For financial advisors, the consequences of the “Great Resignation” – a record number of employees quitting their jobs during the pandemic – mean they need to reflect whether their practices are competitive enough to retain and attract new hires.
“All the advisors I know are having trouble with retention and finding staff, especially those who work in administration,” says Jackie Porter, a certified financial planner at Carte Wealth Management Inc. in Mississauga.
Ms. Porter includes herself in this category as her assistant is on an extended leave of absence for personal reasons and she’s searching for a replacement.
“We’re trying to figure out how to be competitive and offer an attractive package so we can attract the right people,” she says.
Unfortunately for many advisors, it’s currently an employee’s market, says Kim Poulin, a business coach with The Personal Coach in Montreal.
She doesn’t see many advisor assistants – in particular, licensed assistants – looking actively for new positions, which tells her they are either being paid appropriately by their current employer or poached quietly from competing advisory practices.
“There are also more opportunities for assistants because, in some cases, they no longer need to be bound by geography,” Ms. Poulin says.
Namely, some administrative staff are now more interested in long-term virtual positions or hybrid workplaces after having had a long taste of working remotely.
Ms. Poulin says advisors should talk with current staff about the things that attract and retain them. For example, some may be driven by more vacation and mental health days instead of a bump to their salary.
“Make sure you are asking staff questions and truly listening,” she says. “Have a quarterly check-in, an official sit down – even virtually – and discuss what’s gone well and what can be improved.”
Ms. Porter, for her part, receives input regularly from her staff on everything from work processes to team social events.
“Work culture isn’t just about what I put out there, but what the team members contribute,” she says.
Ms. Porter believes like-minded values – hers are a positive attitude and a zest for learning – retain staff. Her team looks forward to its daily group chats and “Fun Fridays” held every month. At that time, the staff members share a meal together, virtually, play online games or arrange an outdoor event such as mini-golf.
Ms. Porter has also found employee health and dental plans to be a huge selling point for staff with young children. Offering staff some money toward training courses and other education is also popular. While competitive compensation also factors into finding great hires, Ms. Porter has found simply paying more isn’t enough if staff members don’t have similar values to begin with.
“If the staff doesn’t buy into your vision and your leadership style, they will look for other opportunities elsewhere,” she says. “In this competitive job market, more employees are asking themselves if they can make a contribution at your firm. If they will be appreciated, nurtured, and recognized for their efforts.”
Peter Szeto, senior vice-president and investment advisor at Harbourfront Wealth Management Inc. in Vancouver, is fortunate not to have experienced any staff turnover during the pandemic. In fact, the majority of his team members have worked for him for more than 10 years.
Mr. Szeto attributes his team’s loyalty to the fact that he pays his staff well, along with a bonus structure in which they earn a percentage of what he earns.
“If I make more, they make more as well,” he says. “Losing a valued employee is costly to my business, so I do as much as I can to hold onto my employees.”
He also provides his staff much flexibility and trusts them to complete their tasks and maintain client service levels in a timely fashion, not necessarily within the strict confines of the traditional nine-to-five workday.
“All of us have been together long enough that we trust each other,” he says. “Everyone has had to adapt to the pandemic and be flexible. Sometimes, when your staff is working at home, they may do things they wouldn’t normally do if they were at the office. There’s a baby screaming in the background. Packages are being dropped off. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for this to be happening, especially if the pandemic puts them in that environment.”
Mr. Szeto says his clients also adapted to the more flexible workplace and were patient with him and his staff. He managed clients’ expectations by staggering his employees’ hours so that they covered trading hours and the time after market close.
While Mr. Szeto believes that service levels are more consistent when everyone works at the same location, he’s more than amenable to situations in which staff members rotate coming into the office.
“That’s where we all need to be flexible,” he says. “As long as our clients’ expectations continue to be met or exceeded, it’s a workable solution.”