PANC 2019: Building the Next Generation of Advisers

What strategies are most effective for attracting younger and more diverse job candidates?

From left: Dan Peluse, Wintrust Retirement Benefits Advisors; Stephanie Hunt, Atlanta Retirement Partners; and Keith J. Gredys, Kidder Advisers. Photograph by Matt Kalinowski.

In “Building the Next Generation of Advisers,” on Day Two of the PLANADVISER National Conference (PANC), panelists broached a key and timely topic: how to bring newcomers into the industry. Stephanie Hunt, retirement plan consultant at Atlanta Retirement Partners, said offering the ability to work remotely has been very successful. “Young folks don’t want to sit at a desk all day and commute—they are looking for flexible schedules.”

Keith J. Gredys, J.D., chairman and CEO of Kidder Advisers Inc., said attracting talent isn’t just a problem in the adviser market. With unemployment at its lowest rate, many industries are having trouble filling empty slots. He suggested seeking out students in community colleges. “There is a lot of talent there, plus a lot of diversity.”

In terms of working with individuals, “We need to do better,” he said. “I have a 25-, a 35- and a 45-year-old employee, who all do things differently. We need to be open to doing things differently—focus on what’s important to them.”

Dan Peluse, director of Wintrust Retirement Benefits Advisors, and panel moderator, noted that communicating what advisers do is essential. “We’ve been put into one box. But there are so many roles that advisers play. Bring in interns. Let them gravitate to what they are interested in.”

Gredys concurred. He also stressed that candidates should indicate a passion for the culture. “They need to care about what they do. They could play a role in the area of communications or in helping others plan for their future. It requires a caring attitude. You don’t want someone who just wants a job, but someone who cares about what they do.”

Peluse said, “We’ve always thought candidates for financial adviser positions should have a finance background, but some have a degree in music. It can help if you have an aptitude for investments, but there are so many other parts of the business. We should broaden the scope of what we are considering.”

Giving interns a test to see what their best skill sets are makes sense to Hunt. “An adviser cannot do it all,” she observed. “They are often on the road.”

Students don’t ordinarily come out of school saying they specifically want to be an adviser, she said. And though there are more women in the business now than 10 years ago, those who do enter the field need to be mentored, she said. Both men and women need to be mindful to share opportunities with newcomer women, she said.

Taking a long view when acclimating new employees is important, the experts said.

“At Kidder Advisers, we have always looked toward the future with our employees,” said Gredys. “We have weekly meetings so we can dialog back and forth with our up-and-coming advisers. We create a schedule and purposefully give up the reins.

“Your ego can’t get in the way,” he added. “Our purpose is to take care of our clients.”

“Let your mentees have a purpose in every meeting they attend with you,” Peluse recommended. “And let them be their individual selves.”