(Dow Jones) Some broker-dealers have found it tough to recruit this year, but USAA, a San Antonio, Texas-based member organization that provides financial services to military members, says it is hiring nationwide.
The privately held company was founded in 1922 by a group of U.S. Army officers to insure each other's automobiles. It expanded in 1996 to serving enlisted military personnel, and broadened its coverage again late last year to include all honorably discharged veterans. That more than doubled the number of military members eligible for its insurance policies and financial services.
USAA's "Building Wealth" group currently has about 1,450 advisors and is seeking to increase that by 30% by the end of the year, said Brandon Carter, vice president of the group. The group includes mass-market members, which have up to $250,000 invested with USAA; mass-affluent members, with $250,000 to $1 million; and wealth-management members, with more than $1 million in assets with the company.
The company has hired about 222 brokers and advisors this year, and expects to hire more than that in 2011, though it is still firming up that number, Carter said.
Part of the hiring wave is a recognition that USAA needs to expand beyond its historically technology-heavy service model in which it served clients mostly over the telephone and Internet, he said. While those avenues will continue to be used, USAA recognizes that the needs of its clients, especially those of its higher-net-worth clients, are too complex to meet over the phone, he said.
The company has already opened 12 wealth-management offices across the U.S., the most recent one in Washington, D.C., just a few weeks ago. Each of those offices will be staffed with up to four wealth managers, who will seek to deepen the company's relationship with its members and offer face-to-face advice, he said.
More such offices will likely be opened in the future in areas where USAA has a high concentration of wealth-management clients, Carter said, although there are no specific plans at this time.
Meanwhile, USAA is looking to hire experienced certified financial planners and chartered financial analysts to join the firm as wealth managers, as well as those with a few years experience and their Series 6 or Series 7 licenses to start as telephone-based representatives, who will serve the "mass market of our membership," Carter said.
While USAA does work with some career-changers who are new to the business to help them get their qualifications, its primary focus is on those who have been in the industry, he said. "The entry point is usually at least two years of financial-services industry experience."
The company is seeking recruits from among the largest of the broker-dealers to the independents, Carter said. "We really look at all types." But its key focus is whether individuals will be a fit with the USAA culture, he said. The firm often hires former military-service members, who have a strong understanding of its members' needs, he said.