People Feature: New Year, New Skills: Shops Update Training
Article published on January 4, 2016
By Clare Trapasso
By Clare Trapasso
Many firms are kicking off the New Year by rolling out, or amping up, training programs designed to give staffers the edge they need to successfully compete in the evolving fund industry.
Janus, for example, plans to up the emotional intelligence of its distribution staff in 2016, while Vanguard is offering more training for middle managers and emphasizing role-playing real-world scenarios over classroom lessons. American Beacon Advisors, for its part, is rolling out leadership development programs at the behest of its employees.
“The market changes, the skill sets change,” says Jeanne Branthover, head of the global financial services practice at Boyden Global Executive Search. “Without training, you’re letting your employees be good but not exceptional.”
This year, Vanguard aims to teach its middle managers to better set performance expectations, coach and initiate critical conversations with subordinates, says Tamara Ganc, chief learning officer at the Malvern, Pa.-based mutual fund giant. The training will consist of in-person sessions as well as online videos and case studies.
The firm also plans to move many of its classroom-based programs online, so workers can access them at their convenience. In addition, the firm will encourage employees to role-play everyday work scenarios to hone their skills.
“We help replicate real-life situations and people get in-the-moment feedback,” Ganc says.
American Beacon unveiled a leadership development program for all of its roughly 100 employees late last year at the request of its staffers. The Irving, Texas-based manager of managers plans to add more training this year.
“For a company to continue to evolve, a focus on continuous improvement must be at the forefront,” says Donna Merchant, American Beacon’s manager of human resources.
Outside consultants lead four-hour classroom sessions on topics such as team effectiveness, improving decision making and resolving workplace conflict.
Denver-based Janus is betting that teaching its more than 100-member distribution staff in emotional intelligence will provide an advantage.
The firm teamed up with Kolbe Corp., a Phoenix-based human resources consultancy that offers assessment tests, to help workers become more self-aware.
All sales and marketing employees at Janus will take the online Kolbe tests in the first part of 2016 to analyze their problem-solving and decision-making skills. The assessments will help them understand how they work with colleagues and function in a team setting in order to identify areas to work on, says John Evans Jr., executive director of Denver-basedJanus Labs.
“We are in the relationship business. Emotional intelligence is fundamental for success,” says Evans. “This is a vehicle to connect more meaningfully and emotionally with our financial advisors.”
Between eight and 10 distribution leaders will also attend a two-day training at Kolbe during the first quarter during which they will learn more about the assessments and how to train others in conducting them, he says.
Forging deep connections with clients is critical to any salesperson’s success, says Mary Anne Doggett, managing partner at Interactive Communications, a New York–based marketing and distribution consulting firm.
“Bottom line … targeting, the opening and advanced questioning will distinguish old school from new school wholesalers,” she writes in an e-mail.
Wholesalers should know how to quickly prepare for advisor calls using Google andLinkedIn, and use such background research to craft personalized pitches, she says.
Firms should make investing in staff development a priority, says Boyden’s Branthover.
“It’s much more cost effective to train strong employees to be as good as they can be at their jobs than to get new employees,” she says.
Fund workers must know how to use data analytics to track client behavior. Social media adeptness is also important, she says.
With increased focus on social media skills must come compliance training, says Jen Shirkani, founder and CEO of the Bedford, N.H.-based leadership development consultancy the Penumbra Group.
Presentation skills, whether it be on an investment strategy or articulating an idea to management, is also more common among staff beyond just client-facing sales pros, Shirkani says.
And while Boyden’s Branthover notes that grooming staff to step into leadership roles as part of broader succession planning is an area of increased focus for fund companies, Penumbra’s Shirkani says that young workers often clamor for training opportunities.
Staffers must also be accountable for their own continuing education, says Shirkani. Workers should use their performance reviews as an opportunity to identify a few areas for improvement and then lobby their firms to offer — or pay for — external training in those subjects.
Individuals can also hire their own career coaches, sign up for classes at community colleges or take free or low-cost courses and tutorials on YouTube, Khan Academy and Lynda.com.
“They should be considering their career goals,” Shirkani says. “What do they want their next job to be, and how do they get themselves ready?”
Clare Trapasso is a print and multimedia journalist at the New York Daily News with experience writing breaking news and feature stories in urban and rural communities.
As a general assignment reporter on the Daily News’ Queens Bureau and Metro Desk, she covers everything from schools being closed, to naked bike rides, to grisly murders, local politics and everything in-between.
Prior to that, she was an Associated Press reporter in the wire service’s New Hampshire Bureau. During the six-month assignment, she covered state and national news and put together several multimedia projects. She also edited stories and wrote broadcast news.
She became passionate about journalism at the State University of New York at Purchase College, where she graduated with a B.A. in journalism in 2002. In her senior year, she created a campus women's newspaper called The Cycle.
After receiving her undergraduate degree, she joined the Peace Corps. She was sent to Independent Samoa in the South Pacific, where she learned Samoan and taught college-level journalism classes in the capitol.
When she returned to America, she began graduate school. In 2007, she earned a M.A. in Journalism from New York University. As a student, she interned for the Daily News and The Village Voice. After graduation, she did an internship in the Associated Press New York City Bureau.
Clare Trapasso is interested in writing stories that can effect change. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.