There probably was a time when being a successful financial advisor meant you just had to be one of those “good with numbers” people.

To be a successful advisor in the 21st century, however, would almost seem to require the wide-ranging intellect of a Renaissance man (or woman).

The “numbers” part? It’s still there. But you’d better also have a good handle on technology, current events, business and economic theory to serve today’s demanding clients. After absorbing the concept of Twitter etiquette and undertaking a comparative analysis of Keynesian vs. monetaristic economic theory, you’d better also brush up on your people skills because, as an advisor, you’re going to run into all types—from the straitlaced to the eccentric, the God-fearing to the devil-may-care, the obstinate to the submissive.
Think of yourself as something of a client whisperer, slipping in and out of the roles of counselor, referee, psychologist and general, all-around fixer.

In our last issue, we looked at the demands being placed on advisors by the growing number of clients who—viewing their assets as tools for change and expressions of their most closely held beliefs—align their investments in support of social, religious and environmental causes. The theme of morality-based investing is addressed again in our current issue, in “Islam Meets Wall Street,” in which Caren Chesler explores the challenges faced by financial advisors serving clients in the $1.8 trillion Islamic finance sector.

Also in this issue, in “Rebooting Climate Philanthropy,” Thomas Kostigen explains how private investment could be the key to reinvigorating climate change mitigation efforts. And in our cover story, “Insuring The Elite,” Russ Alan Prince takes a look at how advisors can answer their clients’ insurance needs in a profile of Frank Seneco of Seneco & Associates.

When it comes to managing assets for investors whose needs extend into a stratosphere beyond price-earnings and Sharpe ratios, the Islamic finance story is quite an eye-opener. As Chesler explains, getting a client’s finances in compliance with Sharia law is a complex task, but fundamental to serving the needs of a large portion of Muslim wealth holders.

For advisors unfamiliar with Islamic law, taking on a client who strictly adheres to it would seem to be a monumental undertaking. But with Standard & Poor’s estimating Islamic finance will grow into a $3.4 trillion sector by 2018, it’s not one that can be casually ignored.

As challenging and mysterious as managing Muslim wealth would seem to many advisors, it is just one of a number of vast population segments that advisors will need to become familiar with as the advisory business grows more global and the world grows smaller.

The earlier reference to the Renaissance was made in jest, but maybe it touched upon a truth: that the most successful advisors may be the ones who are willing to delve into the unknown, expand their way of thinking and discover the many facets of the client population they serve.

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