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Now their have been some notable new initiatives at the brokerages to restart their training programs and move into the 21st Century. They probably don't want to resemble a Dickensian workhouse forever. Merrill Lynch is doing some interesting things with their Edge program, for example. The trouble is, each time the economy hits a rough patch, the first thing scrapped is the training program. These firms used to be legendary for the amount of talent that had passed through their programs, now they are a line item that gets chopped at the first sign of profit decline. Will the next time be different?
And for the young man or woman who does manage - against all odds - to become an actual advisor and be added to a team, the job that awaits them involves blocking-and-tackling for a senior advisor who has one foot on the golf course. There is the waiting game for more responsibility to be handed down as well as the familiarization process with the multi-level marketing scheme that the industry has become. There is a lifetime ban from social media and a regulatory regime under which creativity is frowned upon and innovation equals risk in the eyes of the complacent corner office managers. And if one is extremely fortunate and can make all the cuts as annual gross commission minimums go ever higher and the herd of non-senior advisors is culled each season, one can certainly make a great living and ultimately reach a position of security and stability.
But at what cost? What happens to the heart and soul of the energetic young kid who goes through that process? What compromises are made along the way and what awful truths about human nature and the priorities of the firm are accidentally revealed?
The tradition of mentorship at Wall Street brokerage firms has been displaced by a vampiric rite of passage where the juniors who don't make it pay for the cost of the one or two who do. In the meantime, the big books get bigger and the future for these firms gets dimmer.
Can anything or anyone break this predatory cycle or is secular decline an inevitability?