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How To Start A Financial Advisor Apprentice Program

The next generation of financial advisors are eager and ready.  They want to  learn,  contribute and  make a difference.  Most importantly, they want to  join your firm but  they’d  like to be mentored or enter as financial advisor  apprentice, not as I have heard so  many  say, “Thrown to the Wolves”.

Times have changed, the days of the lone wolf gunslinger and cold calling  cowboys is in the  past.  Today, there are over 100 colleges and universities  across the country that offer  undergraduate degrees and over 35 that offer  post-graduate degrees in financial planning.  That’s a far cry  from the self-  study certificate programs that were offered  thirty years ago.

Alfred State’s financial planning program is less than 90 minutes away  from my office and my team consists solely of graduates of their program.  After talking with many of the students and Professor Ron Rhoades, it  became obvious to me that there was a huge opportunity that has largely  gone overlooked. The creation of a financial planning apprentice program.

What I heard loud and clear from the majority of these smart, aggressive, and talented young advisors of tomorrow was that they did not want to be thrust into a situation in which they would have to “Sing for their Supper” right after graduation.  I know that’s what most of us had to do and the old adage of…if it was good enough for me, it’s good enough for you…is probably said everyday in our industry.  Just because that’s they way we have always done it doesn’t mean that’s they way we should continue to do it in the future.

As a first year advisor, I partnered with another advisor and did joint work.  I split 50% of the business with someone that knew how to plan but wasn’t a great marketer.  For us both it was a great match.  I found the clients and he showed me how to plan for them.  Within eighteen months, my series 7, life license and a lot of additional studying I was on my own.  If I wasn’t able to find new clients, if I couldn’t cold call, I would have been out of business in less than six months.  Luckily, that wasn’t the case for me…but what about these young adults with a Bachelors in Financial Planning.

What if they aren’t wired to have their career tied to their ability to cold call or network?

Is there another way?

Here’s my thinking…an apprenticeship.  A well thought out program that moves a newly graduated student with a degree in financial planning to becoming an associate planner in your firm.  Here’s what I’m thinking:

  • Year One – Client Relationship Manager: Handle calls and paperwork and more importantly conduct high level research and projects.
  • Year Two – Marketing Manager: Responsible for prospect development, website, seminars, cold calls…however your firm brings in new clients.
  • Year Three to Four – Investment Coordinator: Whatever your investment process is they run it.  Investment research and annual renewal prep.
  • Year Five to Six – Paraplanner:  Creation of the firms financial plans.
  • Year Seven – Associate Advisor: Responsible for client meetings and the planning process for the firms B & C clients.

This would mean that within a relative few short years, every member of the team would have a degree in financial planning.  We have just began the program in my firm so this isn’t perfect and we’re already making adjustments, such as, my paraplanner and investment coordinator are currently the same person.  I’m still 100% responsible for client development and my CRM really doesn’t have a desire to move up through the ranks at this point.

Yet, even though the concept is brand new in our office this year, I can already see a ton of valuable outcomes…projects that I have always wanted to get done are being completed, the level of service that we are providing is superior, the firm vision is shared and the ability of the team to genuinely work together is changing in a positive way.

The team has also pushed me to be better.  In order to be the mentor and leader of the team, I have to be at my best.  I have found myself reading more, listening to them and taking advice on better delegation and communication.

It’ll be exciting to see where this goes over the next 3-5 years…we are already working hard to better hone in on my niche market and we’re talking about ways to market within that niche that I had never considered.  I believe being surrounded by young people that aren’t hampered by how we have always done things before will prove to be the smartest thing I ever did for my business.

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