Wealth management sales professionals wanting to advance in rank and compensation must be willing and able to take on the nuts-and-bolts duty of prospecting for clients, Florida recruiter Dave Moran told eFinancialCareers.
Moran, a partner with Experienced Advisors Recruiting of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., points to a newly-released Registered Rep magazine survey showing that only a small percentage of advisor sales assistants are interested in becoming full-fledged financial advisors even though sales assistant (SA) pay shrank last year.
The annual survey of sales assistants, client service associates and other support professionals across the country, conducted in August, found that average base pay fell 16 percent to around $45,000 in 2010, while the average bonus dipped 4 percent to around $6,300.
The survey, which was completed by 183 sales assistants, also found that 35 percent of the sample was glad to remain in the SA function. About half of those surveyed said they were interested in graduating to a position with more responsibility, compared with 35 percent who said they were happy staying put. About 14 percent said they wanted to serve FAs with ultra-wealthy clients. "Another 11 percent said they would like to be office managers, while 10 percent were interested in becoming financial advisors," Registered Rep. reported this month.
"Real compensation comes when an SA becomes an FA"
"Here's the rub," says Moran, a former CFP and advice giver himself. "The real compensation comes when an SA becomes an FA. However the trend is that most SAs want to continue to be support driven, working with clients and retaining revenues" instead of attracting new clients and adding to the revenue base.
"In my opinion, good SAs are a farm team for future FAs," Moran says. "If only 10 percent of SAs want to progress to FAs, then where are these firms going to get FAs of the future? The same way they do now, via recent college grads or career changers who will be spit out of a training program after $100,000 or more is invested in them."
Frequently, these newbies won't generate enough revenue quickly enough for their firms.
Talented SAs should learn how to "build a book, run a business and share in the success" of their firms so they can also be included in succession planning, Moran says.
Also, noting that support personnel are not expecting the pay squeeze to last-with 57 percent of survey respondents expecting their total compensation for 2011 to be more than what they got in 2010-Moran says, if an SA is expecting an increase in base pay, then they will have an increase in workload not in proportion to the pay increase.
"And, it's likely to be in areas that they might not enjoy as much as interacting with clients, such as compliance," given that almost half the survey respondents said compliance duties were up this year over last year.
Not every SA has what it takes to be an FA
On the other hand, many advisors will hand you a personality test-when you interview for a position at their firm, and not every support staff person has what it takes to be a lead wealth advisor-and vice versa, says Robert Wolfe, Managing Director of United Capital Financial Partners' South Florida Region.
Those who will be good at prospecting will have a good deal of assertiveness, ego strength and will favor risk taking, for instance, says Wolfe, while those who excel at service will test high for being accommodating and needing external structure rather than independence.
The good news is that there seems to be plenty of work for sales assistants these days, Registered Rep reports, and ideally, says Wolfe, those with both detail-oriented support skills and sales accument can begin as SAs and be "groomed and mentored" to become wealth advisors.