Virtual Assistants for Financial Advisors to Address Talent Shortage

Updated: 24 Mar, 2022 | Bill Peatman

There have been many reports about the shortage of financial advisors. More than 40 percent will retire in the next 10 years—accelerating a trend that began in 2019.

“There are not enough people coming into this industry, and this is not a geographic problem—it is industrywide,” said Timothy Admire, president, CEO, and managing partner at Willow Creek Wealth Management in California, at a Schwab Advisor Services event.

Meanwhile, most advisors spend an average of 22.1 hours per week on administrative and back-office tasks, according to the Kitces Report. Where does the time go?

  • Scheduling meetings. Message ping-pong to find times to meet.
  • Email and inbox management. A black hole that renews itself every day.
  • Meeting prep. Preparing documents and reports for client meetings.
  • Research—monitoring markets, portfolios, and news.
  • Prospecting. Researching and finding qualified leads, building lists, and email outreach.
  • Lead follow-up. A lack of a formal process for following up with leads.
  • Manual workflows. Onboarding new clients and client communication.

Advisors with Admin Support Earn 2x

Kitces' research found that advisors with administrative support earn twice as much. It makes sense—22 hours represent about half the workweek. If you can give advisors 2x more time per week to spend on client-facing activities, they can bring in 2x more revenue. And if you cannot find new advisors, giving your existing ones more time can enable you to grow with your current team.

Administrative Support is Hard to Find

But support is hard to find. Last year, the Wall Street Journal wrote about "The Vanishing Executive Assistant." Labor Department statistics show that the U.S. has shed 2.1 million administrative assistant jobs since 2000, a gradual and massive decline. And job site Lensa found that administrative assistants are among the most challenging positions to fill.

There is also the overall U.S. talent shortage that is making it difficult to hire at all levels. “Nearly 7 in 10 companies have reported talent shortages and difficulty hiring – a 15-year high,” Manpower Group said.

The shortage of executive assistants is particularly challenging for firms with larger teams that want to scale up support. According to LinkedIn, it takes 33 days (about 1 month) to hire an administrative assistant. Stretch that time out for multiple executives, and you have a daunting challenge.

Enter Managed Executive Admin Services for Teams

Companies realizing administrative work is constraining growth can outsource the work to experts—managed remote (virtual) assistant services. In a managed virtual assistant service, the service provider hires, trains, and supervises assistants—the assistants work for the service provider. Executive teams get a professional administrative layer of support without the time and cost of onboarding and managing more people. Firms can:

  • Hire faster—service providers maintain a bench of qualified, trained assistants.
  • Scale more quickly—it is far easier to hire multiple assistants to form a cohort.
  • Reduce overhead—the assistants are service provider employees, with no HR or performance management lift for businesses.
  • Lower costs—assistants are engaged on a fractional basis, and you pay for hours used.
  • Eliminate turnover—the service provider trains backup assistants to step in if someone leaves.

Most virtual assistant providers source employees from offshore markets where talent is plentiful but meaningful work is hard to find. Most are college-educated and eager to work with U.S. businesses and executives.

What Can Managed Virtual Assistants do for Financial Advisors?

Virtual assistants can perform many tasks that slow down advisors' productivity. The beauty of a managed service is that this work happens in the background while advisors focus on growing the practice. Managed virtual assistant providers train assistants to do the following functions.

  • Schedule meetings—it takes 20 minutes to schedule a business meeting. Multiply those minutes across your client base, and that adds up to a lot of time. Virtual assistants can book and confirm appointments to prevent no-shows.
  • Inbox triage—email eats up about three hours a day for most professionals. As an assistant learns your business and contacts, they can be your gatekeeper.
  • Document prep—It takes 15 hours to prepare a financial plan, the Kitces Report said. Virtual assistants can format templated documents like plans, reports, and reviews.
  • Contact management—500 business addresses change every hour. Assistants can keep all your firms' contacts organized in a single system, so you never struggle to find someone's information, and it is always up to date.
  • Prospecting—advisors should spend four hours a week prospecting, according to Advisorpedia. Virtual assistants can search contact databases based on your ideal client, build lists, and launch email campaigns.
  • Lead follow-up—more than 80 percent of people buy from the first business to respond to an inquiry, but most teams take five days. Assistants can make sure you get there first.
  • Build and manage workflows—the Kitces Report found that advisors spent 32 hours onboarding clients in the first year. Much of that involves organization and scheduling tasks that assistants can handle.

Tom Kitces uses virtual assistants for multiple tasks. “As advisors, we have lots of opportunities to leverage virtual assistants and help in the business,” he said. “It can be anything from outsourcing operational tasks, such as downloads and reconciliation of your portfolio accounting software or preparing reports. Other tasks could include handling client agreements, making sure meetings are getting scheduled, and that follow-up is happening when it is supposed to.”

What Virtual Assistants Cannot Do

A virtual assistant can perform any repetitive business process that does not require a license. They cannot speak for you. And it is harder to delegate tasks that require professional or subjective judgment, like graphic design or content creation. For example, an assistant can format a brochure or sales sheet but not write it or design it.

The Managed Service Advantage

The managed service model works well for financial advisories because the service provider has the experience and expertise to train, onboard, and supervise the assistants. A side effect of the executive assistant shortage is that few companies have the resources and know-how to oversee assistants’ work, coach, and mentor them, and offer a career path for long-term engagement. The service provider also works with you to ensure security and compliance requirements.

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About the Author: Bill is Prialto's senior content marketing manager and writes about the future of work and how businesses can be more productive and successful. His work has appeared in the World Economic Forum Agenda blog and CIO magazine.

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