As some of you already know, each year I spend several days visiting various CFP Board registered programs throughout the country to ensure we are continuing to source, screen, and integrate the best available talent for the financial planning firms we represent.
Last month, I visited three CFP Board registered programs: Virginia Tech University,University of Missouri, and University of Wisconsin. It was my own little version of planes, trains and automobiles! During these visits, I interviewed dozens of students, spoke to a handful of PhDs (faculty members, college deans, and program chairs), and gave several presentations to help the students understand the financial planning world they will soon be entering. Below are some notable highlights from my trip I thought you might be interested in.
I met a lot of students and had some great, average, and not so great interviews. On the plus side, I found many students are ready and eager to enter the financial planning world. For instance…
- 100% were dressed appropriately for an interview. Up from 90% last year.
- 70% had a good idea of what type of firm and role they were seeking. Up from 60% last year.
- 50% followed up with a thank you note. About the same as last year.
- 75% had internship and/or work experience in the profession.
- 50% were willing to relocate, this is down from 80% last year.Chicago,WashingtonDC,St Louis, andKansas Citywere not surprisingly the areas that candidates were seeking positions.
However, my experience also reinforced the perception that while there are some great new planners out there to hire, there are also a lot who are not well prepared to enter a professional planning firm. For example…
- Just 80% brought a hard copy of their resume and few had business cards.
- No candidates brought a copy of a financial plan or financial planning project they had completed to the interview. One candidate did provide a copy of a personality assessment they had completed.
- Few had a thorough understanding of the various business models, compensation structures, licensure requirements, recent legislation (Dodd-Frank) and industry issues.
- Some thought they had to go into banking and/or insurance sales for a few years prior to entering financial planning.
- Not all students enrolled in a CFP Board registered program are seeking careers in financial planning. Several were looking to start their own franchises and enter businesses unrelated to the FP profession.
Some additional observations I made when I was touring campuses and afterwards while reflecting on the trip home:
- Several of the top candidates I interviewed did not want to go into the high net worth client space; instead they want to work with lower to middle income clients via non-profit and/or government agencies.
- I have reported previously that the larger brokerages and warehouses were in competition for the same new planner talent as RIAs. It’s worth noting this year that several of the big four accounting firms were interviewing for financial planning talent as well.
- The number of women is increasing. Last year, I estimated the ratio of females to male new planners that were in the presentations and interviews to be 20% female and 80% male (very similar to the CFP Board demographic stats), but this year based on my records it was closer to 40% female and 60% male.
- Contrary to what much of the media reports, financial planning programs still seem to be maintaining the status quo with enrollment numbers, with no significant growth, especially at the undergraduate level. The programs I interact with on a daily basis are continuing to report total enrollment between 50-200 students in the entire program and graduating only a handful each semester. This is where the profession is feeling the pinch as other more established majors such as finance, economics, etc. are sending out vastly more than this into the job market every few months. There simply are not enough students coming out of high school picking the financial planning major at this point or not picking for other reasons discussed below.
- Two schools I spoke to about a possible visit declined with one citing, "...the professors do not have time this semester for you to come discuss careers." And the other, "...you recruit for sales positions and we do not want our students taking that path." The timing issue is understandable, but the latter is troubling on a few fronts mainly because it is blatantly incorrect as the positions we recruit for are all salaried, support positions, at least initially, working on established clientele with specified career tracks available. This is very insightful on exactly how much control the professors have on a student's business model selection and career choices though.
Finally, I had two separate instances where a student shared how their financial planning degree/major/program was viewed by those on the inside as well as on the outside at their respective schools. The first, from a school I did not visit, said the "kids" at his particular school were ending up in financial planning because "they couldn't make the grades in the business program." The second student, from a school I did visit, said the perception of her friends is that the financial planning program/degree is viewed similar to a "safety school or back up plan and that it is not a very highly regarded job field right now." I had to take the rest of the day off when I heard this - ouch! But it does confirm what I have seen at some of the programs and what some firm owners have expressed over the years publicly and privately. Stay tuned for next month's post where we will explore this issue further.
- Caleb will be one year closer to the average age of a CFP® certificant on March 21st.
- Michael will be presenting at the FPA of St Louis on Thursday March 6th http://bit.ly/1kNFoE9