“excellence” for each position.
Many firms tend to outline job
duties alone, but qualifying language helps managers understand what they are supposed to
be teaching the individuals. The
specific language also provides
a framework for employees to
monitor their own progression.
For example, the primary responsibility of an analyst is to master the basic
firm functions. This means learning how
to create financial plans, understanding
investment and tax basics and achieving
proficiency in the tools used to serve
clients. Much of this training occurs
while working on client engagements.
Excellence in this position is easy to
quantify through testing and evaluation.
At the next level, a senior analyst is
responsible for supervising new analysts
and directly supporting different teams.
Some refer to these individuals as “
support advisors” because they perform
much of the detail work on behalf of the
client. Excellence might be measured in
terms of responsiveness, low error rates,
productivity and turnaround time.
A service advisor functions like a relationship manager in most firms. They do
not have a high expectation of developing business, though part of their career
progression requires earning advanced
credentials, gaining experience and establishing an industry and community profile.
At least 75% of their time is spent
working with clients and the balance
spent developing the skills needed to
move to the next level. This level rep-
resents an important transition from
being a “doer” to being a “leader.” Their
development focuses on preparation for
a promotion to senior advisor, as well as
mastering their current job.
A senior advisor is a true leader in
the firm with responsibility for managing
a team. These individuals are expected
to develop new business for the firm.
Growth in this area requires more formal
training, often provided by outside coach-es and consultants, as well as direct mentoring from at least one of the partners.
Current partners groom senior advisors to be their successors. They coach
and evaluate them on key functions
including leadership, management, people development, business development,
relationship management and culture.
When a senior advisor achieves “excel-
A PATH TO PROGRESS
lence,” he or she may be considered for
partnership in the firm. As at any high-
performing professional services firm,
partner candidates are evaluated by other
members of the partnership before being
invited to join the club. Their designated
mentor should be eliciting feedback, and
providing coaching, well before the time
comes to nominate a senior advisor to
become an owner in the business.
Oftentimes advisory firms recruit indi-
viduals in the middle of the firm’s career
pyramid rather than starting at analyst.
In these circumstances, leaders must
place recruits in their proper position
with the same expectations and com-
parable compensation in order to main-
tain the integrity of their people
Demonstrating progress with-
in each step helps individuals
feel like they are moving closer
to their goal. For example, if a
service advisor masters a couple
of important elements of their
job, he or she might move to the
middle of the level in terms of
compensation. Small incremental steps
give both managers and employees con-
fidence that they are achieving success.
Most firm leaders entered this busi-
ness with a dream — to help individu-
als achieve financial independence. For
most, this dream did not include the
challenges of managing and developing
people. As the profession shifts from
practice to business, a structure and pro-
cess for attracting and retaining talented
people has become absolutely essential to
building an enduring advisory firm.
An effective career pyramid
defines the responsibilities
and expectations at each level,
including a description of
“excellence” for each position.
• Create a clear career path for
• Define expectations and excellence
for each stage of the career path
• Use the career path framework as a
guide for developing individual talent
Mark Tibergien is CEO of BNY Mellon’s
Pershing Advisor Solutions. Tibergien is also
the author most recently of “The Enduring
Advisory Firm,” written with Kim Dellarocca
of Pershing and published by Wiley. He can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.