NEW YORK -- Convincing young people to join the financial advisor profession is hard, but getting them to succeed once they're in may be an even greater challenge.

"It's no secret that it's a really hard career to make it in this business," Kimberly Thekan, director of advisor talent strategies at Baird, said at SIFMA's Next Generation FAs Seminar.

That's the challenge facing most mentors in wealth management. To help new advisors succeed, firms are increasingly turning to mentorship programs – but not just for trainees. Firms are also coaching the mentors. The first step in the process is to identify the right candidates for serving as mentors, says Matthew Sebenoler, head of new advisor strategy at Wells Fargo Advisors.

He says his firm enforces strict standards in its approach. "It's an extensive process. It's got a 5-page questionnaire [and] an hour-long interview for the senior advisor to demonstrate that they are the appropriate person," Sebenoler says.

The firm's apprenticeship program also offers a performance coach to help senior advisors bring along young advisors.

Once paired, both senior advisor and trainee make a home office visit where they sign off on their roles and responsibilities. "No one can say that they weren't told what the responsibilities were," Sebenoler says.

These efforts in improving mentorship are critical to empower mentors to help young advisors succeed, executives say.

"We can develop the greatest training program in the world, but it's [still] a classroom, not the real world," said Matt Ransom, head of New FA Development at Raymond James, which also provides help to mentors.

He says his firm has classes with about 40 trainees, and that they try to match them all with mentors. "We want them all paired with a mentor so that they can take the conceptual part [of what they learn] and see how to make it practical," he says.

Providing this support for early career candidates also can help with recruiting, executives say. Ransom adds that the industry should fundamentally appeal to college students.

"Think of what the Millennial wants," he says. "They want a career life balance and a rewarding career. I can't think of any better place to do that."

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