DWN Round Table: Tech Drives Growth, Influences Decision Process for Advisor Recruitment

Advisor Group reaches 93% of 2021 recruited AUA in five months thanks to data-driven processes; Stratos focuses on proving tech to “future-proof” advisors’ businesses


The recent bear market has yet to impact the seeming record-pace of advisor recruitment across the wealth management space. Especially as advisors and firms find their post-pandemic footing, technology has played a more significant role in this process over the past year, according to the experts we spoke with for the latest Digital Wealth News roundtable.

Firms of all sizes are doubling down on their investments and integrations of a wide range of technology to get the upper hand in the hyper-competitive recruitment market. Everything from advisor targeting and identification to providing better suites of tools, technology’s role is increasing as firms woo advisors and aim to keep them happy for the long term.

We asked three experts to describe the impact of technology on their first six months of recruitment and retention and what key trends they believe will impact this space in the second half of the year.

Kristen Kimmell of Advisor Group explains how in little less than a year on the job, she has implemented several new programs and tools to streamline the recruitment process, with impressive results. Brian Bunker, who oversees practice management for Stratos Wealth Partners, discusses how firms should consider their approach to technology investments to enhance recruitment and retention. Finally, we spoke with Jeff Nash, CEO of BridgeMark Strategies, an independent consultancy for independent financial advisors and firms seeking strategic planning, execution and advice in transitions, on the evolving impact of technology in the wake of the pandemic.  

Kristen Kimmell, Executive Vice President, Business Development at Advisor Group

During the first half of the year, Advisor Group implemented and integrated Salesforce with our internal technologies that support our recruitment efforts. We also piloted a new express onboarding platform that has significantly impacted the financial professionals in this program. Implementing these tools across our recruiting team allowed us to be more agile, flexible and data-focused in our efforts – which we believe contributed significantly to our success.

Collectively these technology enhancements have helped us reach our goals much faster. In just five months of 2022, we’ve recruited 93% of the total AUA we brought in 2021.

Looking forward, we see similar trends in recruitment as we do in the rest of the industry. In short, technology needs to meet clients’ evolving expectations around experience and ease of use. Technology that is easily accessible from mobile devices, includes a sophisticated user interface and doesn’t require multiple data inputs is the future for recruiting and retention.

Specifically, Advisor Group will expand the use of our express onboarding platform, and our digital team is building a fully integrated experience that will start with onboarding and carry advisors through their entire journey with Advisor Group.

Brian Bunker, Senior Director, Head of Practice Management & Consulting, Stratos Wealth Partners

Over the past several months, we’ve experienced a dramatic uptick in the frequency of technology-related conversations during the recruiting process. Through these discussions, we’ve discovered that while advisors understand the critical nature of these new tools, most are ill-equipped to act as a Chief Technology Officer for their firm.

We solve this by providing the highest level of insight and guidance from the enterprise level. We invest heavily in technology to allow advisors to off-load these functions to our IT group and tech strategists, freeing up capacity at the practice level to focus on tending to client needs and growth initiatives. This value proposition has been exceptionally well received based on our growth metrics of new advisors, advisor retention, and year-over-year AUM growth.

Advisors will be serving a more sophisticated client base and will be required to deliver a more customized and scalable experience.

Continued success for firms will be predicated on the ability to demonstrate expertise and sound guidance as a partner in this mission, specifically in how firms help advisors develop the optimal tech stack for today’s business, what tools and solutions will be needed to future proof this business and how best to integrate, and perhaps most importantly, support the adoption of these tools across an advisor’s practice.

Jeff Nash, Co-Founder and CEO of BridgeMark Strategies

I believe the first six months of 2022 represented what many might call the “new normal.” We have learned much more about the risks of living with COVID-19, and we’ve become entirely accustomed to navigating remote work with the occasional pet or kid interruptions.

Our comfort with this newfound status quo has translated into the advisor recruitment space. We have seen an explosion in early-stage conversation and negotiations on video conferences and even over email. In the past, it would have been unheard of not to have these interactions occur face-to-face.

As Covid restrictions relax, we find recruiting seems to have achieved an equilibrium where some people have become very comfortable with joining a new firm without the time-consuming travel and face-to-face interactions of visiting a potential firm’s home office.  Additionally, with remote work environments, and multiple home office locations, visiting a home office itself may end up being a series of video calls.  

Looking forward, we see these trends continuing, and firms that invest in data-driven outreach, streamlined tech offerings that enable this kind of work environment for advisors and relationship development strategies that embrace this new approach will win out in the hyper-competitive market. These changes will become more important if the current bear market pushes the broader economy into recession.