Opportunities from a retiring population of financial services professionals

Over 35% of financial professionals are planning to retire within the next 10 years, and more than a quarter of them don’t have a clear succession plan. Without a succession plan, a good chunk of your firm’s book of business may be at risk. We’ll show you how to turn the risk into an opportunity by grooming rookie advisors and creating an attractive workplace for young talent.

Current state of financial professional workforce

Of the nearly 292,000 financial advisors in the country, over 102,000 are expected to retire within the next 10 years. And although 74% of these retiring financial advisors have a succession plan of some sort, a material percentage aren’t sure what they’re going to do. This uncertainty leaves nearly $1.8 trillion in assets1 at risk—an amount similar to Italy’s annual GDP.2 How much of your firm’s assets are at risk?

A quarter of financial advisors retiring soon don’t have a succession plan

Succession plans for financial advisors retiring within 10 years

Pie graph on the left shows the percent of financial advisors not retiring within 10 years (65%) and the percent of financial advisors retiring within 10 years (35%). In the pie graph to the right, it shows what the succession plans are for those advisors planning to retire, including 26% who are unsure, 26% who will transition their book to an existing advisor in the same practice, and another 19% who will transfer their book to a junior advisor or family member.

Source: “U.S. Advisor Metrics 2020: Dimensions of Diversity and Inclusion,” Cerulli Associates, 2020.

The primary challenge keeping many financial professionals from having a succession plan is emotion. Although other factors such as finding the right buyer and valuing the practice are also front of mind, many advisors face an unexpected emotional toll as they approach retirement. Helping people grow their wealth and achieve their financial goals is rewarding, and it’s the reason why many enter the industry in the first place. 

New financial advisors aren’t flooding the industry to replace the looming retirement of baby boomers, with total advisor headcount expected to decline through 2024. And even for those who chose to try it out, it’s a tough business, with a 73% failure rate for new trainees.1 When combined with other factors, this means a projected annual increase of only 0.4% more personal financial advisors by the end of 2029.3

If you want to grow your firm, you’ll need to get more than your fair share of that increase by learning how to attract, groom, and retain rookie advisors—those with less than three years’ experience.

How to optimize rookie opportunities when financial professionals retire

Nearly 41% of retiring financial advisors will have their clients reassigned by the firm internally or are unsure what will happen.1 Both scenarios create an opportunity for rookie advisors to grow their practice. Let’s get to know the rookie population better to understand how they can take advantage of the opportunity.

Rookies coming to the field largely have the same background—client service and sales. In fact, 65% of all rookie advisors have sales experience and average over nine years in that field.1 But they didn’t join the business to push investment products: the most common reason for becoming a financial advisor is the desire to help people reach their financial goals.

Most rookie advisors are tasked with responsibilities neglected by senior advisors, such as managing social media and technology needs. Although it makes sense to delegate these areas to new and, often, younger staff, it doesn’t groom them to manage stressful client conversations and oversee a large client base. Both rookies and practice management professionals (PMPs) agree on what will promote this growth—mentorship from, and exposure to, successful advisors. 

Mentoring from an established advisor is the top factor for success, per PMPs

Poll of success factors for rookie advisors by PMPs and rookie advisors

Factor Practice management professionals All rookie advisors
Not important Somewhat important Very important Not important Somewhat important Very important
Training on financial planning topics 0% 46% 54% 8% 24% 68%
Exposure to successful advisors 0% 22% 78% 10% 30% 60%
Mentoring from an established advisor 0% 5% 95% 15% 26% 58%
Goal setting 3% 19% 78% 12% 31% 58%
Training on sales techniques 0% 28% 72% 7% 36% 57%
Training on investment analysis 19% 68% 14% 10% 41% 49%
Teaming with an experienced advisor 0% 27% 73% 23% 29% 48%
Shadowing an established advisor 3% 32% 65% 23% 36% 41%
Support for obtaining licenses and designations 19% 58% 22% 25% 37% 38%

Source: “U.S. Advisor Metrics 2020: Dimensions of Diversity and Inclusion,” Cerulli Associates, 2020.

Rookie income quickly shifts from base salary to commissions/fees based on production over the first few years—from an average base of 53.9% of pay in year one to 35.4% in year three. While this results-based pay is intended to incent practice growth, it can also deter talented rookie advisors from sticking around. This is especially relevant for women and black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) advisors who identified lacking compensation stability as a top factor discouraging candidates from entering the industry.1

Rookie advisor base salary reduced by 34% over first three years

Progression of rookie advisor pay structure for the first three years of tenure

Bar graph shows the compensation of rookie advisors shifting away from base salary and toward commission-based compensation over the first three years.

Source: “U.S. Advisor Metrics 2020: Dimensions of Diversity and Inclusion,” Cerulli Associates, 2020.

Firms—how you can prepare your rookies 

  • Create a formal career development plan and allow for balanced experiences throughout the first several years of a rookie’s tenure. PMPs believe a new advisor needs over five years of experience before taking on a practice.1
  • Align rookies with veterans through mentorship programs. Nothing beats hands-on experience from successful predecessors.
  • Develop a compensation structure that provides a cushion for regular income so rookies can prioritize learning the business. 
  • Make succession planning a routine practice for all levels of financial professional tenure.

Rookies—how you can prepare yourselves

  • Understand that becoming a successful financial professional takes years of perseverance and patience—don’t get tied up on immediate advancement.
  • Focus on career path development and companies that do the same—this will give you the greatest likelihood of long-term success and career satisfaction.
  • Concentrate your efforts on getting career advice and guidance from senior financial professionals and setting goals—mastering investment analysis and achieving various designations will come in time.

Make financial professional job opportunities attractive 

As a financial advisory firm or practitioner, make sure your policies and culture are attracting and retaining the rookie advisors—and, in turn, clients—you need. 

  • Create an infrastructure for succession planning well in advance of a financial professional reaching retirement age.
  • Promote a culture of teamwork and comradery to transfer knowledge and skills among various financial professional demographics.
  • Balance training programs among learning the business, achieving long-term success, and sales.

Financial professional turnover itself, due to retirement or otherwise, can provoke clients to reconsider their options. A clearly communicated succession plan will help, but it isn’t a guarantee. A successful practice will create an environment in which your clients know their financial plans are in good hands both with the seasoned advisor and with the rookie they already know, who’s prepared to take over the reins.

1 “U.S. Advisor Metrics 2020: Dimensions of Diversity and Inclusion,” Cerulli Associates, 2020. 2 “DataBank: World Development Indicators,” The World Bank Group, 2021. 3 “Employment by detailed occupation,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4/9/21.

The content of this document is for general information only and is believed to be accurate and reliable as of the posting date, but may be subject to change. It is not intended to provide investment, tax, plan design, or legal advice (unless otherwise indicated). Please consult your own independent advisor as to any investment, tax, or legal statements made herein.


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