What do clients look for in a financial advisor?

While its laudable that you’ve earned more than one certification, for clients who see people in their industry earn certifications over weekend seminars, the value behind the training will mean more to them in choosing between advisors

Network more? Advertise differently? Before you contemplate changing your marketing budgets it may be helpful to study what clients look for in financial advisors. Increasingly, clients are doing their homework more on potential advisors. So before you start that new push for more clients, make sure you can make it as easy as possible for clients to find the information they are searching for. Here are a few key areas that clients focus on when searching for advisors today.

Certifications. Potential clients are learning more about the certifications you have. As the process of certification takes off in other industries, like real estate and even life coaching, clients have learned to question credentials. While its laudable that you’ve earned more than one certification, for clients who see people in their industry earn certifications over weekend seminars, the value behind the training will mean more to them in choosing between advisors. Potential clients have been advised by others to look for the CFP credential as the most significant. Additionally, some potential clients are advised to look only for those who meet the NAPFA certification.  

Fees. Clients now know more about how financial advisors earn their keep. New advice to clients has them steering clear of those who are paid only by commissions, rather than flat rates, fees based on trades or hourly rates. New advice to clients points them away from advisors who earn only by commission as potentially biased. Potential clients are also advised to look for advisors who charge by the hour if the potential client is just starting out on their investment or retirement plan.

Size. Clients are told to watch the general size of assets under management by the financial advisor. If your bread and butter is larger clients, or if you only work with those above $250,000 in assets to manage, they know to look in a different direction. How you advertise this information is mission critical: for clients who may have small assets to manage now (but could inherit more, or accumulate more) make sure you keep the doors open. Do you have new advisors who could benefit from more clients? Marketing your experience as a mentor to the others in your firm could help bring in business for the newer employees you have, while growing a field of potential clients later on.  Some potential clients are advised to look for a planner in the Garrett Planning Network who pledge to work for an hourly fee. If you have the capacity to work on single questions noting that you are part of this network could be helpful. Additionally, some advisors may find the novelty in questions raised by this process something that helps them boost enjoyment in their practice – by taking on a small question from time to time, you might sharpen your skills or get to exercise your expertise differently than your normal routine.

Amount of involvement. Clients now understand that different advisors have different levels of involvement in their client’s daily activities. Some financial advisors help their client stay on budgets and remain disciplined. Others are more hands off and prefer to remain at the ready for when their clients have questions or need information.  Make it clear how you operate and why so that clients can find this information more easily.

Reputation. Potential clients are urged to look for advisors who are fiduciaries, and have pledged to work in the best interests of the client (rather than to find suitable investments). Potential clients are also told to run a background check on their potential planner. This includes more than looking for potential crimes, but also for letter agreements, censures or investigations from regulatory agencies. How you discuss your reputation may also be a red flag to potential clients: they are told to avoid advisors who make claims about beating the market. Instead, they are told to look for expertise across a variety of portfolios and life experiences.

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