Hannah Moore, CFP®, sat down with three up-and-coming planners who are growing their careers in different ways. Christopher Stroup, MBA, is a career changer who went from oilfield engineering to wealth advising at Abacus Wealth Partners. Kurtis Rohlf found financial planning after piloting several service industry start-ups, and Riley Saunders, CFP®, crafted his own role as an internal processes expert at Cassaday and Company. These three share how they explored new opportunities and leveraged their strengths to forge a career just for them.

How can NexGen planners take control of their career?

As a NexGen planner, it's your responsibility to manage your path in the profession. That means figuring out where you want to go within the profession and making sure that you get the experience and mentoring you need to get there. Of course, no one’s path is exactly the same as the next person’s.

For Christopher Stroup, entering the profession as a career changer made him especially focused on making the most of opportunities that came his way. Knowing that he was starting “from the bottom,” he wanted to build momentum quickly, and his MBA training taught him that he would need a clear vision to get there. 

He developed what he calls Christopher’s Career Construct. He says, “I built this to lay the groundwork for where I wanted to be in the next five to ten years as an advisor and to serve as my North Star to get me there.” The construct covers five elements:

  • Who do I serve?
  • What competencies do I need to have?
  • What other professionals do I need to have in my network?
  • How do I market my vision?
  • What is my planning playbook?

After working through the process, Christopher found that sharing his vision was the most important step. He says the first person he reached out to was the chief marketing officer at his firm, Abacus. Not only was she able to give him objective feedback, especially around the marketing and outreach piece, but she immediately became an advocate and “put some wind in his sales.” Before Chris knew it, his ideas were shared with the president and CEO, and soon the whole leadership team knew about his mission.

His advice to new advisors is to think about what matters to you and speak up. “I think it's important to realize that you are your biggest advocate at the end of the day,” Christopher says. “So when you're trying to take ownership of your career, it is in your best interest to have those conversations and tell people what you want and where you want to go. That's going to accelerate your growth and your progression as an advisor.”

How can firms best support young planners?

Christopher says the culture at Abacus was a deciding factor when he was looking for a firm. He told Hannah, “I saw the LGBTQ team page on their website and saw the beautiful faces of all the advisors at Abacus who identify as LGBTQ. My jaw hit the floor. I thought to myself, ‘Oh my god, I see myself on this page. I want to be on that page.’” He says that it felt like the company would value him as a human being and celebrate him for who he is.

Riley Saunders, also sharing his thoughts on finding your path, agrees that NexGen planners need to find a company whose values align with their own. He started out at a national tax firm, but was dismayed with the culture that let team members get severely overworked during busy seasons and never addressed the revolving door. When he moved to the small, entrepreneurial team at Cassaday and Company, he was excited to find that employees were valued and empowered.

“From day one at Cassaday,” Riley says, “I was told about this idea of radical inclusion, that nobody was too small to present big, scary ideas to the firm. I absolutely love that inclusion. I was able to come in and actually present ideas about software that we should be using, and the firm actually listened and adopted some of my suggestions.”

For Kurtis Rohlf, experiences at several different firms taught him to look for a growth mindset within the company. He says, “You've got firms that have a rock solid plan for how long it's going to take you to get from the bottom to lead planner, but it's like 15 years. Then you have firms that are kind of at capacity, and they haven't figured out how to continue growing. So you top out at whatever position you're in.” 

Kurtis made his latest move because he felt like his ambition to learn and grow was valued.

“They're allowing me to take a smaller role initially,” Kurtis says, “to dedicate time to studying for my CFP®. And then after that point, they've set up bonus opportunities and future income growth.” He was also encouraged when he saw that the company was poised to grow in a scalable manner. He recognized their efforts to build their team out to continue to serve more people, and also see this as an opportunity for his own growth.

Best advice for new planners

Kurtis started out like many of us, getting inspired by podcasts like Kitces’ Financial Advisor Success and XYPN Radio. Listening to all those success stories, he caught the fever for starting his own firm.

But the realities of actually working with clients sobered his expectations. “It’s been humbling,” he says, “to realize that I do need to put in my ‘boots on the ground’ time. I need to take the years to really understand everything that goes on at a firm and to move to that next step of caring for clients. Because all the background work, the paperwork, the compliance, all of that stuff is just as important as the planning work that you do.”

His advice to other planners? Have the tough conversations. “I've learned that with your firm, you have to be honest about what you need and what you want. Either they’re going to hear you and really support your plan and your vision, or they're not.”

Riley says his best career advice came from his brother-in-law. He says, “When I was in college, looking for jobs, he told me to be a sponge, to just try to absorb as much information as you possibly can and learn as much as possible. I think layering that on top of that, I would add to go above and beyond what you're being told or asked to do.”

Kurtis echoes the importance of being open to new challenges, sharing his favourite quote, which was attributed to Philip Palaveev: “When opportunity knocks, do you answer the door, or complain about the noise?”

What You’ll Learn:

  • How 3 NexGen planners have carved out their career path
  • The importance of accepting and exploring opportunities
  • What to look for in a firm that will support your ambitions
  • What the three panelists want you to know about building your ideal career

In this episode of YAFPNW, Hannah Moore, CFP®, Christopher Stroup, MBA, Kurtis Rohlfe, and Riley Saunders, CFP®, talked about:

Interested in following the roundtable guests?