Breaking Barriers in 2022: Roadmap to Growing Your Credit Union’s Financial Advisor Team in the Age of the Great Resignation

By: Rob Comfort, President, CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc.

For the last several months, workers have been quitting their jobs at or near record levels. According to the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary (JOLTS) release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics the quit rate increased to three percent in November of 2021. That matches the all-time high last seen in September. Much of this recent trend can be attributed to what is known as the Great Resignation­­. Many experts believe the COVID-19 global pandemic provided workers the opportunity to rethink their careers, long-term goals, and work/life balance. This reflection has led to the mass exodus employers are now seeing.

What’s concerning about the Great Resignation is the number of people 55 and older who, after reassessing their priorities, are opting to retire early. As reported on WealthManagement.com, the JOLTs report shows more than three million workers over age 55 permanently retired in October of 2021. This is particularly concerning for the financial services industry. The average advisor is 55 years old. This exodus is adding pressure to an industry struggling to serve its existing customer base.

To alleviate some of that pressure, CUNA Mutual Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI) will continue to emphasize teaming in 2022. Advisor teaming pairs a more experienced or Lead Financial Advisor (LFA) with a less experienced or Associate Financial Advisor (AFA). Teaming is good for the AFA, good for the LFA and good for the credit union.

Associate Financial Advisor (AFA)

Knowingly or unknowingly, the financial services industry has created barriers to entry. Some of the barriers include only hiring those with existing books of business, only paying new advisors commission starting day one and de-emphasizing training.

Ten, maybe 15-years ago, the industry moved away from providing advisors substantial on-the-job training. Now, if they’re lucky, a new advisor gets a couple of weeks of training. In a teaming scenario, at least for CBSI, the AFA is paired with the LFA for a year. The associate advisor will have the chance to learn the business, take care of their licensing requirements, see firsthand what tools and tactics a successful advisor uses and participate in a mentoring program taught in combination with our Center for Advisor Excellence and Cannon Financial. They’ll get all of this while earning a salary.

Lead Financial Advisor (LFA)

More experienced, successful advisors have larger books of business. In many cases, they have so many existing clients they simply can’t take on anymore. Overextended advisors lead to underserved credit union members. Teaming helps free up time for the LFA, allowing them to focus on growing their book of business and better serving their existing clients. Teaming allows for this by assigning some of the more administrative tasks an LFA may handle to the AFA. As the AFA gains experience, they can transition from a purely support role to working directly with clients, further freeing up the LFA to focus on taking on new clients.

Credit Unions

According to CNBC, about 40% of financial advisors plan to retire within the next 10-years. And there are more certified financial planners over the age of 70 than under 30. You have this perfect storm of veteran advisors exiting the workforce and a shortage of new advisors waiting in the wings. Teaming will help credit unions fill and keep their talent funnel full. They’ll be able to monitor advisor development and feel confident that when the LFA retires their replacement is prepared to take the helm.

An unintended consequence of these barriers to entry is advisor diversity. Advisors for the most part are not very diverse. By teaming and eliminating these barriers to entry for advisors not only will the industry see all the benefits I just outlined, but we will open the field up to an entirely new demographic that is more reflective of the increasingly more diverse nation we reside in.

In 2021, CBSI deployed an aggressive Multicultural Advisor Growth Strategy. Under this strategy, CBSI welcomed 18 students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Hispanic Serving Institutions as part of its new Multicultural Financial Services Internship program. These interns will have the opportunity to see what day-to-day life is like for Financial Advisors. The internship program is inspired by CBSI’s 12-month Associate Financial Advisor program.

The Multicultural Advisor Growth Strategy and its programs align directly with CBSI’s ongoing efforts to mentor and recruit advisors through its Women of Distinction and Advisor Teaming apprenticeship programs aimed at giving an inclusive leg up in the profession. Together, teaming, Multicultural Advisor Growth Strategy, the Women of Distinction program, and other initiatives the organization is working on to give less experienced, high potential and more diverse candidates a chance, represent an important industry evolution. It ensures we are building the broadest network or pipeline for current, future, and unexpected open positions in alignment with our corporate-wide commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Written by
Lizeth George
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About Us

The League of Southeastern Credit Unions & Affiliates represents 342 credit unions in Alabama, Florida and Georgia, with a combined total of $118.63 billion in assets and more than 10.1 million members. LSCU & Affiliates provides legislative and regulatory advocacy; education and training; cooperative initiatives (including financial education outreach); public messaging; information services; and business solutions.

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