Next-generation advisors will be the ones catapulting financial firms into successful futures, said Tammy Robbins of Cambridge Investment Research.

Without new blood and new ideas, a firm will wither, Robbins told the audience at the Invest In Women conference, sponsored by Financial Advisor magazine this week in Atlanta.

That means a firm must not only hire new advisors but also figure out how to retain them, said Robbins, executive vice president and chief business development officer at Cambridge, a broker-dealer.

Women are 51% of the population. They control $11 trillion in assets. And 70% of women want to work with a female financial advisor. These statistics spell doom for a firm that can't hire and retain both young and female advisors, Robbins said.

At the same time, one in four advisory firms are expected to make a succession transition in the next decade, yet most do not have a clue how that will be accomplished. That is going to require the recruitment of young advisors starting now, she said.

Younger advisors serving a younger clientele will have to be able to communicate digitally, something their firms must keep in mind.

In addition, “we should be paperless and we all know this industry is full of paper,” Robbins said.

Another key to success is giving the new advisors a meaningful seat at the policy-making table within a firm. “You can’t relegate them to the back bench.”

Young advisors can also keep a firm relevant. They "bring in new ideas and provide a firm with the ability to retain other young advisors,” she said.

Without them, and without a relevant succession plan, firms will join the ranks of those losing the second generation of clients. According to industry studies, 70% of the second generation does not stay with their parents’ advisors once the wealth is transferred, Robbins said.

If a firm is to retain the next generation of advisors, and the clients they will bring with them, the firm has to provide them with a sense of belonging, Robbins said.

Firms can do this, in part, by providing younger advisors with hands-on guidance and showing them how they can have a meaningful impact on their clients’ lives and on the community.

“It is more difficult in a virtual environment, but it is being done successfully at Cambridge and at other firms,” she added.