The market has tightened for experienced advice support staff according to industry recruiters, who report the going rate for client service managers (CSMs) has risen from $65K to at least $80K over the last 12 months.
According to Perth-based recruiter Simon Burke there has been a 30 per cent increase in demand for advice support staff recently, but not all employers appreciate the current state of the market.
“At the moment a lot of planners expect to pay CSMs with three to four years’ experience around $60K to $65K,” Burke says. “Those people have become pink unicorns, they’re not out there any more. I can stick an ice cream cone on a donkey, that’s all they’ll get.”
“Realistically, if they’re looking for a really good person that understands financial planning and can implement end-to-end they’re looking at $80K to $95K,” he adds.
Profusion Group’s Kimberley Wenn also reports a “lot more of a push” for competent advice support candidates in the last six to 12 months.
“Adviser roles have evolved over the last few years and support staff aren’t just traditional administrators anymore,” she says. “Rather than only doing administration duties they’re having more client interaction, doing more of the vetting and fulfilling more associate-type duties.”
The trend Wenn identifies brings a broader dynamic into play; in line with the higher cost to serve due to increased regulation, advisers are spending more time on the front end and the need for specialist advice support staff – rather than simple administration officers – has expanded.
“Times have changed, advisers can’t pick up their own admin while giving advice and still turn a profit,” Burke says.
Busy planners often don’t want to invest in entry level staff, he believes, because they don’t have the time to train them on systems and give them an overview of advice.
“They need people that understand advice and can take on a plan from start to finish with all the account implementation and investment processes,” he says.
While the push for support staff involves both CSMs and paraplanners, Wenn observes that demand for paraplanners is returning to normal levels after peaking over the last two years.
“It’s not so much about the paraplanners at the moment,” she says. “They’ve previously taken advantage of the remediation projects with the larger institutions but they’re now mostly filtering back into advice practices as these projects begin to wind up.”
Wenn also notes that remuneration isn’t the only driver for support staff in the wake of the pandemic.
“On the back end of Covid there is a lot more emphasis on work/life balance, which is a huge motivator for people,” she says.
Burke agrees, noting that culture, autonomy and flexibility are all important factors for staff these days. Salary is still a major driver, however, and the recruiter believes principals that neglect to pay market rates are in danger of having their staff poached.
“If they’re on $65K, don’t do a standard pay review because that only bumps them up to $68K,” Burke says. “Start thinking about how much the experience you have in your business is worth. If they’re worth $80K pay them $80K.”
If other advice firms don’t approach undervalued staff, he says, recruiters will.
“If I phone one of their staff and say I have a great role and ask them to have a coffee are they going to say ‘no, I’m quite happy’, or are they going to say ‘yeah, let’s have a coffee’?” he says. “Recruiters are speaking to your staff and they will continue to do so.”