The Tiburon CEO Summit is a biannual gathering of industry leaders across the full spectrum of wealth management, investment management, financial platforms and technology, private equity and other providers of capital. At the recent Tiburon CEO Summit in San Francisco, one of the most popular sessions was the Consumer Panel. Chip Roame, managing partner of Tiburon Strategic Advisors, designed this panel to make sure the audience received unfiltered perspective from real people—financial services consumers—across a range of topics with a lively Q&A.

One of the panelists was a woman, identified simply as Helen, who is a millennial and works for a well-known executive search firm. In both her personal and professional life, she has a handle on what people, especially millennials, think of different careers and companies. We were talking a lot about how millennials want to be served, what advice they value and what kind of investing is of interest to them. She mentioned that it would be great to have access to younger advisors who could relate to the next generation of wealth. So, I asked Helen if she could comment on how young people view our industry or potential careers as financial advisors.

There was a pause. Finally, this very poised young woman said something along these lines: “It’s not that they [millennials] are against it, they’re just not looking at careers in this industry. Other jobs are more exciting. I mean, look at this audience…the industry just isn’t sexy.”  

The room went still for a moment—ouch!

We need to bring sexy back. When I became a private banker in the late ‘80s, wealth management jobs had some sizzle. Big training programs existed at banks and brokerages, which meant hordes of young people arriving in each fall class creating a fun atmosphere while we were all making real money compared to other industries. These days, the fun is at tech start-ups with beer pong, and the money is in consulting or private equity. 

We all worry about marketing our own brands, but we should consider what we can do individually and collectively about our profession as a brand. I applaud the CFP Board for its ads on why people should work with a certified financial planner professional, but those ads don’t convey how great it is to work as one. Wanting to understand this issue more, I talked to my in-house focus group of two millennial sons who both chose to work in finance, but not wealth management, even though they know all about the statistics on succession and future opportunity. They confirmed what Helen said, adding more color on how they and their friends see our industry:

·       It looks very dull—conservative, low-tech men with white skin and gray hair.

·       There’s no exciting purpose where you can make a difference in the world.

·       Young people can’t advance quickly—there’s a pecking order and a pay cap.

·       No one seems to have fun—they just worry a lot about the market.

·       Will these jobs even be around in the future?

As individuals, we can do more to shape how young people see our industry. Every advisor I know has stories of how he or she has touched or been touched by the relationships with clients. We don’t deal with math all day; we deal with hearts and minds. There’s a fair amount of job flexibility, and we can make a great living. No matter what happens with robo solutions and ETFs, the judgment and empathy of human advisors has real value, creating a bright future for the right people.