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Advisors Use Mix Of Strategies To Train Young Planners To Succeed

11:00 AM ET 12/30/2021
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Advisors often urge clients to ponder their legacy planning, to consider what they can they do now to leave a lasting impact after they’re gone. But what about the advisor’s own legacy?

As advisors age, they start to turn inward and think about their own legacy planning. What will happen to their firm? Who will help their clients in the decades to come?

The answers lead them to hire and train new staffers. Recruiting young planners and teaching them the ropes perpetuates the practice and provides continuity for clients and their families.

Many advisors who run their own firm seek to cultivate a culture of professional development. The trick is creating systems that help newcomers grow and learn in a supportive, vibrant environment.

Lead advisors groom their successors by prioritizing what matters most. They might identify personality traits and technical qualifications that the most successful advisors possess — and then try to attract people with the same characteristics.

Another strategy is to highlight the most vital elements of professional growth and then urge senior advisors to coach their young associates accordingly.

“We think of it in terms of four different components: training, development, mentorship and leadership,” said Craig Bartlett, who heads advisor growth and development at Wipfli Financial. The Milwaukee-based firm has about 70 advisors in 21 offices.

Training teaches new advisors a specific skill. Development helps them apply that skill. Mentorship involves performance coaching. And leadership enables advisors at all levels to take on more responsibility and excel in their role. All help with legacy planning.


Legacy Planning: Sharpen New Planners’ Communication Skills

Ideally, new advisors make incremental progress as they gain experience and learn from it. Mentors look for teachable moments to drive home a point and offer instruction.

Glen Goland, a certified financial planner in Portland, Ore., asks new planners to submit drafts of their client emails before they hit the “send” button. He reviews them to ensure they convey a consistently professional tone.

“We want them to be the voice of the firm,” Goland said. “So if they’re a millennial, we may remind them they’re not writing to another millennial. The client might be in their 50s or 60s. So start with ‘Good afternoon,’ not ‘Hey.’ And end with ‘thank you’ every time.”

He also encourages young planners to write articles on relevant financial topics for the firm’s quarterly newsletter. The editing process doubles as a chance to teach them how to express themselves with more confidence and precision.

Given his background as an estate planning attorney, Goland places a high value on clear written communication. When proofreading their newsletter articles, he might delete extraneous words such as “I think” or “In my opinion.”

“When you see them write about something like Roth IRA conversions, you can quickly tell how much they really get it,” he said.

Similarly, Goland likes to invite fledgling planners to chime in when he hosts client meetings. If talk turns to a client’s Social Security benefits, for instance, he might turn to a paraplanner and say, “You did work on this. Why don’t you go over the numbers?”

This gives him “an unfiltered view” of how well they understand the concepts and how they convey them to the client, he says. It also builds their confidence, as well as the client’s trust in the newcomer, which breeds more success and promotes legacy planning.


Legacy Planning: Teaching Tools That Cover Complex Concepts

Trainees learn by doing, but they also benefit from hearing how more seasoned advisors tackle tough issues. Many advisory firms use case studies that illustrate the kind of situations they will face with clients.

Bartlett and his colleagues host roundtables where they discuss an actual client dealing with a complex challenge, such as the financial repercussions of selling a business. The senior advisors encourage the junior planners to share ideas and ask questions.

Like Bartlett, Goland holds Zoom calls with newer planners that serve as training sessions. In these biweekly, one-hour calls, he explains a technical topic. “It’s me being like an old-fashioned high school teacher,” Goland said.

Other advisors design in-house videos to teach new hires with an eye on legacy planning. David Kline, a certified financial planner in Waltham, Mass., says that his firm has created about 10 short, instructive videos on subjects such as estate planning and preparing for the first client meeting.

“Rather than just talk on the video, we draw pictures on a whiteboard,” Kline said. That makes the video more visually arresting and reinforces important concepts.

Kline follows up by staging roleplays with younger planners so that they can demonstrate key learning points. This way, they can apply what they see in the video and “make it their own,” he said.