By Elizabeth Dilts
NEW YORK (Reuters) - UBS Group AG <UBSG.S> will hire fewer trainees in 2018 but spend two to three times more on teaching them to be financial advisers, a senior executive said, in the latest sign of industry efforts to satisfy wealthier clients and grapple with an aging workforce.
UBS Wealth Management Americas President Tom Naratil said the company would hire 30 percent fewer trainees but look for candidates who had more work experience so they could team up with experienced advisers to work with current clients and the next generation of clients.
"The client we need to serve is the wealthiest client we've ever had in history," Naratil said in an Oct. 2 interview. "We can have fewer advisers but they need to be more highly skilled to meet those clients' needs."
Over the next several decades, more than $30 trillion in wealth is expected to be handed from Baby Boomers to heirs as current clients age. Currently high net worth clients control more than a third of the investible assets in the United States, and more than 67 percent are older than 60.
As those clients start to pass wealth to the next generation, older advisers worry about how to relate to new money millennials, some of whom prefer computers over humans.
Roughly half of brokers at U.S. wealth management firms are over 55, according to Cerulli Associates, and UBS is in line with the average.
Naratil hopes that by putting trainees from professions like the military or pharmaceutical sales with experienced advisers, existing advisers will boost productivity. When senior advisers retire and clients' children inherit their wealth, the trainees will be well positioned to take over their accounts, the firm hopes.
LESS IS MORE
UBS is not alone in trying a new kind of recruiting, which it announced to advisers on Wednesday.
Competitor Bank of America <BAC.N> Merrill Lynch said last April it was redoubling efforts to recruit and train younger advisers for all units, from its high end Private Banking and Investment Group to the brokers located in bank branches.
However, Wall Street training programs have historically high failure rates with as many as 50 percent of trainees leaving the firm within the first five years.
UBS has the smallest work force of the four traditional Wall Street securities brokerages, which also include Morgan Stanley <MS.N>, Merrill Lynch and Wells Fargo Advisors <WFC.N>. Therefore, it can not afford to take a spaghetti at the wall approach.
"Others are still playing a scale game," said Naratil. "Our success relies on improving the productivity of our advisers because if we improve their productivity we see better results."
UBS is already in the lead for average revenue produced per adviser, in part because its advisers only work with clients who have more than $1 million in their accounts. Morgan Stanley and Bank of America set their client minimums at $250,000.
On average, UBS's 6,915 advisors produced $1.2 million in revenue as of the second quarter this year. Morgan Stanley's 15,777 advisers on average produced $1.05 million in the second quarter, and Bank of America Merrill Lynch said its 14,811 advisers earned an average $1.04 million each, including new advisers.
Firms will report third quarter earnings this month, with Bank of America and Wells Fargo reporting on Friday.
UBS' new training program will last 3 years, with development activities throughout, and trainees will be paid a salary for the first two years. Previously, trainees received a salary for just 7 months.
(Reporting By Elizabeth Dilts; Editing by Andrew Hay)