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Mentors: Be approachable with colleagues as much as clients

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Demographic shifts are creating the perfect storm in the advisory business: more financial planners are leaving the industry just as technological and regulatory changes are creating a need for a flexible, highly-skilled and diverse workforce. That’s created an opportunity for long-time professionals and those entering the industry more recently to form mentoring relationships with one another.

There’s a hunger for learning, no matter what age you are.

Recognizing an opportunity, Elizabeth Anderson, with 32 years' industry experience, actively sought to foster mentor-protégé relationships when she launched her ultra-high net worth advising firm, Beekman Wealth Advisory, in 2003. At the Women Advisers Forum, she says she’d never had a mentor, but “wanted to be the person that I wish I had in my own life,” particularly as a woman. She found the ideal mentee when she hired Lauren Archer, a former Goldman Sachs employee with 14 years of industry experience, nearly two years ago.

Anderson says it’s just as important to be approachable with colleagues as it is with clients. Team meetings at Beekman start with discussions about members’ outside lives before transitioning to client discussions. “There’s a lot of openness,” she says.

The small firm environment helps to foster that relationship, adds Archer. “There’s a big misconception that mentoring doesn’t go on in small firms.” When she was looking for a mentor, her criteria included career longevity. “I wanted someone who had been doing this for a good 20 years,” but she recognizes that everyone has different characteristics they’re looking for and different preferences for a formal or informal mentoring experience.

Just as good mentors have certain attributes, so do strong mentees. “Be proactive,” says Archer, when searching for a mentor. It’s important to know what you’re looking for and to be intentional. When she was at Goldman she wanted to find someone who could help her navigate the firm, she says, but as she started raising a family she was drawn to mentors with different qualities. Archer says that looking for a sounding board outside one’s own firm can be helpful, too. “It only broadens your network.”

Mentoring is a great way to educate employees who are new to the firm, regardless of age or experience, says Anderson. “There’s a hunger for learning, no matter what age you are.” It can also create strong bonds in the workplace, which ultimately result in better client service, says Anderson. Many of Beekman’s clients are families, which respond well to the inclusive company culture. “Our clients are very much drawn to the people we are,” says Anderson.

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