Advisors hire next-generation talent to thrive. Here’s how some practices have already done it


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When Tara Unverzagt started her own financial planning firm, South Bay Financial Partners, in 2014, she already had a head start.

That’s because Unverzagt’s mother, Janet Tussing — one of the first female certified financial planners — was retiring and passed along her book of business.

Those clients ranged from 70 to 95 years old, while Unverzagt, 56, embraced clients in her own generation, as well.

The owner of the new Torrance, California-based firm also identified another demographic she wanted to work with: 20- to 35-year-olds.

That was because, as Unverzagt’s own children were growing up and going to college, and she found their friends were not raised with adequate financial know-how. Many did not know the financial basics, such as how credit cards or budgeting work.

“It was just sort of scary,” Unverzagt said. “If this generation doesn’t figure it out, we financial planners aren’t going to have clients, because there aren’t going to be assets to manage.”

As Unverzagt served those younger individuals, she also made one key difference to her firm: adding a young financial planner.

Together, Unverzagt and that associate advisor, Stuart Pyne, have learned from each other, she said. Unverzagt, having survived more financial downturns and life transitions, can help broaden Pyne’s perspective, she added.

Pyne, in turn, does the same for Unverzagt in different ways, helping her to understand how optimistic yet cautious younger generations can be.

And because Pyne is Hispanic, he has also helped open her eyes to how different cultural backgrounds can affect financial planning. In his culture, for example, children are expected to take care of their parents in retirement.

Adding young talent to a financial planning firm does not just help broaden a practice’s perspective. It is also imperative for the future of the industry.

About 40% of financial advisors plan to retire within the next 10 years, according to Cerulli Associates, a research and consulting firm.

New college education programs are popping up to help fill that looming advisor shortage. At the same time, financial planning firms need to nurture the careers of younger financial planners.

To that end, TD Ameritrade has written guidebooks on advisory firm career paths, what the necessary skills are for each position and what a day in the life and pay scale looks like.

“Everyone thinks millennials want to change jobs,” said Kate Healy, managing director of Generation Next at TD Ameritrade Institutional. “They just want to know how to get ahead.”

Leavell Investment Management, which ranked No. 38 on CNBC’s FA 100 list for 2019, has made five such new hires over some five years. The Mobile, Alabama, firm has focused mostly on filling financial analyst or financial counselor positions with those roles, according to chief operating officer and investment counselor Janet Hayes.

The effort, which has been a “big investment” with the firm’s time, Hayes said, and has paid off. That’s as younger workers have brought new energy to the business and challenged other members of the team to become better teachers, which ultimately benefits clients, too.

Amy Irvine, founder of Rooted Planning Group, has a small, five-person firm. But laddering the ages of the staff, from Generation X to millennials, has helped to address the different concerns of clients who span those same generations.

“They challenge me, in a good way, to really take a fresher look,” Irvine said. “When they say, ‘What does that mean?’ If they don’t know it, my client’s not going to know it.”

Having younger team members, such as associate planner Rebekah Eason, at Rooted Planning Group can also help attract clients’ children, Irvine said.

For Eason, who is studying for the CFP exam, working at the firm has helped bring to the practice to life, she said, rather than just relying on text books.

What’s more, her questions are often clients’ questions, too. “Because I don’t have the experience, the questions are more along the lines of how the client might think,” Eason said.

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Irvine plans to ensure that the talent stays at Rooted Planning Group by offering the younger advisors an additional incentive — ownership rights — starting next year. That’s in addition to flexible policies around time off and paid leave.

For young individuals who are thinking about a career in financial planning, Molly Reinfried, portfolio manager and chair of the financial planning group at Portland, Maine-based H.M. Payson & Co. — No. 43 on the FA 100 list — said the advice she typically gives is, “Go for it.”

“What I really love is being able to work with people and really being a problem solver,” Reinfried said. “If you’re motivated this way, you get to talk to people all day, and they’re hopefully walking away feeling like there’s a solution there.”

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