Give your practice a gift, hire a millennialInvesting in onboarding the next generation into your practice

Seeing my children enjoying the holidays with my family this year reminded me of my own childhood and how specific memories can come back in unexpected ways. For example, when I was growing up, my grandfather always had mules because he felt they had traits he could appreciate. He would say they were smart but emotional animals that had a penchant for curiosity. They tend to be confident of themselves to the point of being stubborn (mule-headed), but when they make up their mind, they can be exceptionally driven. It struck me that these traits parallel our future millennial workforce — smart, curious, stubborn, and driven. Regardless of their stereotypes, this next generation is going to have a big effect on our economy and on our profession as a whole.

As of this year, millennials are the largest living cohort, representing one-third of the U.S. population. It is estimated that by 2017 they will control the largest buying power of any cohort and are estimated to inherit more than $30 trillion in assets1. Most importantly, they are poised to inherit an even larger wealth transfer than their baby-boomer predecessors and will have an even greater responsibility to manage their own financial futures. Although the need for financial advice will be great, in the era of do-it-yourself and robo technology, millennials need education on the value of more holistic financial advice. One of the best ways to educate and attract millennials to your business is to hire someone they can relate to: a millennial.

Millennial advantage

Growing a sustainable business requires forward thinking and investing in talent that will appeal both to clients today and to subsequent generations. There are several core strengths of the millennial generation that can set your business on a track to value creation.

  • 1Succession plan
    Asset allocation is standard practice for a financial advisor, but allocation of human capital is an investment that is sometimes harder to practice. The average financial advisor is now over the age of 50 and quickly approaching retirement. This 10- to 15-year time horizon is the perfect stretch to put into effect a plan to train successors in the business. Starting this process as early as possible allows your clients to be comfortable with the transition to working with others on your team, and can help increase the sales multiple of your overall business for internal succession. As your clients begin to transfer wealth to the next generation within their family, hiring a millennial advisor also allows for relatability to these next-generation clients. Having advisors across a range of ages in a practice provides for easy transition of assets across generations, and provides constancy as senior advisors retire or transition to less than full-time.
  • 2Excitement
    Similar to the excitement surrounding a college football game, millennials can bring youthful energy to your practice and enthusiasm to your client marketing. In a team-based setting, their desire to learn and their creative understanding of technology can lead to innovative practices and ultimately greater efficiency. Second, articulating your value proposition in the communication channels of tomorrow will be increasingly important to marketing your brand, especially to millennials.
  • 3Technology
    This is the first generation to grow up in the era of the Internet, cell phones, and social media. Because of this familiarity, they are by far the heaviest users and adopters of new technology. Firms have an opportunity to leverage the talent of this generation to manage social media campaigns, website content, client relationship management software, and financial planning software, and even keep business current through uncovering new industry technologies.

Millennial investment

Hiring a millennial is an investment in your practice that can pay generous dividends, but it requires a structured onboarding process. The easiest way to determine if a millennial is right for your practice is to start by hiring an intern. Consider it a low-cost opportunity to measure the fit for your practice. 

Of course, a productive internship program requires access to talented students and a job description that provides value for both your practice and the student. A number of companies have started internship programs with the help of the interns themselves. For example, their first intern might help write the internship plan and co-create a list of projects for future interns. Today, students in financial planning programs have advanced knowledge of retirement, taxes, investments, education funding, insurance, and estate planning. Some students are even gaining exposure to financial planning software before they graduate. A strong internship candidate can help your practice determine the best financial planning software tools, research client portfolios, or develop a program to help retain wealth transitioning from your clients to their kids.

For a list of financial planning programs in your area, visit the CFP online.

Moving from internships to investing in full-time candidates is most effective in an apprenticeship or team-based setting. Team-based models allow for a shortened feedback loop, building of brand identity, and the opportunity for a senior planner to mentor them through the nuanced client-communication skills they sometimes lack on the job. Don’t be fooled by the bad press; millennials are hungry to learn the business and create value for clients. Employers can use their unique talents immediately to create financial plans, to grow marketing, and to bind and service new clients, which can free up senior-level advisors for additional prospecting and business development.

Nathan Harness, Ph.D., CFP® is the TD Ameritrade Director of Financial Planning at Texas A&M University.


1Accenture, The "Greater" Wealth Transfer: Capitalizing on the Intergenerational Shift in Wealth (2012).Retrieved Nov. 11, 2015.

This content is for informational purposes only and is not an endorsement of any app, service, or publicly traded company. It is also not a recommendation to buy or sell a particular security.

All third-party marks cited are the property of their respective owners.

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