Experience can be the best teacher, many financial advisors say.

Invited by FA-mag to reflect on important lessons that aren’t taught in financial-planning courses, these veteran advisors offered a variety of wisdom they gained only after years of plying the trade.

It’s Not Just About Math
“Many people get into personal finance through a background in math, accounting, or finance,” commented Bob Peterson of Crescent Grove Advisors in Lake Forest, Ill. “[But] understanding clients’ attitudes, values, and biases is just as important, if not more so.”

Never is this more true, he added, than during market downturns or a client’s personal crisis.

“The greatest need during periods of volatility is personal attention and connection,” he said, “when being a reassuring and reliable resource is most vital.”

Chris Marsico at Rossby Financial, a RIA platform in Saxonburg, Pa., expressed a similar sentiment. “One critical skill that is often missed [in training courses] is the ability to understand clients,” he said. The best advisors have “genuine insight into how people make decisions and how their life experiences influence those decisions.”

The Right Attitude
To be the best, it helps to have the right attitude, said DeHaven Becker of Harmony Private Wealth at Steward Partners Global Advisory in Fort Collins, Colo. “This industry unfortunately attracts greedy people [who] only do this for their own personal gain,” he said. “[But] for those of us who treat it as a service to others, it’s the best industry in the world—and we gain market share.”

It can take time and effort, though, to win clients’ trust, he continued. “It’s not going to rain clients just because you’re suddenly here,” he said. “You have to go get [clients] every day. … The people who think it’s easy don’t last very long.”

Jamie Letcher of Summit Financial Advisors in Madison, Wis., came to the profession 17 years ago with “the explicit intent to educate people, not sell to them,” he recalled. “That is contrary to how many advisors are taught and operate.”

But, he said, it turned out to be the right mindset.

Finding Clients
Indeed, many advisors recounted how difficult it was to generate a client base.

“CFP should stand for Can't Find People,” quipped Gary Schwartz at Madison Planning in White Plains, N.Y.

Early on, he said, he “spent too much time becoming a so-called expert when what I needed was to see people.” But building and marketing an advisory business isn’t taught in school, he said.

The secret, he’s learned, is to develop a good reputation for caring about your clients. "Any advisor can create a retirement plan,” he said. “Clients want to see that you care about them."

First « 1 2 » Next