3 Things You Need To Know About Being a Better Financial Advisor

By Daniella Rand

You’ve worked hard to get where you are today. Becoming a financial advisor is not easy, after all, especially not for those who’ve gone the extra mile to obtain a Certified Financial Planner credential from the CFP Board. If you’re reading this, you’re likely well aware of what it’s taken to get this far.

Unfortunately, financial advisors do not have the luxury of a set-it-and-forget-it profession. Successful advisors undergo dozens of hours of continuing education each year and put in countless more unbilled administrative hours to keep their practices running smoothly.

Even so, many financial advisors struggle to gain traction: they have difficulty building or growing a client base, or struggle to retain the clients they’ve managed to attract. 

Those difficulties can be mitigated, in part, with old-fashioned personal and professional development. Indeed, financial advisors who do a few simple things (and do them well) tend to make out better than advisors who fail to take care of the basics. In this article, we’re going to examine three things in particular that all should keep in mind.

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3 Things to Know About Being a Better Financial Advisor

These are three of the most important things financial advisors must keep in mind if they’re serious about improving their practice.

1. You Need to Know More About Your Clients Than You Might Think

You’ve chosen to go into a business built around client contact. You’re simply not going to succeed if you recoil from the conversations that need to happen for you to get to know your clients better.

Listening is critical here. As a financial advisor, you’re equal parts professional services provider and personal confidante. Your goal is to incorporate the personal, closely held information that your clients divulge into a comprehensive financial plan that keeps their best interests front and center. That means you’ll need to ask probing questions and listen — really listen — to the answers. 

2. You’ve Got to Be There When Your Clients Call

If listening is critical to success in this business, so too is availability. For better or worse, you need to be available when your clients call, especially after hours. At scale, you can task qualified subordinates with taking evening or early-morning calls, but as long as you’re practicing solo, the buck stops with you.

3. Communication Is Critical

Your clients need to know what you’re doing with their money, when you’re doing it, and why you’re taking any particular action. If you’ve done your job to communicate clearly, concisely, and in plain English, there should be no confusion. Learn your clients’ communication preferences — email, phone, video conference, face-to-face meeting, all of the above — and honor them.

There’s More to Learn About Being a Better Financial Advisor

Were these the only three secrets to success in this highly competitive business, the financial advisory industry would be even more crowded than it is. 

Of course, there’s far more to know about being a better financial advisor. Whether they’re just getting their feet wet or they’ve been in the business for decades, it’s important for every financial advisor to understand precisely what’s required to stand out from the pack — and to devote their working hours to doing just that.

5 Steps to Wealth Management Process

By Daniella Rand

How much do you know about the wealth management process?

Although every wealth management professional is different, and every pro worth his or her salt applies a proprietary “secret sauce” to the practice, the basic contours of wealth management are not some closely held secret.

Indeed, the wealth management process follows a well-worn path that, for many, includes five basic steps: prospecting, onboarding, analysis, planning, and implementation. Here’s what you should know about each.

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1. Prospecting (Finding and Signing Clients)

You can’t manage wealth without clients, so prospecting comes before all else. Naturally, clients don’t see all the hard work that goes into marketing, lead generation, and pre-signing cultivation. But they can get a general sense of the process from what they do see: in particular, the 30- to 60-minute free consultation that most wealth managers offer prospective clients. (Many go even farther, offering multiple pre-signing consultations, but one 30-to-60 is a safe baseline.)

2. Onboarding (Gathering Data and Qualitative Information About the Client)

This part of the process involves gathering a host of quantitative and qualitative information about new clients. Advisors need this information both for their own administrative purposes and to incorporate into the next three steps. After all, the contours of a 20-something’s financial plan are going to be very different from those of a 60-something’s plan.

3. Analysis (A Comprehensive Look at Clients’ Financial Picture, Life Plan, and Risk Tolerance)

This part of the process demands a detailed look at the client’s current financial position, current investing strategy, earning potential, near- and long-term goals (including education and retirement plans), and investing risk tolerance, among other items. The analysis phase’s work product flows into the next phase: developing a financial plan

4. Planning (Developing a Financial Plan)

Developing a financial plan means different things in different situations. In a project-based planning scenario, a client may hire a financial advisor solely to produce a plan document that the client can then implement on his or her own. In other cases, the client may need help with specific planning goals, such as retirement or education. In still others, the client may need a comprehensive plan that touches on every aspect of his or her financial life.

5. Implementation (Where the Rubber Meets the Road)

In long-term wealth management relationships, this is the longest and most consequential phase, wherein the advisor implements the plan he or she has devised and ensures it remains on track.

Trust the Process, But Only If You’re Comfortable

The modern wealth management process is a well-worn one that’s served countless clients over the course of many decades. Iterative improvements notwithstanding, its basic contours haven’t changed much in living memory. Many thousands of successful, well-regarded financial advisors and wealth management professionals apply it every day.

Does that mean you, as the client, should trust the wealth management process without reservation? Most financial advisors would surely say that, yes, you can and should trust the process.

More sophisticated financial advisors, of course, know better than to give such unqualified advice. While the wealth management process described above works in the vast majority of managed accounts, it’s important for clients to go into the process with a basic willingness to trust it. 

If you’re not willing to do that, perhaps you’re in need of a different approach to wealth management. That may well mean a do-it-yourself wealth management program, which requires tremendous discipline and carries extensive risk.