In the early days of the financial advice industry, an advisor’s career track was relatively straightforward. Either they met their insurance policy or investment product sales quota to qualify their contract, or they found some other way to make a living. However, amid the ongoing shift towards the recurring revenue AUM model, and the concomitant rising need for ongoing client advice and servicing, various new roles within firms began to emerge, including client service associates, paraplanners, and (not-responsible-for-business-development) lead advisors.
Along the way, advisory firms generally followed a traditional “performance review” model for determining why and when this new crop of employee advisor roles would progress (or not) on to the next level. Yet in practice, most of corporate America has shifted away from this traditional performance review approach, and towards leadership-based programs to develop and retain talent… while many advisory firms remain mired in the now-outdated management-heavy performance model.
In this guest post, Angie Herbers – Chief Executive and Senior Consultant at Herbers & Company, an independent management and growth consultancy for financial advisory firms – explains why advisory firms still favor the performance model (they’re in the advice business after all, and tend to tell employees what they should be doing instead of providing training, development, and leadership), and how those firms can instead create a stronger culture and ensure that employees are collectively striving towards the same end-goal with a different approach to employee management.
The key distinction is that there is a fine line between telling an employee what they should be doing (and how), and influencing them to go in a direction that helps advance everyone involved. And a first step towards aligning expectations with a more influencing-oriented approach is by developing well-defined career tracks that show (rather than tell) firm employees the path that’s ahead of them… so they know where they’re expected to go (and can see what it takes to get there)!
In the process, though, it’s key to avoid creating a one-size-fits-all, linear path that ignores employees’ strengths and training. Instead, advisory firm owners should recognize at least four baseline career tracks that emerge in a prototypical independent advisory firm. Each track may cater to a particular employee’s strengths and goals, including Financial Planning (for big-picture, strategic thinkers), Advisory (for relationship-driven individuals that like to make things happen), Investment Management (for aspiring CFAs who like research), and Client Services And Operations (for organizers who love to serve others).
Ultimately, implementing a variety of career tracks will provide employees clear paths to travel along as they progress through the firm (and give managers a roadmap they can use to proactively lead their teams rather than reactively telling them how to improve their performance). But first, the leadership team must also have the right mindset, expectations, and plan in place. Once that’s done, and career tracks are established, advisory firms can foster continuous communication and develop talent far more efficiently, by showing them where they can go and letting them step up to the desired challenge and opportunity.