Finding experienced, qualified financial advisers has always been a challenge. However, over the last 12 months, finding those same candidates is even more difficult. In today's economic environment, competition is higher than ever for the best candidates and they are more nervous to make a change. However, we continue to find success by following a couple simple rules.
First, we need to understand the current environment. During the past week, I've spoken with regional sales managers at seven different firms. Each one of them told me that recruiting was their No. 1 priority. There is tremendous pressure in the marketplace to interview large numbers of candidates and to try and attract the best and most qualified. This high-demand environment is making the situation more challenging now than ever before for several key reasons. First, candidates who are looking are contacted very quickly and have many suitors. They are regularly wined and dined by interested brokerage firms. They are being offered additional perks, such as support staff to help in transitioning a book of business. They are often presented with a large book of clients to inherit. They may be offered payouts in excess of 50% for the first year or more. And we have seen six-figure sign-on bonuses being offered to lure them to the new opportunity.
So where does this leave you? In the drivers' seat! Because the financial advisers who best fit in the credit union industry are those that are not driven by ego and money, but by relationship. While all those bells and whistles will be tempting, credit unions have a better story to tell for the financial adviser who is looking to make a long-term commitment to this business. The secret is to prepare well, sell your unique opportunity and then follow through to close the process thoroughly.
Let's start with prepare well. One of Stephen Covey's 7 Habit's of Highly Successful People is, "Begin with the end in mind". In recruiting this means, mapping out your interview process ahead of time. You will need to make the following decisions:
- Are we able to manage the recruiting process, or do we need specialized support?
- Who will be the final decision maker in the hire?
- Who else must be involved in the interview process?
- Can each interviewer clearly articulate the investment program's strengths and weaknesses?
- Can we articulate why they should work for our credit union?
- Can we commit to moving quickly in this process?
- Are we prepared to make our offer competitive to attract the best candidate?
If you can clearly answer each of these questions beforehand it will give you a solid competitive advantage.
Next, you need to sell your opportunity. This is the most common area where credit unions fall short from there recruiting competition. Being able to clearly share the strengths of your credit union and our industry in comparison to other choices is absolutely essential. This is one of the biggest values we try and bring to our clients. We can identify the unique benefits in each situation and translate those into terms valued by financial advisers. Don't worry if your program has not been successful, there are still many strengths you can bring to a top candidate. What a financial adviser will want to know about your program include:
- How long have you been in this business?
- Why did the last person leave?
- Is there a book of business to inherit?
- Is support available during the transition?
- Will you share marketing lists?
- How do you incent referrals?
- Does you broker/dealer offer a competitive mix of products?
- Is your commission structure competitive?
There are no right or wrong answers to these questions, just enthusiastically expressed or uninspired ones. For a relationship-driven financial adviser, a credit union is a very attractive place to work. Make sure they clearly understand that.
Finally, close the interview process thoroughly. A good phrase to remember here is "close early and often." A critical piece of this process is timely and active follow up with the candidate. Don't be afraid to ask the candidate about their interest in the position. They might have been fine with your offer today, but with a new offer from your competitor, they might feel a little differently today. So keep asking questions like:
- Based on what you've heard, what would prevent you from coming to work for us?
- How do we compare with some of the other opportunities you're interviewing for currently?
- What are the most important criteria you're using to make your decision?
- What is your time frame for making a decision?
- Has anything changed?
Asking these questions will show the candidate that you are interested in them, keeps momentum moving towards an offer and acceptance and positions you as a professionally run organization that takes hiring seriously and who is supportive and committed to your brokerage line of business.
Even after an acceptance and even starting with your credit union, be assured that other companies will continue to attempt lure your new employee away from you. You must stay vigilant and make sure your new financial adviser feels welcomed and supported. Continue to speak with them by phone regularly, invite them out to lunch and get them involved in whatever way you can to make them feel like part of your team, before and immediately after their official start date.
Remember that communication is everything. The most consistent complaint I hear as a recruiter is that after the interview, candidates hear nothing back from the hiring company for days, weeks or even months afterward. The shelf life of a financial adviser in today's market is very short. So stay in close touch with candidates in which you have an interest. Call them on a weekly basis, answer any questions that they have promptly and treat them well. If you do, even in this challenging market, you can win out over the competition and welcome talented financial advisers into your credit union families.
Rob Michalowski is director of recruiting for Gateway Services Group, an investment and insurance CUSO. He can be reached at 800-915-1004 ext. 3448 or firstname.lastname@example.org.