The Challenges for Junior Advisers


I recently worked with a group of young advisers (average age 28) in the first six years of their career. All worked under a senior adviser, and most had responsibility for developing their own book of clients. When asked what their biggest challenges were, separate small subgroups within the larger group reported the following:

Group 1

  • I don’t know where and how to prospect.
  • Prospects don’t trust young advisers.
  • I need a process to transition prospects into clients.
  • I lack confidence.
  • Time management is a concern for me.

Group 2

  • Clients and prospects perceive me as “too young.”
  • Clients are gun-shy about doing business or making a commitment.
  • It’s hard to meet enough of the right people.
  • I am unclear personally about my own competence and about how I differ from competitors.
  • I don’t know how to close business without pushing.

Group 3

  • Clients feel I lack credibility because of my age.
  • Prospects and clients are fearful of taking action.
  • I have few qualified prospects.
  • I have difficulty finding the right clients to match my business model.
  • Time management is a concern for me.

From these lists emerged some interesting observations.

Young advisers see their youth as a disadvantage, but senior advisers increasingly meet prospects who want advisers who will “be with them for the long haul.” This may be especially true for couples where the man expects to predecease his partner. Younger advisers could have an advantage in these situations.

Time is a factor for many young advisers who service the clients of their senior advisers as they work to grow their own book of business. When there is competition between sales and service, service almost always wins. Are young advisers with dual responsibilities so consumed with service that they don’t make enough time for business development?

Young advisers find clients shy or fearful of taking action. But this reluctance typically stems from a lack of trust between adviser and client. In fact, the most competent advisers are those who are highly skilled at forming trusting and genuinely empathic relationships. Young advisers, however, often cannot see this. They are eager to propose solutions to clients. This hallmark mistake is frequently reflected in the amount of time they devote in client meetings to proposing solutions compared with time spent developing relationships.

Is prospecting more difficult today than it was a decade ago? Cold calling has all but disappeared because of Do Not Call regulations. On the other hand, is social media a new prospecting tool that gives young advisers an advantage because of their familiarity with such tools? With a single Facebook listing, young advisers can tell all their friends about their profession and their ability to help—even if those friends are also young and have minimal financial resources to invest. Still, building a book of business with periodic investment plans for clients in the accumulation stage is a start.

Lack of confidence probably hits the nail on the head. Whether overt or subconscious, it leads to gun-shy clients. And gun-shy clients don’t close. They procrastinate indefinitely, making it essential for young advisers to focus on prospecting. That leads to the question of time management, especially for those who, as noted above, service clients for a senior adviser while they build their own book of business.

No one can control how old they are. But most people can control how much confidence they have in themselves. Every adviser started at some point. Believing that you can comes with credentials and with experience. But, most of all, confidence comes from within.

Joni Youngwirth
Managing Principal of Practice Management
Commonwealth Financial Network
Waltham, Mass.

2 thoughts on “The Challenges for Junior Advisers

  1. Most young advisors don’t make it because they don’t know and are not coached on:

    1. How to network with other professionals,
    2. How to properly ask for referrals, and
    3. How to conduct a consultative interview to turn a good prospect into a paying client.

  2. As the perfect fit for the demographic for this group (I’m 28), I have some key points to address some of these issues:

    – Not knowing where or who to prospect: Develop a niche based on your own interests. Then go to where that group gathers and develop relationships.
    – Lacking confidence: Confidence comes with practice. Get in front of clients and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. As long as you make good with a client and service them better than any other firm, they will understand. No client is expecting perfection (something I still struggle with), but they want someone who cares.
    – The perception of being too young is both an internal and external factor. I LOVE being a young planner – not only am I more up to date on breaking technology and planning practices than my older counter-parts, but I tend to move a little quicker as well 🙂 There’s no beating experience, but positive affirmations said to yourself about your age can help turn your perception around.
    – Clients saying you’re too young? – ask them (in a nice way) if they want to keep changing planners every 10 years when they hire the next 55 year old planner based on his “experience”. There’s a thinking shift that needs to take place here as well.
    – Closing a sale – the worst that can happen is that they say no. Remember this is to the service offering, not you. You only need a handful of clients to make a practice, you have your whole career to find them, and there are plenty out there.
    – The “close”. Build a relationship and avoid being a salesman. You’re doing a one-time sale, you’re selling a relationship with you. If they say no, ask if you can stay in contact should they have any further questions. Leave the door open to further communication.

    I have plenty more, but I’ll stop.

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