Multi-Talented Securities and Financial Sales Workers Still in Demand The Buzz


Some areas of securities and financial sales are shrinking. Technology and a tough economy are the main culprits. But there's a strong demand for financial workers who combine money skills with people skills.

More than ever, the field of financial services is about relationships. Clients want to trust their financial advisors. They want to know their interests are understood, considered and protected.

The single largest group of financial services clients is baby boomers who are increasingly looking at retirement and end-of-life issues. They need professional guidance. This need is driving the demand for securities and financial sales workers, and will continue to do so for many years to come.

But experts caution that the field goes in cycles. Jobs that open up today may disappear tomorrow. Financial workers who don't just process transactions, but also build strong relationships and offer solid advice, will have the most career stability.

"From the U.S. standpoint, there are roughly 300 million Americans. And out of that, there are roughly 38 million parents of baby boomers, roughly 75 million baby boomers and roughly 80 million Millennials. So the population of potential investors is huge," says Phill Leathers. He's a partner with Edward Jones, a financial advising firm. He's responsible for financial advisor recruiting for the firm.

"Out of that 300 million, roughly 200 million are just right there at that needs stage of life. And there are roughly 150,000 advisors that serve individual investors in the United States. So we don't even begin to scratch the surface for the demand that's out there," he adds.

Noreen Mejias-Bennett is a wealth advisor with 30 years of experience. She says baby boomers are facing many questions as they get older.

"My conversations with my clients help them clarify their opportunities, concerns and goals in major life areas such as lifestyle, home, work, family, health and vision for the future.

"Clients are really clamoring for somebody that will help them through this transition in life that they're going through," she says.

More than ever, Mejias-Bennett says clients want a "holistic approach" when it comes to financial advice. This means having an advisor who doesn't only look at retirement planning, tax planning, legacy planning, insurance and so on.

"I have access to and work with support resources in my professional 'team of experts,' such as the financial planner, insurance specialist, lawyer, tax accountant, etc. to examine possible solutions based on my clients' circumstances," she says.

"You're being now almost the 'cog in the wheel' to pull everything together for the client," she adds.

"The client may, in fact, be hiring you on as part of his or her 'board of directors' in the sense that they want to get on with life and yet want somebody that can pull it all together for them. This is an ongoing process, through the ages and stages of their life, and I undertake to be their coach, their guide or catalyst every step of the way.

"They want to be able to trust and to engage with individuals who really are authentic, not just reading from a script and not just going through an automated checklist," she adds.

It's not just clients who are aging. Financial service and securities workers are, too. The industry needs young blood.

"Our clients need more people," says Leathers. "Our industry is aging. We need to add more youth into our industry.

"Our industry has not been growing to keep up with the demand. So the opportunity is so incredible for someone to come into this industry and build a practice for themselves."

The Internet allows people to do their own financial research. They can look at companies' financial reports. They can check the historical performance of stocks, bonds and mutual funds. And they can use online brokerages to buy and sell.

This means brokers who simply do "purely transactional" activities like buying and selling stocks aren't needed as much as in the past, says Steven Mann. He's a professor of finance with the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina.

"Technology can take the brunt of that [work], and those kinds of jobs are in danger," he says.

Mann describes the current state of the financial industry as "a tale of two cities." In other words, as a modern-day Dickens might say, it's the best of times and the worst of times.

For financial service workers, the "good" city is full of financial planners helping aging baby boomers with their finances. "We've got a large demographic of baby boomers starting to retire," says Mann.

"They have not saved enough or invested enough to have the kind of retirement they think they're going to have, so they're getting focused on that now as they see that the leading edge [of retirees] is having a little trouble.

"We'll have a lot of retired people and people retiring, and they've got under-funded pension plans," he adds. "We've got health-care costs rising and people are living longer, so people are going to have to worry about long-term care insurance, and we're going to need financial planners to help us out on all that stuff."

At the same time, technology is shrinking some sectors of the financial workforce.

"We've got too many brokers and the people that do purely transactional things that don't require enormous amounts of brain power -- no offense to brokers," says Mann. "That's going to be largely taken over by computer."

But even as many jobs are replaced by computers, those workers who offer personalized service will be in demand. This is why, perhaps surprisingly, Leathers says the Internet has not changed much for his firm's financial advisors.

"We're face to face -- we work with clients one on one to develop deep relationships," he says.

"We still believe that our clients want to hear from us personally and not just receive an e-mail with an attachment to it," he adds. "That could be a part of the communication, and it certainly helps with providing supporting information, but it's not a primary method of communicating with our clients."

Despite job losses in some areas, it seems those with a knack for numbers and a passion for people will find opportunity in the financial industry.

Links

The Wall Street Journal
North America's top business publication

Registered Financial Planners Institute
An organization promoting professionalism and education in financial planning

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
An agency regulating securities sales firms, investment advisors and investment companies

CNBC
This site offers investment news, world market news and stock quotes