Many people today are worried about being ripped off by their financial advisor, and rightly so. It is common to read articles about charlatan advisors who gave unscrupulous advice or absconded with their client’s money. This is an indisputable fact. This is a growing industry and because the entry requirement is low, pretty much anyone can become an advisor. As one would expect there are numerous articles that give tips on how to assess whether an advisor is right for you. Most articles are written from the client’s perspective all with the aim to protect and support the clients. I have to say, however, not all financial advisors are the same. There are some pretty great ones out there and if you don’t have one on them as your advisor , it may not have anything to do with the amount of money you have.
In my time as a consultant, I have turned down a few clients. I took me some time in the beginning to understand that not every prospect should become my client. Sometimes the prospects really did need advice and I knew I could help, but I also knew that we were NOT a good fit for each other. Two early examples come to mind. The first was a young, arrogant entrepreneur who walk in and slap down his files and told me what returns, he wanted and how much I should send him each month. This is even before telling me his name. Somehow he thought $60,000 investment was really a lot of money and that it would allow him to stipulate what return he wanted each month. The second was a client whose investment was $5000 and would call me at all hours of the night because he heard something on the news and wanted to know how it would affect his investment. I never took on the young entrepreneur because he had a deluded sense of what our relationship was supposed to be. The other person eventually became an ex-client and I was very happy when our relationship ended.
My ideal client is someone who is serious about investing in their future and is willing to work together to achieve their financial goals. It is not always about how much money they have to invest initially. For me it was all about working with what I call “people of substance”. People who know what they want, listen and ask questions about the advice they are being given, make a decision and work towards reaching their goals. Advisors are human too and sometimes it really is not about the money. I am sure you are thinking that’s an oxymoron if I ever heard one, a financial advisor who doesn’t focus on the money! The irony is not lost!
One of the reasons I stopped my practice was because I felt that I was not able to fully be there for my clients. Teaching, writing and taking care of my children were all vying for my time and attention. The trust that my clients placed in me to manage their money was a great responsibility. These people trusted me with their life savings, to really give them quality advice and attention I needed to be fully engaged. I wasn’t, so I did the next best thing. I handed them over to a colleague who is both knowledgeable and trustworthy. He is fully engaged and is able to give my clients the full attention they need.
Your relationship with your financial advisor is one of trust and mutual respect. Your financial advisor is there for not only financial advice, but they are there for (financial) emotional support. It is the advisor’s job to give you the best options that work for you. You have to trust that they know what they are doing and they also have to trust that you will hold your end of the deal to make your objectives realizable. At the first meeting the advisor will listen to you talk about yourself, your family, your hopes and your dreams. He or she will get a sense of what is important to you. From the first meeting they will have a sense of your personality and how they will need to interact with you. Before actually collecting your financial information and establishing your financial goals and discussing strategies, the advisor will have already made some tentative decision as to whether or not to take you on as a client.
For the seasoned advisors they can afford to be picky, while the newer ones are hunger so they tend to be less picky. A new advisor has a lot to prove and would want to ensure he or she does a good job. The secret to success in this field is referrals. The question is then-do you have the traits that make for the ideal client? Are financial advisors willing to take you on as a client? Here are some general classifications I came up with over the last couple of years.
Ideal client classifications
• On time clients. Respecting one’s time is essential.
• Prepared clients. If you are asked to bring along specific documents on the first meeting do so. This will show your seriousness and commitment to the process.
• Open clients. When it comes to your financial life, an advisor can really be of value to you only if you give them the complete picture of your financial life.
• Engaged clients. Asking questions and discussing alternatives if you are not comfortable with the advice given.
• Action oriented clients. Once you are fine with the advice, take it and follow through.
The less than ideal client classifications
• Confrontational clients. These are clients with chips on their shoulders who think they know more than the advisor and are arrogant. They argue every point and object to every piece of advice.
• Helicopter clients. These are clients who monitor the news daily and constantly check on their investments.
• The sheepish client. This is a client that is one that is on time, has all their documents, never asks a question and says yes to everything but never follows through.
• Scrambler clients. These are clients who miss appointments or are always late, never have documents ready and are complacent about taking advice.
• Cloak and dagger clients. These are the clients who only give partial information and are afraid to disclose all their information for fear that you will know too much about them. Then they are not happy with the advice you gave them because it clashes with something they never told you about!
Which type of client are you? In reality, most of us have combinations of good and bad client traits. It is not a science, but these are general traits that financial advisors look for/look out for in clients. So, the next time you interview a financial advisor know that they are not the only ones being scrutinized, so are you.