Learning from the Greats
I write this as I'm skipping a sponsored lunch here in New Orleans at FPA NexGen Gathering, geared specifically for young advisors in their 20's and 30's. I grabbed a piece of pecan pie and ran off to write down my thoughts on some unique conversations I've overheard.
For starters, if you're a young advisor trying to find your calling in this community - you need to be here. This is where the conversations are that you need to be having.
Like any conference, the meat and potatoes are in the “hallway conversations,” but every once in a while, the sessions themselves create a buzz that lives on.
By far the two most popular sessions I attended were led by marketing behemoths, Taylor Schulte and Blair Duquesnay. They held different sessions on different days, but the same conversations emerged afterwards among young advisors.
After learning from these greats, NexGen advisors are asking:
Should I be marketing myself separate from my firm?
Should I be tweeting? What about?
Does anyone even care what I have to say?
After Blair's session, it was clear I'm not the only raving fan of what Ritholtz Wealth Management has built online. It is truly impressive. Their advisors have figured out how to market themselves well AND be authentic while doing it (re: tweeting about parenting woes and other real stuff).
But what is it that we truly idolize about these advisors? Is it their freedom? Are we all simply wanting to sit at the popular table at lunch?
Or is there more?
Identity Crisis: Millennials Unsatisfied (again)
Being a NexGen advisor is uncharted territory. We live in a world of financial advice where firms already have clients and owners might not need us to do business development - they need us to help maintain those the firm's existing clients while they continue to make it rain.
So congratulations to us, we got what we asked for: No more cold calls. Real financial planning that changes real lives. Hooray!!
But now that we have what we wanted, some of us are suddenly unsatisfied. Cue the dozens of CNBC articles re: Millennials and/or Avocado Toast.
It's hard to describe the conundrum without sounding unbelievably spoiled (which I definitely am), but it's hard to feel like your individual identity isn't valuable enough to marginally help the firm you work at. Speaking solely about the numbers here, firms naturally make more money when we're servicing the firm's clients; spending time marketing yourself in a large, well-oiled machine can have little relative ROI. Taken another way, the feeling that some young advisors feel is that their identity as an individual doesn't matter, just the firm's.
So what we have here is an identity crisis for those who feel like they have something to offer, but no clients to really show for it, no medium to showcase it, and little empathy towards those feelings. The firm itself is having large success and you should be grateful to have a seat on the rocket ship.
Identify the Natural Marketers
Some people are honestly just built to market themselves though - I call them "natural marketers." If you follow them on social media, you will know everything about their lives whether you asked or not.
On the flip side, many people hate talking about themselves and are glad to ride the coat tails of a well-marketed firm.
If you're a manager, make sure you know exactly where your people fall on this spectrum. If they are a marketer at heart, they'll find a way to be seen, either at your firm or not.
Managing the Marketers
Perhaps it's my Middle Child Syndrome, but I'm likely always going to want my name on stuff. I'm proud of the journey I'm on and think I can help a few people along the way. And it turns out I'm not the only one. I've met handfuls of advisors at this very conference who want to be taken serious as their own person, but their firms see any other marketing or attempts at individualism as a waste of time.
For those advisors in large firms with (unnecessarily) strict compliance rules on blogs and twitter, not only can they feel suppressed, but they can feel downright under-valued. Basically breaking a rule from Management 101 - value your people.
If you won't let them start a blog or tweet about their worldview, find some other way to acknowledge their identity and let them know you value it. It’s the little things that matter, and acknowledging someone’s unique value always goes a long way.