A recent Schwab survey of planning students at Texas Tech found that the lure of client relationship management and working in-person with clients remains high for those entering the industry, with nearly half of students citing the latter as a priority.

Schwab spoke with 102 students and held a roundtable last week with three select students to discuss some of the topics they feel are most important to the future of the profession.

“I don’t think that technology can replace the face-to-face contact. It’s an accompaniment,” Alesha Isaacs, one of the survey respondents and a senior in financial planning, said during the discussion.

“I think that body language [and] emotion tell a lot about a person,” added graduate student April Peterson.

“The Internet acts as a barrier,” junior Fount Freeman said. “A lot of people are very impersonal over the Internet.”

Focus on client relationships

More than two-thirds of respondents said they are interested in client relationship management more than other planning roles, such as investment management, according to Schwab.

That emphasis surprised the survey administrators from Schwab, who said they anticipated more students would cite remote planning as a stronger priority.

“That’s one of the things I thought we knew,” Bernie Clark, Schwab’s head of advisor services, confessed to the students during the discussion. “But maybe you are headed in another direction.”

A related result: Only 40% of students said they needed a “strong ability” to understand financial markets, investment strategies and complex data. A larger group (56%) of respondents said they only needed “some ability” to understand markets and investing. Whether they end up working as independents or with large corporations, most students believe they can farm out investment research to other experts.

Compensation surprise

There was another surprise regarding compensation: Only 5% of the students surveyed rated financial remuneration as their top priority. And 64% cited work-life balance among their top three priorities — a value strongly shared by all three students in the discussion.

“Our generation really wants [to work] 40 hours a week, not 65 hours a week,” Freeman said. “It’s not that we are lazy or anything; we just want to enjoy our lives and be healthy. We are definitely willing to accept less of a pay scale [in return].”

“I think,” Isaacs said, “that being a well-rounded individual with healthy activities outside of your job helps you connect better with your clients. ... I think having the time to go experience these things is important.”

Clark added, “I think I’m hearing ... an undercurrent of control, of choosing your destiny.”

Planner priorities

Other survey findings include the following:

  • Students ranked strong communication (95%) and relationship-building skills (92%) as “very important,” more often than technical knowledge about financial markets and investments (62%) or the ability to use technology (60%).
  • 60% said they were interested in business development roles.
  • Developing and selling products was the least interesting role of a planner, for 28% of respondents.
  • 68% of students ranked self-motivation as “very important.”
  • Students believe their strongest abilities are in relationship building (70%) and problem solving (68%).
  • Nearly 80% of respondents said they use Facebook, compared with 54% for LinkedIn and less than half for Twitter (58% of undergraduates and 31% of Ph.D. candidates).
  • Nearly two-thirds (63%) cite “doing work that matters [and] helping others achieve goals” as one of their top three priorities.
  • 73% said they value independence in their careers and work lives.
  • 50% said they would value a strong training program.
  • 43% said they thrive when they are given a specific objective to achieve; others (36%) said they like to set their own goals.

Ann Marsh writes for Financial Planning, a SourceMedia publication.

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