Few careers offer the opportunity to make big money without the drawback of years of study and massive college debt. Becoming a financial adviser at a wirehouse is one of those exceptions. Do the job well and you will become successful. Do it poorly and you will get fired. The wealth management industry has huge turnover, but the potential rewards are great.
The first step to becoming a successful financial adviser is getting hired. The key question is: What are wirehouse recruiters and hiring managers looking for during phone screenings and in-person interviews?
You are getting into the business to make money. You want to ethically help people towards attaining their goals. You want to become like your clients.
Why: Firms have profit centers. Complexes, offices and even advisers are judged by the revenue they are sending up the ladder.
2. Sales experience
This is often a second career. You have been on the sales side in another industry. You have met or excelled your goals.
Why: Not being good at sales (and able to take rejection) is a major impediment to success.
3. Firm pride
You are selling yourself and your firm. You must be able to articulate why doing business with the firm is a “step up” for prospects.
Why: They need to know you really want to work at the firm. You see a difference between firms. This firm is “better” for specific reasons you researched beforehand.
4. Commitment and loyalty
If are hired, they will spend time and money helping you succeed. They will be investing a lot of money training you over two or more years. They want to know you will put your personal life on hold and be 100% committed to becoming successful. This means working long hours and weekends. Other firms skip the training route and hire experienced advisers from competitors. Yours does too.
Why: For years, the industry washout rate has been over 50%. They don’t want people who are going to ”Give this a try.” They want to know you understand your success was a partnership.
5. Understand your job
Success is easy to define. Get 80-100 of the right clients who understand the value of professional money management and will provide about $100m in investable assets.
Why: It’s your job to find the clients. No one gives them to you.
6. Understand the firm’s training programs
New hires might go the sole practitioner route or serve an apprenticeship on a team. If a bank is involved, there might be a bank branch-based adviser route. How do they do it?
Why: You must understand what constitutes success. Usually ringing the cash register is involved.
7. High ethical standards
You want to get rich, bur you want to do it honestly while helping other people towards achieving their goals. Your interests take a back seat to the client’s.
Why: The issue of the fiduciary versus suitability standard means the adviser works in the client’s best interests.
8. Comfortable with structure
Most firms have a multiple-step investment process beginning with financial planning. They aren’t hiring lone wolves or cowboys.
Why: The client experience should be uniform. Happy clients refer their friends.
9. Entrepreneurial drive
You need to find your own clients. According to the New York Times, the average American knows 600 people. You have an idea where to start looking.
Why: You are running a business. They want self-starters.
10. Study skills and test-taking prowess
Various licenses are required before you go live. This requires several months of employment before you can sit for them. This costs the firm time and money.
Why: They want you to pass the first time.
11. People skills and personality
First you must persuade people to do business. Sometimes clients have problems.
Why: You must be able to cultivate relationships, get people to like you.
12. Organizational skills
Multitasking is part of the job. If you are great at bringing in business and terrible at paperwork, they will find a solution. If you are great at paperwork and terrible at bringing in business, they will fire you.
Why: They want to see a good work ethic and the ability to prioritize.
Highlight these skills, attitudes and attributes during your exchanges with recruiters and hiring managers to get hired by Morgan Stanley, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Wells Fargo Advisors, UBS or the broker-dealer of your choice.
Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions, which provides high-net-worth client acquisition training for the financial services industry. He is the author of Captivating the Wealthy Investor and a former financial adviser at Merrill Lynch.
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