The Honest Truth of Why I Quit My Job as a Financial Planning Associate
I sat fidgeting in my uncomfortable chair that was placed outside my boss’s office, my heart beating out of my chest. I was rehearsing in my head what I was going to say and trying to muster up the courage to say it. Eventually, after what seemed like eons, I was asked to come in.
I walked into his office and sat down to tell my boss that I was quitting my job. I wasn’t leaving for another opportunity as a financial planning associate, I was leaving his financial advisory firm to re-evaluate my career. I felt out of touch with my work. I felt as though it wasn’t a place where I could hone my personal strengths and larger role. I was drowning in endless tasks and projects that never seemed to tie together.
Like any time you make a big leap, I wasn’t sure I was making the right decision. My boss did not hide the fact that he didn’t think so either. He was confused as to why I would leave the “comfort and security” as a financial planning associate without having another opportunity lined up.
I felt like I let him down. I wasn’t leaving a large corporate office with hundreds of employees, I was leaving his financial advisory practice. A place he was proud of, that he had built, and where he saw himself building a legacy.
A year has passed since I quit. What I quickly came to realize since then was that my situation wasn’t unique. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, voluntary turnover in financial services reached a decade’s high of nearly 20% by the end of 2021.
While many factors play a role in the large turnover rate, looking deeper into the data isolates one disruptor - millennials. Another study by LinkedIn revealed that analysts and associates who left their positions in 2015 on average held them for only 17 months. It is clear that the new-age workforce is causing a major increase in turnover in the financial services industry. So what exactly does this mean for financial advisors and how can you protect your firm from this costly scenario?
You’ve come to the right place. I’m a millennial and I’m sharing my completely transparent and honest list of reasons why I quit my job as a financial planning associate.
Lack of Visibility
I walked into the office one morning and saw my colleague left a giant pile of files on my desk with a dark gray sticky note asking, “Do you have time for this? I need it by this afternoon, latest!”
I did not have time for it.
I had five pending accounts to open, client meetings to prepare for, and trades to execute before cut-off. I went back to my colleague and asked if she could elaborate on the urgency of the task. She was not impressed and instead viewed this as questioning the importance of her work.
Soon after, my boss took me aside and asked if I could write down everything I had on my plate so he could gain a better understanding of how my day looked and why I was not able to immediately complete the request from my colleague.
At first I felt frustrated with my colleague for going to my boss. Upon reflection, I realized that she had no visibility into what my day actually looked like and neither did my boss. All they saw were the meetings on my calendar, not the “shadow work” piling up or the meeting preps that needed to be done.
The lack of visibility made effective delegation and proper workload management impossible. Without any tools or software that provided clarity into each other’s work, team members were buried in a mountain of ungrouped tasks and were not able to focus on their strengths.
Scarcity of Opportunities to Make Impact
As an advisor, do you dread assigning tasks that you simply don’t have time to explain? If so, it’s not because your team is incapable of understanding the task and completing it correctly. You simply don’t have the right processes and documentation to allow your team to succeed.
In my firm, my colleagues and I lacked insight into what needed to be done from a strategic, forward-looking vantage point. We were constantly being delegated one-off tasks without context of how we impacted the business, or client, and we felt a lack of ownership over our roles. Without a clear picture of the practice, it was difficult for us to provide insight on improvements to the business or client experience.
I once suggested an improvement to our marketing strategy upon realizing that our current approach was outdated. This was immediately rejected not because it was a bad idea, but because my boss was resistant to change.
When he turned down a solution that I believed would make a real impact on the firm’s growth, I questioned my role in the firm. Millennials don’t just want to press buttons all day. We want to make an impact where we work and will be quick to leave if we feel that our suggestions for improvement are not welcome.
Shortage of Employee Engagement & Collaboration
Employee engagement impacts a company’s bottom line and comes down to organizational culture. While I always appreciated my coworkers singing to me on my birthday, creating a great workplace with high employee engagement takes more planning. It requires a strategic approach using a set of metrics that can be tracked, measured, and addressed.
I was six months into my new role when my semi-annual performance review was due. It was an important day for me. It gave me the opportunity to gain timely feedback regarding my performance as a financial planning associate and receive the coaching tips I desired. Literally minutes before the meeting though, my boss called me asking to postpone the review by an additional three months.
As the months passed, concern for my work experience fell through the cracks. My boss was busy with client work, and was simply unaware of the potential problems that could arise from a lack of organizational culture. I was not receiving the consistent feedback necessary in identifying my individual contribution to the firm.
The best way forward is to develop a system that fosters productive conversations and nurtures the relationships made in the workplace. There are digital platforms in the market that give managers the set of tools necessary to properly track and enhance core metrics, such as engagement, team alignment, and leadership.
(Bad) Technology Fatigue
Technology was built to help humans become more efficient and productive, but the wrong (or outdated) technology can have the opposite effect. This is especially true when your tech stack is not working to your advantage. At my firm, technology audits were rarely (if ever) conducted and our tech stack was not built to help make the support and back office staff happier and more productive.
I found myself working with dozens of different softwares that simply did not work well together, leaving me feeling overwhelmed and burnt out. Having 50 tabs open while simultaneously needing to allocate more time searching for client information became my norm. All I wanted was a tool that served as my single source of truth and prioritized my work so that I could start each day with clarity.
While I was originally drawn to financial services because of the role financial planning and investments play in people's lives, the lack of employee engagement, visibility, impact, and modern technology within my role quickly diminished the excitement I once had.
Being a financial advisor is a hard job; you need to manage a team and an entire business. Having the right processes, team structure, and technology in place plays a vital role in your ability to grow a successful team who feel empowered to make an impact and help drive growth. “A company is only as good as the people it keeps”–so make sure you keep them.
Want to be a Better Boss?
Watch this enlightening fireside chat with Linda Leitz, PhD, CFP®, EA and Dani Parris-Exline, AFC® for insights into how to create a successful financial advisory firm by being the best boss you can be. This candid conversation dives into Linda and Dani's workflow woes and how they have instilled best practices and technology in the back office to overcome their “what if we get hit by a beer truck?” fear.