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  • by Kate Healy
  • Managing Director, Generation Next, TD Ameritrade Institutional

NextGen doesn’t always mean younger gen

You know by now that my definition of NextGen is different – it means anyone who isn’t here now. That means women, people of color, LGBTQ, career changers, former military, the list goes on… We recognize that our graying industry needs to diversify, to reflect the diversifying pool of investors. (If you need more convincing, read my last blog here.) It’s pretty clear that we need to explore untapped talent pools if we’re going to meet the future need for financial planning.

That’s why I was so excited about the Financial Planner Reentry Initiative we started as part of the CFP Board’s Center for Financial Planning. As part of the Women’s Initiative, we teamed up with the career reentry firm iRelaunch, in 2017. The aim of this inspired program? Connect advisory firms with experienced professionals who had taken a break from the work force, whether for family care or other reasons, and are ready to re-start their careers.

To me, this is pretty inspired thinking, understanding that a previously interrupted career doesn’t equal a lack of desire or ability to be in the game. Instead, behind that gap on the resume could be someone who’ll make a lasting contribution.

The Financial Planner Reentry Initiative gives these candidates a path back in by helping firms establish internships for returning professionals — a good way to screen talent and increase the number of mid- to senior-level professionals on board.

Not only does this build out an underused talent pipeline, but the program can also increase diversity, since a majority of those who’ve taken a break from a traditional profession are women.

This gets right at my favorite topic: building a more sustainable financial planning industry. So, I want to tell you two stories about how amazingly well it’s working, with a firm we sponsored, and one sponsored by some west-coast custodian (more on that later).

From “feels like an experiment” to “I’ll fight for this”

As her firm re-shapes itself for the future, Jigi Dahagam, senior manager of talent acquisition for Edelman Financial Services says, “This program is one I will fight for.”

Edelman Financial Services was one of the first firms to participate in the Initiative, signing up because they recognize the need for more diversity in the industry.

However, the hiring managers Jigi approached had an understandable reaction: “You want me to spend my time and energy on something that feels like an experiment?” Jigi’s answer? “Absolutely. It’s a great way to see what kind of talent is out there.”

With the initiative’s support, the firm placed two interns, one in client services and one in operations. Both had pervious financial services experience; both had taken a break for childcare reasons.

“The internship was an opportunity for the interns to see what the roles are really like. By no means was it: ‘This is what your path should be,'” Jigi says.

Now one of those interns is a full-time employee. As a client services administrative assistant, she greets clients, preps files, handles clerical responsibilities that help the business run. And she’s studying for her licenses to prepare for taking the next step in her career at Edelman Financial Services.

The other intern realized it wasn’t quite time for her to return to working full time — also something valuable to learn. But she and the firm remain in contact… and she’s definitely on the radar for future positions.

The impact of the program? When it was time to think about participating again, those initially skeptical hiring managers said, “Yes! We’re in.” Impressed by the caliber of candidates, they want more.

Jigi summed it up for me by saying, “Not only did we find a talent pool we weren’t tapped into before, but the program is a wonderful way to work toward the greater good.”

“We just can’t imagine you not being here” 

The team at Yeske Buie is relatively small — 15 people — and quite young. All but two of their CFP professionals are under 31.

This meant there was a distinct benefit for the firm when they, too, signed up for the Financial Planner Reentry Initiative. They found not just a valuable colleague; they also found a mentor.

Lauren Mireles, organization and methods manager at Yeske Buie, describes their “re-intern” (as the firm calls it) as someone who brought experience and maturity to the role. She came with a background in engineering, strategic planning, and business consulting plus an MBA in finance. And she’s passionate about helping people navigate through the financial aspects of life’s sometimes unexpected transitions. Because she’s gone through her own.

While Yeske Buie has a strong college intern program, they saw a difference with this intern.

“She thinks about things from a more mature angle and asks different questions than you’d see from college interns,” Lauren said. For example, when scanning docs as a project to fill some down time, they might have heard from someone younger, “I can’t tell what kind of document this is.” Instead, it was, “Would you like me to include the premium amount in the title of this insurance policy doc?” This may initially seem like a minor observation, but this type of contextual thinking expanded to other areas of focus really made a difference.

Lauren acknowledges that most returning professionals will be older and possibly have been out of the tech realm for a bit. “So, sometimes getting up to speed means investing a bit more time during the training phase,” she said. “But if in the end the work is perfect, I prefer to wait a little longer.”

The firm is thrilled that – no surprise – their intern is now a full-time employee. Because they couldn’t imagine her not being part of the team.

In the first three months, she sat in on 24 client meetings. Now she’s enrolled in a CFP Board program, starting classes to get her license, and has her own clients (under supervision of senior planners). In many ways she’s already almost like one of Yeske Buie’s Assistant Financial Planners, and she’s expected to grow into that.

Competitors and cohorts

Impressed yet? I sure was. The Center for Financial Planning, the sponsors (including TD Ameritrade and that other custodian ;)) and the initial six firms met regularly, with the Center providing structure, resources, and the chance for the participants to share their experiences and ideas.

That’s the best part. By all of us sharing our ideas around recruiting and training these reentry professionals, we’re positioning financial advisors in a positive way. And we’re learning best practices to take these programs to our clients. I’m such a fan of the support and sharing among these firms who are technically competitors. It’s exactly what we need to move our industry forward. Oh, and that west coast custodian?  Schwab.  Yes, we compete.  And we collaborate – because bringing more advisors into this profession to help more Americans get the financial advice they need is that big.

Go here to find out more about the Financial Planner Reentry Initiative. And share what you think with me on Twitter @KateHealy_TDA – use #RIANextGen to join the conversation.

TD Ameritrade and all third parties mentioned are separate and unaffiliated companies, and are not responsible for each other’s policies or services.

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