Seven Interview Questions for Wealth Management Associates

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Before you can sell to clients, you have to sell yourself. So how do you showcase your value? Besides sharpening up your resume, make sure you know how to field interview questions like these:

Tell me about yourself.

Sounds easy enough, but this is by no means a softball. One candidate at UBS recalled how "the lady interviewing me was obviously very busy and didn't want to be wasting time," and he had time to blurt out a few general statements, she was asking about nuts and bolts of the candidate's resume - clearly where the discussion should have been focused to begin with.

You needn't waste time talking about your marital status, your kids, your pastimes, or where you live. Instead, be ready with a few sharp statements about your career expertise - mention where you've worked in the past, and move right on to all those times you went the extra mile based on your personal strengths and smarts. Don't forget to include what makes you pumped and passionate about the industry.

Do you work better solo or as part of a team?

For this job, you need to be a strong team player, so emphasize that aspect with succinct but clear examples of times you worked well with colleagues. Show ways in which you personally stepped up with ideas that led to successes or more fruitful client relationships.

What caused the global financial crisis?

This one came up during an interview in the private wealth division at JPMorgan Chase. A similar question was posed to a candidate for a VP position at Bank of New York Mellon: If you had to pick one - what would you rather be, a stock or a bond?

There's no right answer to this kind of question, but both offer opportunities to express your point of view in an intelligent, convincing manner, and to demonstrate your effectiveness as a communicator overall. What's important is that you offer your own studied point about such matters with poise and self-assurance. How you answer will tell your prospective employer a lot more than what you know about finance.

Tell me about your experience working with the wealthy.

Here you want to emphasize your strengths in dealing - or teaming up - with wealthy clients as opposed to institutional investors or other corporate executives. "A fast-talking salesman type who has only done equities may not be a good fit for more sophisticated selling at a private bank," says Richard Lipstein of New York recruiter Boyden Associates. Clearly, if this is a private bank environment focusing on credit and lending strategies for ultra-wealthy customers, you'll want to talk about work you've done on the fixed income side, and back it up with a concrete example or two.

Have you been formally credit trained?

Again, in private banking - where clients are primarily interested in trusts and estates, mortgage credits and yacht leasing - having credit training will be important selling point.

What's been your external business development experience?

At a more senior level, there will be questions about your largest clients and how you worked to develop and enhance that relationship. On the other hand, if you're seeking an associate position, you may be asked how you have leveraged senior relationship people or whether you have worked directly with entrepreneurs or "centers of influence" such as accountants, lawyers and estate planers. In any case, you may be asked to describe your most challenging - or rewarding - client relationship experience.

What are your likes and dislikes about the job you have now?

Almost without exception, your interviewer wants to see how juiced you are about the role you play in the business. "From our position, we want to get a feeling for the person and dive into their psyche," says Todd Rustman, president of GR Capital Asset Management, a boutique in Newport Beach, Calif. "We want to know what gets them up in the morning and what keeps them up at night, what they love about their job and what they hate." Moreover, "The person has to absolutely exude integrity as our company doesn't have a 140-year history to lean against."

Some Final Words to the Wise

If you have a personal interest in some of the pastimes of the rich and famous - things like yachting or the art world - by all means, exploit it. This is often how investment bankers get a foot in the door at a private wealth firm.

Also, don't use recreational drugs. UBS Private Wealth Management candidates have had to submit to drug testing before being hired. A Bank of New York Mellon Wealth Management candidate reported likewise. Most banks have similar policies.

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