You Hired Millennial Advisors to Grow Your Business. What Went Wrong?


Something odd is going on. Why are partners at established wealth management sounding so alarmed about their Millennial advisors? Why are they pulling me aside to complain that their young associates aren’t bringing in enough business?

It’s happening all over the place—not at every single firm, but frequently enough to sound an alarm. These are good firms, too, run by partners smart enough to invest in the future. They did everything right: recruited young talent, developed new training platforms, even hired consultants to develop new compensation and incentive plans. For the most part, their efforts paid off. These young advisors have the technical side down cold, and they know how to deliver impeccable service. The only problem is, they just aren’t generating leads.

The owners constantly complain to me, “They’re not rainmakers. They’re not building a network.”

I started asking senior partners how they built their own networks, back in the day. The answer was almost always: “I picked up the phone and called people.”

And that’s exactly what they now expect Millennial advisors to do. Call 100 of their family and friends, and sell them on the firm.

Hang on a minute.

Millennials? Making phone calls? To other Millennials? Seriously?

Are Firms Hiring People They Can’t Communicate With?

Let’s be clear. Millennials don’t like making—or receiving—phone calls. Period. Phone calls are a dying art, fast going the way of telegraphs, faxes and carrier pigeons. Harvard Business Review is actually urging businesses to dump their voicemail systems to cut costs, and major corporations like JPMorgan and Coca-Cola are actually following that advice. Phone usage is declining across the workforce, but the change is being driven by Millennials, who vastly prefer texting to telephones.

Why are Millennials so reluctant to pick up the phone? Partly it’s because they have an idea—and, I admit, it sounds odd to older generations—that phone calls are inherently rude and intrusive. They feel that if you want to talk to somebody, you should text first. But the real reason is that Millennials are less comfortable with in-person interactions. They avoid difficult conversations. They have trouble reading emotions through tone, facial expression and body language. A lot of them aren’t great at small talk. All of which are pretty important skills for telephone sales.

So if you want Millennials to sell your offering, you’ll have to find a medium other than telephones to do it. That’s a change you’re going to have to implement right now, not in some far-off future.

When I say this to firm owners, the first thing I hear is, “Fine, but I don’t want that kind of Millennial. I want the exceptions, the rock stars, the ones with great social skills.”

Of course you do. So does everyone else. You’re in financial services. Do you understand supply and demand? There are only so many exceptions to any given rule.

More importantly, there’s nothing wrong with today’s young Millennial advisors. They aren’t deficient. They’re just different. Young advisors are smart, capable professionals, but they have different DNA than people did 10 or 20 years ago. And like it or not, you’re going to have to work with it.

If you want your Millennial advisors to be rainmakers, you’ll have to invest in growing their rainmaking capabilities. That means expanding their training beyond products and processes to including marketing and building a book of business. It means developing leads you can funnel to them, rather than expecting them to randomly cold-call acquaintances who won’t answer their phones anyway. And it means giving young talent the tools they need to communicate their own way, including content they can like and share with their friends.

Millennials Are Just the Leading Edge of Bigger Changes

“Wait a minute,” you’re probably thinking. “This post started off talking about Millennials who aren’t pulling their weight…and now you’re trying to tell me I have to change?”

Yes, I am. Sorry. You have to change the way you do business. And I am not talking about a few incremental improvements here and there, either. At this point, you have to make a revolutionary change in the way you communicate. Because all these firm owners I’ve been talking to are correct. Millennial advisors aren’t bringing in enough new money to offset all the headwinds hitting the industry—like senior advisors retiring, Boomers spending down their assets, and heirs and widows getting rid of Dad’s advisor. If you want your business to be sustainable, you have to make much better use of young talent.

What’s more, Millennials aren’t even the whole story anymore. They represent the cutting edge of change, but now every part of society is adopting new ways to communicate. Advisors have simply not been keeping up. If firm owners are worried now, just wait.