Setting the Right Expectations for the Next Generation of Advisors

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.Beverly Flaxington

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Dear Bev,

I’ve been in this industry for almost 30 years. When I started, we worked 15-hour days, sometimes trying to cold call and find new opportunities. We were investment experts and created our own models and portfolio approaches. It was hard work, but when it came time for me to start my own RIA, I was ready. I had the skills and had clawed my way into the role of owner and leader. Now I’m starting to think about the next step, and I am stuck. The younger CFPs and CFAs I’m meeting don’t seem interested in working 15-hour days. They don’t want to pay dues before they are given the keys to my kingdom. I’m having a hard time justifying a handoff when I don’t think someone has earned it. That said, I’ve talked to a few firms about acquisition or merger, but I want my clients to be treated essentially the same way they have been with me all these years. Am I doing something wrong? Is there a secret formula to igniting the passion and interest of these younger folks?


Dear J.R.,

I wish I had a “secret formula.” Unfortunately, when we are talking about human beings, there are too many variables for a predictable formula to work. There are a few aspects of your note I’ll address:

  1. While I worked very hard – probably too hard – early in my career and still do so today, I don’t think expecting 15-hour days out of anyone is reasonable. Research has shown that too much work and not enough downtime leads to emotional and physical problems. So, it might be helpful to revisit your expectation on work-life balance and what commitment looks like.
  1. I do think today’s generation has different expectations. If you think about it, no other generation came out of college with as much debt (or has invested as much) to get their degrees. In addition, the college experience is very different. I see this first hand. I teach Leadership & Social Responsibility to 18- and 19-year-olds at Suffolk University, and my students are far more exposed to the working world than many of us were while we were in school. This generation wants to dig in right away. Young professionals need to make money and succeed. They have been exposed to a lot and hence have developed skills much earlier in their careers.
  1. You might want to take time to think about and write down exactly what it is you want in a successor. I read your expectations about hard work and paying dues, but you don’t really say what you care about in the person to next lead your firm. What attributes will be important? What style of management should this person have? What types of things do you want them to do from a client-servicing or investment perspective? If you were more specific about what you desire, it might be easier to find someone with the attributes you discuss. I work with a number of RIAs and their younger generation, and I see very motivated and successful people.
  1. Lastly, be sure you are clear about what you want for your firm and for you as next steps. Are you sure you want to be a coach and a mentor, or is it possible there are other options out there and you haven’t explored enough? I recommend visiting to see whether you can find someone to align with on culture and client servicing philosophy.

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