Dispensing financial advice for a living is a tough game if you are young.
That’s the conclusion drawn from a new report by Charles Schwab, which shows that advisors under the age of 40 are more likely than their older peers to feel pressure to grow their book of business, or to focus on selling proprietary products (See chart below.)
They’re also more nervous about keeping clients when switching firms—among advisors 40 and older, 85 percent feel clients were more loyal to advisors than to their firms; that drops to 64 percent among advisors younger than 40.
None of this surprises Laura Steckler, 38, an advisor at Raymond James & Associates in Coral Gables, Fla. with $62 million in assets under management. “It’s a relationship, and relationships get built over time,” says Steckler, who joined the firm six years ago after spending a few years selling insurance.
But while it’s natural for older advisors to have deeper relationships with clients, she says, it’s not always a given. Steckler has a CFP designation and focuses on broad planning issues for clients. She’s been able to attract high-net-worth clients from senior advisors by offering more personalized retirement plans. “I’m not saying older advisors don’t focus on the planning, but they tend to be more focused on the investment side,” she says. “So I’m trying to offer something different. I think people will move because of that.”
The anxiety level was higher among all 200 advisors polled. Two-thirds felt less job security than in the past, and 53 percent said meeting clients’ financial goals was more difficult this year than last. Half of all advisors found the registered investment advisor model appealing, but here too there is an age split: Among advisors under age 40, 65 percent were attracted to an independent advisory model, versus 43 percent for older advisors.
Tim Oden, Schwab’s senior managing director for business development, says younger advisors are feeling industry pressure more than more senior colleagues. “These advisors have seen smaller producers and emerging practices being jettisoned by the wirehouses. I’m sure they look at that a little bit cautiously—‘Maybe I’m next.’ So they are more willing to consider heading out on their own, he says.
Sean Kelly, 31, another Raymond James employee, works on a team with two other older advisors in St. Petersburg, Fla. He says it’s not unusual for younger FAs to feel more heat since they’re still building their book of business. “There’s a lot more pressure and expectations in terms of hitting your grid and other things,” he says, “whereas more experienced advisors with more developed books can handle volatility easier.”
Jumping to an RIA or an independent practice offers some security, such as owning the book, but it means running a business, which poses its own challenges, Kelly says. His team, which has $160 million in AUM, gets regular entreaties from recruiters. It can be tempting, he says, but adds, “We like where we are.”
Scott Collins, chief executive and co-founder at FirstPoint, said many of his clients are advisors in their late 30s or early 40s. Their clientele is often younger themselves and may perceive large firms with less regard for reputation. “Older clients may still have a comfort level with the big brand names out there, and maybe some of the younger clients may not have that same level of loyalty, especially after the past couple of years,” he says. “The real relationship lies with the advisor and the client, and when (advisors) move, they’re generally successful in moving those assets.”
The ranks of younger advisors are thin to begin with. In 2009, just 13 percent of advisors were under the age of 35, according to FA Insight and the Financial Services Institute.
“It’s really hard to find a 35-year-old broker with five years’ experience,” says recruiter Danny Sarch of Leitner Sarch Consultants Ltd. in White Plains, N.Y. Wirehouses have shut down training programs twice in the past decade, he says—once after the tech bust and the 9/11 attacks, and again after the more recent credit crisis.
Yet younger advisors shouldn’t necessarily feel that leaving their firm with fewer clients could hurt financially, since payouts in independent shops are generally bigger. An advisor at a wirehouse where he’s keeping 35 percent of $500,000 in production is earning $175,000, while an independent advisor who can keep 60 percent on, say, $400,000 in production will keep $240,000. “Some of it comes down to math,” Sarch says.
The Schwab-sponsored survey polled 200 advisors online in December with a minimum of $10 million in AUM (half had AUM of less than $100 million, while 18 percent had assets of $500 million or more), and average income of $190,000. Half came from wirehouses, while the rest were from national or regional broker/dealers, banks, accounting and insurance firms. Two-thirds were male, and 36 percent were under age 40. Schwab set a low minimum asset size to include younger advisors who typically have fewer assets.