5 Financial Advisor Skills to Advance Your Career

Michael Gardia February 28, 2022

Financial advisor working at desk 322887272 (1)

Financial advising isn’t for everyone. Despite significant growth expected in the field, not everyone is flocking to find a position at a firm or wirehouse. Why not? Simply put, financial advising can be a challenging field. It typically draws in people who are looking to not just help people meet their financial goals and dreams but who also have very specific career goals and plans for themselves. The career itself involves planning and strategizing, understanding not just the landscape but also what’s on the horizon, and knowing how to properly position oneself to overcome obstacles and achieve.
To achieve your clients’ success, you likely gather a lot of information, but understanding and strategizing for your career is just as important. One interesting aspect of financial advising is how intricately tied an advisor’s career success can be to their clients’ success and vice versa. Therefore, one of the best things you can do for you and your clients is focus on the skills you need to succeed. If you succeed, they succeed. It’s truly an investment that pays off in the long run.

Quick Links

  • What Role Does a Financial Advisor Fulfill?
  • What Qualities and Characteristics Help a Financial Advising Career?
  • What Qualifications and Skills Can Advance Your Financial Advising Career?
  • 5 Tips to Advancing your Financial Advisor Career

two people discussing financial advice 317203715What Role Does a Financial Advisor Fulfill?

Financial advisors are essentially their clients' partner in helping them achieve their financial goals. This can include everything from exploring and educating clients on their current financial situation (spending and saving) to creating a financial plan and helping them make wise investment decisions.

As many of us know, having financial conversations is often difficult for people. While people typically have very clear goals regarding what they want to achieve when it comes to their finances, often financial advisors have to initiate some of those conversations. In short, in addition to providing services (which we’ll get to in a minute) that means a financial advisor in part:

  • Educator
  • Communicator
  • Confidante
  • Advisor
  • Strategist
  • Planner

On a more practical side, financial advisors may complete any of the following services for their clients:

  • Financial Plan (for retirement or other financial goals)
  • Offer investment advice and manage investments
  • Complete and oversee financial transactions
  • Proactively monitor financial portfolios
  • Assist with tax planning 
  • And more as it relates to financial well-being

What Qualities and Characteristics Help a Financial Advising Career?

As with any career, there are hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills often include specific abilities that are quantifiable or measurable. For example, in financial advising, this might include return on investments (ROI), financial growth, and whether specific financial goals are achieved. Often, hard skills can be developed via training, education, and classes.

In contrast, soft skills are the qualities and characteristics of an individual that help facilitate their success in different roles. While some of these skills can be worked on, such as learning to be a better communicator, soft skills are often a core part of who we are. For financial advisors, important qualities and characteristics include:

  • Self-motivated and driven
  • Good communicator
  • Relationship building skills
  • Detail-oriented
  • Strategic planner 
  • Analytical thinker
  • Empathetic and understanding
  • Patient
  • Desire to help others

What Qualifications and Skills Can Advance Your Financial Advising Career?

As noted, it’s harder, but not impossible, to develop some of those soft skills. The qualifications and hard skills you need to be successful are certainly attainable if you prioritize and focus on strengths and weaknesses, building on the former and improving the latter. Further, there are quantifiable strategies and methods to improve your qualifications and skills. Largely, how you prioritize what and where you need to build will likely depend on your career stage.

Among financial advisors, we break down required skills into a few categories. While some of those skills are client-centric, others are business-centric. The client-centric skills, which aim to improve the quality and efficiency of advice given, include: 

  • Technical competency: This refers to an advisor’s ability to offer the right advice, at the right time, to the right client. Does the advisor know the market, the client, and the options available to offer the best advice and plan possible?
  • Communication skills: While communication skills include some of the soft skills discussed above, there’s an element of this that is certainly attainable. From shadowing a mentor and creating communication plans and calendars for oneself to actively taking notes as clients speak to improve your listening skills. Further, learning to identify and read body language and facial expressions can help you better understand how clients are thinking or feeling, and in turn, be more responsive to their needs and emotions.

Business-centric skills, which are focused on building a business and increasing value, include:

  •  Sales skills: It’s no secret that, especially as you’re just starting, prospecting and selling are among the most challenging aspects of the career. While providing solid advice will help grow your career, you can’t offer that advice if you don’t have clients. In short, selling your services and yourself are crucial to advancing your career. Learning, improving, and elevating your sales skills is an important part of financial advising success.

  • Management skills: Much like sales skills, management skills can be a challenge as they are, essentially, the everyday administrative tasks that need to be attended to ensure efficient service and taking care of the day-to-day needs of a business. This can include everything from managing team members, mentoring, developing strategic growth plans, and managing compliances, data, and overhead costs.

It’s pretty clear at this point that these two categories are pretty divergent. Most financial advisors will likely find themselves better suited to one category over the other. So where do you start?

older woman mentoring younger financial advisor4226363765 Tips to Advancing your Financial Advisor Career

There was a time when it seemed the path to skill development was clear. Advisors were first expected to build their business-centric skills, expecting that client-centric skills would be developed while in the field and through learning as you go. However, over the last decade or more, there’s been a significant shift in understanding how career advancement works. If you’re starting to think about your career and working towards developing the skills that will lead you, and your clients, to success, then consider these tips. 

1. Identify the niche that interests you most

Financial advisors take on many roles in many different organizations. Your path forward will depend on where you want to end up. This may mean exploring a firm that offers multiple services so you can find where you fit.

2. Find a mentor

Ideally, you’ll find a mentor in the niche you hope to explore, however, a mentor who embodies the qualities you hope to emulate or the skills you hope to develop, can also be an excellent choice. 

3. Identify your strengths and weaknesses

One of the first questions we ask our clients is often what assets they currently possess. This is one of the first questions you should be asking yourself as well. What do you bring to the table? And, in the same fashion, as we would then analyze what’s missing from a client’s plan or portfolio and look to fill the gap, we should do the same with our skill sets.

4. Identify (and be honest about) your goals

Let’s say, hypothetically, we have a client who says their primary goal is to retire comfortably, but, in reality, the goal they have in mind is to grow their wealth well beyond that. What’s the outcome? A client who is, ultimately, dissatisfied with what you deliver even though it meets their spoken goals. You must be open and honest about what you want: flexible days, a set schedule, low-stress, high growth, predictable income? Identifying the things that matter to you will help you identify where you want to go, and what you’re willing to do to get there.

5. Invest in yourself

You might make a lot of investment decisions and advice throughout your career, but the most important investment will always be in yourself. From opportunities offered by your firm for professional development and growth, coursework, and advanced degrees, to moving to a new organization or firm and breaking away when you see the need, the best thing you can do for your financial advising career is to be confident in your skills and allow them to take you where you need to go. That means making the choices that will enable or facilitate those goals, even if those decisions are sometimes difficult.

Make no mistake, navigating your career will come with challenges, but it will also come with successes and learning opportunities, as long as you can frame them that way. That said, employing some of our tips and strategies, like building skills where you can, will certainly help you find more success.

If you’re ready to talk to the FA Match team about how we can help you achieve your career goals, move your career in a different direction, or simply advance your career as you grow, then get in touch with our team today. We’ve been there. We know how to navigate some of the tougher career decisions you might face and we’re here to help.

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