Ten of the brightest young minds in financial services were awarded the 2017 Millennial Advisor Award by The American College of Financial Services. This cohort of men and women under the age of 35 were each nominated for the award by a peer in financial services as recognition for making a significant impact in the profession.
Recognizing young advisors for the work they do is an important part of building awareness around financial services, which is a profession that – any of these young award winners could tell you – is not exactly replete with millennials.
One of this year’s winners, James Cooney, CFP®, FSCP®, a financial planner with Penn Mutual affiliate Empire Wealth Strategies in New York City, said the stereotypical image of an aging financial advisor is often true to life.
“If a younger generation does not embrace bringing financial literacy to the public, there will be a severe financial education gap as older advisors retire,” Cooney said when asked why it is important for millennials to pursue a career in financial services.
Taking the helm as a generation of older advisors transitions into retirement was a common thread running through the responses of many of this year’s winners when surveyed about winning the award.
“The next generation of advisors will be needed by their clients more than ever,” said Hunter Hart, CFP®, ChFC®, award recipient and financial planner at Equity Planning, Inc. “Increasing complexity in clients’ financial lives and an aging advisor demographic are strong indicators this next generation of advisors will have many opportunities to succeed.”
Millennial Advisors: The Disruptor Our Profession Needs
Another takeaway from the winners is that millennials are in the best position to navigate, react to, and adapt to change.
An April 2017 statement from the CFP Board revealed there are more CFP® professionals over the age of 70 than there are under the age of 30, and that 20 percent of financial planners are approaching retirement. “This is an industry that has very little disruption on the advisor side,” said recipient Andrew Komarow, CFP®, AEP®, CAP®, CASL®, ChFC®, CLU®, FSCP®, REBC®, RICP®, a financial planner with Talcott Financial Group.
“The industry is changing and we need young professionals who are not afraid to ask if there is a better way to do things,” Komarow said. “Sometimes things have been the way they are for decades because of well thought out reasons. And sometimes it’s because nobody dared to ask why they were that way in the first place.”
Komarow is not alone in his sentiment. The idea that things can be done faster, smarter, better – or all of the above – is a mindset many millennials are comfortable embracing.
“I try not to be ‘set in my ways,’” award winner Laura Vaughn, CFP®, partner at North Star Resource Group, said, noting that she needs to be constantly learning and that her youth puts her in a good position to acquire new knowledge as regulations, tax rules, product features, and more continue to rapidly evolve.
“There is so much to be learned from peers who are doing well and from more experienced advisors,” she said. “Being open and receptive to change is an important advantage for a younger financial advisor.”
Christopher Seabrook, MBA, RICP®, works with businesses and individuals to provide solutions for risk management and to assist with retirement and investment management at COUNTRY Financial. He, too, said that his youth gives him an advantage.
“Our profession is ever-changing and it becomes more and more challenging for senior advisors to accept changes that can alter their business model,” he said. “Additionally, as regulations and the needs of our clients change, young professionals like myself are eager to find solutions that will keep our profession thriving.”
Hunter Hart, of Equity Planning, Inc., echoed Seabrook’s observations about the advantage of youth. “As technology continues to disrupt financial services, I think being younger and willing to embrace changes will allow me to increase productivity, find new clients more easily, and improve my client experience,” he said.
Confronting The Challenges Ahead
As seasoned advisors retire, they leave behind a host of old challenges that the profession has been grappling with for ages, such as helping clients manage expectations and set realistic goals. However, the generation of young advisors left to hold down the fort will also have to contend with new challenges, some foreseeable, and others not.
In days past, the client would come to their advisor for information. Now clients have access to more information than ever, including investment ideas that may or may not be the right fit. It’s up to this generation of up and coming advisors to act not just as an arbiter of valid and appropriate information, but also as a trusted confidant with both solutions and empathy.
“Many people have so many competing factors such as student loans, high housing prices, low interest on their savings accounts, and the sandwich approach of caring for aging parents who need help while giving adequate attention to their own children who are growing up,” said Chantel Bonneau, CFP®, CLU®, REBC®, a wealth management advisor with Northwestern Mutual.
“All of these circumstances leave many people feeling hopeless because they don’t know what is possible or where to start,” she said. “I understand what my clients are going through. I have personally had to make the same financial decisions in the same economic environment as many of my clients.”
While challenges are expected, the future is by no means bleak. “I am working with clients to build a vision for what is important to them and to help them take action more quickly so they can positively impact their long term trajectory,” Bonneau said.
2017 Millennial Advisor Award Winners
In alphabetical order:
Chantel Bonneau, CFP®, CLU®, REBC®
Wealth Management Advisor
James Cooney, CFP®, FSCP®
Empire Wealth Strategies (Penn Mutual)
Hunter Hart, CFP®, ChFC®
Equity Planning, Inc.
Andrew M Komarow, CFP® AEP®, CAP®, CASL®, ChFC®, CLU®, FSCP®, REBC®, RICP®
Talcott Financial Group
Anna K. Pfaehler, CFP®
Director of Financial Planning
Christopher Seabrook, MBA, RICP®
Michaela F. Scott, MSFS, CFP®, CLU®, ChFC®, RICP®, AIF®
Investment Advisor Representative
Boston Partners Financial Group
Ryan Scott, CFP®, AIF®, RICP®, CLU®, ChFC®
Principal Financial Group
Laura Vaughn, CFP®
North Star Resource Group
Vincent Viveros, CFP®
Schwab Private Client Investment Advisory, Inc.
Nominations for the third annual Millennial Advisor Award will open in spring 2018. If you know an individual under the age of 35 who has made a significant impact in the financial services profession, be sure to nominate them.
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