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Could engineers be the answer to the RIA talent shortage?

More advisors come from outside the industry, with a premium on high tech capabilities and connections.

Author Kelly O'Mara October 15, 2012 at 2:59 AM
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Sean Hanlon: Wall Street has become the tech business whose product is money management.


Jamie McLaughlin

Jamie McLaughlin

October 15, 2012 — 7:12 PM

Every firm has the same so-called “talent” issues; they don’t have enough skilled senior client-facing talent, arguably the principal determinant of the client experience and the underlying driver of a firm’s enterprise value. I’m convinced the only way they can find these elusive people is to breed or grow them but I’m not persuaded engineers, as a class, are the prescription.

Too often, firms react to whatever the market presents to them; they cannibalize their neighbor’s talent or have a passive response to whatever the market bubbles up, largely products of a higher education system focused on the theoretical. That is, individuals largely focused on degrees or vocational paths heavily tilted to finance and the capital markets where mathematics, analysis, and empiricism is predominant; not the study of the human dimension. Engineering, as a field of study, would be more of the same.

Without oversimplifying the challenge, most financial firms are populated by “left-brained” rational, logical, analytical types and, rarely, by “right-brained” “feelers” or intuitive types who possess empathy and to whom others are comfortable revealing themselves.

Ultimately, there is no substitute for applied training where the advisor learns to recognize complexity, can identify and unfurl issues that are often unstated, and can facilitate an integrated dialogue across various needs and solutions; no small task.

Brooke Southall

Brooke Southall

October 15, 2012 — 9:09 PM


Good, well-expressed thoughts, thank you. When I read Kelly’s article, I wondered if there was another explanation for why engineers might be a sleeper body of professionals for financial advice. In my previous career as a business broker, a disproportionate number of the buyers were engineers. I’d ask them why they wanted to buy a restaurant or dry cleaner considering their vast knowledge as engineers. They’d say that in their family becoming an engineer happened as if by default and that they were figuring out who they were as they became economically independent. So I wonder if there aren’t engineers who are people people foremost who are becoming financial advisors under a similar scenario?


Jamie McLaughlin

Jamie McLaughlin

October 15, 2012 — 9:19 PM

There are many engineers who possess the “right stuff” (no pun intended), I’m sure. There’s a rich body of work that’s been done on this topic; broadly, industrial psychology. An important contribution, specifically related to financial advisors, has been made by my friend, James Grubman, Ph.D., at Family Wealth Consulting www.jamesgrubman.com.

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