TD Ameritrade: Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs) Virtually Unknown on College Campuses

Independent registered investment advisors (RIAs) may be a growing component within the financial advice industry, but college students largely don't know that RIAs exist, hurting the ability to recruit and retain top talent. The problem is particularly pronounced for females and minorities, who are underrepresented in financial planning degree programs on college campuses across the country.

That's according to a new TD Ameritrade survey in which it polled 105 four-year colleges and universities with Certified Financial Planner Board listed undergraduate financial planning programs. The research found that, while 90% of the schools that have financial planning programs expect enrollment to rise during the next five years, minorities and women are currently underrepresented. However, the program directors do believe that the number of minorities and females pursuing degrees in financial planning will increase over the years.

According to TD Ameritrade, 36% of financial planning students are women, and just 31% are minorities. That's despite the fact that 56% of all U.S. college undergraduates are women and that women make up 51% of the U.S. population, according toand the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau. Minorities account for 37% of undergraduates and 23% of the population.

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"The war for talent starts at the undergraduate level. To win, RIAs need to get out in front of the next generation on campus and make themselves seen," said Kate Healy, managing director at Generation Next, TD Ameritrade Institutional, in a recent press release highlighting the results of the survey. "If RIAs aren't having conversations about the benefits of their chosen career path, the competition most certainly will."

According to the Omaha, Nebraska-based online trading firm, the lack of knowledge about RIAs on college campuses can particularly affect the career choices of women and minorities. Program directors said in the survey that the reason these groups are unrepresented is because they do not see becoming an RIA as a viable career choice, even though there is high demand for college graduates in this area. For women, a perception that financial planning involves getting paid only via commissions or commission-based salaries is keeping them away from pursuing that career. For minorities, the absence of people like them in the market sends a signal that financial planning is not a career for them.

"To change the face of the next generation of planners, RIAs need to start a dialogue," said Healy. "I'm convinced that the more students hear from advisors they can relate to, and learn more about the career opportunities offered by independent RIA firms, the more they'll be attracted to the profession."