Why Remote /Hybrid Work Does Not Work for Financial Advisors

It’s likely that most of us would say we’ve had enough changes since 2020 to last a lifetime. But the quote by John C. Maxwell is nonetheless true: “Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.”

The shift to hybrid work teams can provide financial services firms with the opportunity to prove the truth in this statement. But only if they take the reins and realize that the learning curve for a new advisor is steep and the skills needed to succeed in this industry are wide-ranging. Since the Covid-19 lockdown, leaders and employees have learned to creatively connect, communicate, and do their best to build their books of business while coping with personal and professional challenges no one predicted.

For many, the current work-from-home and work-in-office combination has been defined by trial and error. After all, having never experienced a pandemic — we have all been “learning as we go.” But can we create even better work environments wherein financial advisors achieve a work-life balance and are trained and motivated to create a superior impact on the firm’s engagement, performance, and revenue? YES.

If you are a manager, you know that firm managers drive the culture of the company. Since March 2020, however — many managers have been told that holding onto the old-school idea that employees must be physically present to be highly productive — can be harmful to company growth. Managers have read article after article about how a hybrid workforce is here to stay and they need to get used to it, or lose the best and brightest employees.

But what these financial firm leaders are painfully realizing over two years in, however — is that young advisors learn the business through their peers, older advisers and, in many cases, a successful mentor. And this simply isn’t happening if the young advisor is working from home.

So, what can you do as a manager to make sure, even in this new hybrid work world, that your new advisors have the very best foundation to become great advisors? It starts with ensuring they come into the office for one-on-one training. And here’s why.

Tons of articles have been written about the need to keep teams connected to each other in a virtual environment. But losing your organizational tether to your advisors can easily be much more dangerous.

Think about it this way: Before your firm went remote or hybrid, most employees throughout the organization had some sight line to one another. Even if they didn’t interface every day, younger advisors and mature advisors had regular conversations … topics like investment philosophies, reeling in ideal clients, and running the perfect client meeting were common conversations between newbie and successful advisors. Private lunch conversations might include salary, career progression, office politics, competing firms — anything a new advisor wants to know about how to be a great adviser.

However, as remote and hybrid practices were put into place, the anecdotal, hallway conversations stopped. The new guys and gals are no longer running into the flourishing professional advisors in the elevator or the cafeteria. The networking circles have dried up and advisors are failing at an even more alarming rate. Even when a new hire does well and hits a significant milestone — who is there to congratulate him or her, share in their success and help them to develop new goals?

How to fix this.

Truly successful leaders in our industry want nothing more than to help the next generation grow, thrive and prosper. Many of this generation, however, do not understand the value of this sage advice — so they don’t ask their firm’s sage advisors for help. As firm manager, you can institute new policies that reward new advisors for booking one-on-one “mentorship” time with your brightest and most successful advisors. If they don’t attend this mentorship meeting, they don’t get access to the group training for the month. Be harsh. As you know, the alternative is painfully watching the new agent work remotely, circle the drain and fail.

Get your pro’s involved.

The term mentor makes some people uncomfortable because they feel it sounds pompous and lofty. They may make excuses … “We can meet from time to time to discuss business, but I don’t want to call myself a mentor.” “I can’t commit to a formal mentorship program right now; I have my own book of business to worry about.” You get the idea.

But here’s the deal.

It doesn’t take as much time as successful advisors might think. By choosing not to engage, they are missing out on rewarding relationships. It doesn’t have to be part of a “formal program” — the topics can be varied and the advisors can offer help in areas where they feel most comfortable.  The point is to share their experiences no matter where they are in their prosperous careers.  As successful advisors, they have unique knowledge from which others can learn and benefit. Remind them that they are not responsible for the success of those they mentor—new agents are responsible for their own success. These successful advisors are skilled communicators and know how to make clients feel comfortable. This didn’t happen for them overnight. There is much a new advisor can learn simply by watching and experiencing a successful professional advisor’s communication skills.

Once a month, have your new advisors brief you on what they learned from their mentor(s) in the past 4 weeks. This lets the new advisor know he or she will be called upon to clarify the information they are gleaning from these important meetings.  You may be surprised by what they take away, and perhaps more importantly, what you learn about your young advisors’ hopes and dreams for their future with your firm.

Written by Donna West

Donna West is the Art Director at Identity Branding, Inc. |  e-Relationship.com  and Creative Director for Bikes For Kids Foundation. Donna has worked as a writer, creative director and designer of books, videos, event marketing, print, radio and tv advertising for over two decades. She’s won praise for designing financial industry classics, as well as 12 Addy Awards for Fortune 50 to small business campaigns. Donna lives in Kernersville, NC.

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