner positions,” he added.
Ullmann thinks about growth in a slightly different way.
“The San Francisco 49ers coach wrote a book called ‘The Score Takes Care of Itself’ which is kind of true,” Ullmann said. “If you create a great culture, hire the best people, and make sure you give them the best tools, you're going to win.”