Skilled Rookies

Salomon Smith Barney is actively recruiting mature trainees. Scottie King, the firm's director of resource development, says that the average SSB rookie is now 36 years old as opposed to the average age of 26 a decade ago. "In each training class, one-third of the new hires are over 40, some are over 50," she says, from her New York office. "At a recent training session, we had someone 62."Is the

Salomon Smith Barney is actively recruiting mature trainees. Scottie King, the firm's director of resource development, says that the average SSB rookie is now 36 years old as opposed to the average age of 26 a decade ago. "In each training class, one-third of the new hires are over 40, some are over 50," she says, from her New York office. "At a recent training session, we had someone 62."

Is the graying of rookies simply related to the graying of America or is it an industry trend? Other firms aren't keeping track as closely as SSB, but those contacted for this article generally agree they are hiring more mature individuals.

Changes in the industry necessitate a new type of recruit, King says. "Today's financial consultant is an adviser, not just an order-taker," she says. "We're selling advice and counsel rather than stocks and bonds." King notes that the life experiences of older newcomers engender trust and confidence in clients more quickly. Also, such people are likely to have more contacts in the local community.

Doug Aldridge, senior managing director of the private client group at IJL Wachovia (formerly Interstate/Johnson Lane) in Charlotte, N.C., believes the industry is attracting more seasoned applicants because of society's increased interest in the financial markets in general.

"We look for people a little more mature, who know the value of patience and hard work, and who can be focused and disciplined," Aldridge says. Although the firm now hires fewer applicants fresh out of college, some of its "superstars" are still just 23 or 24.

Seattle-based regional Ragen MacKenzie likes the performance of its older recruits, according to Lesa Sroufe, CEO. "We've had good experience with people who've matured in another career," she says. "Their strong communication skills and relationship skills make a difference."

The varied backgrounds of older newcomers differ greatly, so much so that no single prerequisite emerges. "Those with experience in sales have an advantage, but the majority have not been in sales," says John Sloop, partner in charge of market development at Edward Jones, St. Louis.

Some rookies come from fields worlds away from financial services--physicians disillusioned with the health care system, commercial pilots, schoolteachers and retired military personnel. "Military people appreciate the independence," Sloop says. "For them it's a breath of fresh air."

And Larry Silver, senior vice president of marketing at Raymond James Financial Services in St. Petersburg, Fla., observes that teachers make good brokers. "They're bright, empathic and take time to educate the client."

While the employment histories of the three reps profiled here are diverse, all faced challenges in getting started in the brokerage business. They share their stories and provide lessons that brokers of any age can learn from.

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