Advisors Push Ahead with Hiring Plans Amid COVID-19, According to FlexShares Survey

CHICAGO--()--Advisory firm recruiting is moving ahead despite the current market environment, according to a survey conducted this month by Northern Trust Asset Management’s FlexShares® Exchange Traded Funds. The survey found that 41 percent of financial advisors are making plans to grow their team in the near-term, defined as “during or soon after” this market downturn. Furthermore, over half of these firms (52 percent) anticipated updating their work-from-home policies after health concerns from the coronavirus have dissipated.

As companies refresh their recruiting and retention policies surrounding the pandemic, a late 2019 survey by FlexShares on advisor teams and diversity found that many advisory firms are underprepared to address investor preferences for diverse talent. The survey, which asked 200 investors about their advisor preferences and over 500 advisors about their internal strategic recruiting initiatives, found that while investors express indifference to demographic features, in actuality they choose advisors who look like them.

Investors Look at Advisor Age, Gender and Racial Profile

According to the 2019 diversity survey, 68 percent of investors said they have no preference for race and 76 percent said they have no preference for gender when looking for an advisor. However, these same investors work with advisors of a similar age, gender and racial profile. When it comes to gender similarity, women were found to be four times more likely to work with a female advisor than men are. Investors also search for advisors that match their ethnicity, as 98 percent of white investors from the survey work with white advisors, 75 percent of Asian investors work with Asian advisors, and over half of all non-white investors (63 percent) work with non-white advisors. The same principle applied for age similarity. Investors under 40 prefer advisors in their 30s and 40s, while investors in their 40s and over, tend to prefer advisors in their 40s and 50s.

“As U.S. investors become more diverse, it’s critical for advisory firms to consider investors’ desire to work with advisors like themselves,” said Laura Hanichak Gregg, Director of Practice Management and Advisor Research at FlexShares. “Firms that prioritize their diversity recruitment are best positioned for growth in the long run, as those firms will provide investors more options to find an advisor with whom they connect.”

Diversity Ranks Low on Advisor Priorities

While diversity initiatives may position advisory firms for long-term growth, most advisors ranked diversity low on their list of strategic priorities. When asked to identify initiatives that would help their firm align with the future of the industry, integrating technology and offering services beyond investment management ranked most important. Diversity, however, ranked eighth out of nine initiatives on the list, just before hiring professionals re-entering the job market or changing careers. When it comes to hiring diverse talent, more than half of advisors surveyed (55 percent) do not believe increasing diversity should be a strategic priority. Furthermore, 61 percent of advisors claimed to still recruit using personal networks of friends, family and neighbors.

"Financial services companies need to implement changes around diversity efforts now, an initiative that Northern Trust has strongly prioritized for well over the past decade to better serve clients of all demographics," said Darek Wojnar, Head of Funds and Managed Accounts at Northern Trust Asset Management. "We hope that our proprietary research can help shed light on diversity as a business imperative for the advisor networks we serve. We need to address these demands cohesively as an industry.”

Importance of Team-Based Practices

Another key takeaway from the survey is that investors look for advisors who are supported by a team. In fact, 72 percent of respondents agreed it’s important for a financial advisor to work with a team, rather than operate independently. Advisors similarly ranked building a team-based practice as an important initiative for ensuring future success of an advisory firm. When considering the significance of teams-based practices, advisors ranked it fourth on a list of nine initiatives, preceded by technology integration, offering services beyond investment management and rethinking firm value beyond investment management. Comparatively, investors’ demand for team-based practices aligns with advisors’ motivation to prioritize team dynamics. This indicates that a firm doesn’t need to change its business model to achieve future success, as this can be accomplished by recruiting more diverse talent and addressing the people that make up the business. However, nearly half of advisor respondents agreed that the biggest challenge to building a team-based practice is recruiting and hiring the right people.

Survey Methodology

The first survey referenced in the release was fielded from April 24 – May 8, 2020 with a total of 200 advisor participants.

The second survey about teams and diversity was conducted in October and November 2019 and a total of 200 investors and 529 advisors participated. Investors that participated in the survey were between the ages of 30 and 65, with household incomes greater than $200,000 and investable assets greater than $500,000. To view more results, visit

About FlexShares

FlexShares Exchange Traded Funds are designed to pursue specific investment goals across both passive and active strategies. FlexShares offers differentiated ETF strategies that improve and simplify the investment decision process for the long-term investor. Follow us on Twitter @FlexSharesETFs.

About Northern Trust Asset Management

Northern Trust Asset Management is a global investment manager that helps investors navigate changing market environments, so they can confidently realize their long-term objectives. Entrusted with more than $900 billion of investor assets, we understand that investing ultimately serves a greater purpose and believe investors should be compensated for the risks they take — in all market environments and any investment strategy. That’s why we combine robust capital markets research, expert portfolio construction and comprehensive risk management to craft innovative and efficient solutions that deliver targeted investment outcomes. As engaged contributors to our communities, we consider it a great privilege to serve our investors and our communities with integrity, respect, and transparency.

Northern Trust Asset Management is composed of Northern Trust Investments, Inc., Northern Trust Global Investments Limited, Northern Trust Fund Managers (Ireland) Limited, Northern Trust Global Investments Japan, K.K., NT Global Advisors, Inc., 50 South Capital Advisors, LLC, and investment personnel of The Northern Trust Company of Hong Kong Limited and The Northern Trust Company.

About Northern Trust

Northern Trust Corporation (Nasdaq: NTRS) is a leading provider of wealth management, asset servicing, asset management and banking to corporations, institutions, affluent families and individuals. Founded in Chicago in 1889, Northern Trust has a global presence with offices in 22 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., and across 22 locations in Canada, Europe, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region. As of March 31, 2020, Northern Trust had assets under custody/administration of US$10.9 trillion, and assets under management of US$1.1 trillion. For more than 130 years, Northern Trust has earned distinction as an industry leader for exceptional service, financial expertise, integrity and innovation. Please visit our website or follow us on Twitter @NorthernTrust.

Northern Trust Corporation, Head Office: 50 South La Salle Street, Chicago, Illinois 60603 U.S.A., incorporated with limited liability in the U.S. Please read our global and regulatory information.

Before investing, carefully consider the FlexShares investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses. This and other information is in the prospectus, a copy of which may be obtained by visiting Read the prospectus carefully before you invest. Foreside Fund Services, LLC, distributor.

An investment in FlexShares is subject to numerous risks, including possible loss of principal. Fund returns may not match the return of the respective indexes. The Funds are subject to the following principal risks: asset class; commodity; concentration; counterparty; currency; derivatives; dividend; emerging markets; equity securities; fluctuation of yield; foreign securities; geographic; income; industry concentration; inflation-protected securities; infrastructure-related companies; interest rate / maturity risk; issuer; large cap; management; market; market trading; mid cap stock; MLP; momentum; natural resources; new funds; non-diversification; passive investment; privatization; small cap stock; tracking error; value investing; and volatility risk. A full description of risks is in the prospectus.


Tom Pinto


Tom Pinto