5 Traits of Successful Financial Advisors

Various characteristics separate good financial advisors from the bad and the successful from the unsuccessful. Whether you want to become a financial advisor or simply need to hire one to help with your financial planning, here are five traits to keep in mind that most successful financial advisors have.

Key Takeaways

  • Successful financial advisors have a large book of client business and a track record of performance and service.
  • Getting clients and having them stick with you—and recommend you—means being professional and putting your clients first.
  • At the same time, you need to have a deep understanding of the markets, analytical skills and training, and a passion for finance.
  • Soft skills can be equally as important as hard skills such as investing acumen and market timing.
  • Financial advisors typically come from finance and economics backgrounds, but it is possible to become one by passing the General Securities Representative license, known as the Series 7.

1. Passion for Financial Planning and Wealth Management

The successful financial advisors are the ones who have an absolute passion for the subject. This is important because standards, laws, methodologies, and products within the financial and investment worlds are constantly evolving.

When a financial advisor has a huge passion for the subject matter, that person naturally gravitates toward learning more and more about the industry every day. Those without that passion consistently fall behind and struggle to keep up with industry developments. That alone can be the difference between success and failure as a financial advisor. A good question to ask financial advisors with every conversation is, "What's new in the industry?"

2. Deep Analytical Ability

There are many areas involved in a complete and thorough financial plan. Cash flow planning, retirement planning, investment management, insurance planning, estate planning, and tax planning are a few key areas that a competent financial advisor can help clients with. Having in-depth analytical ability across all of these areas is essential, but it is perhaps most important in the investing portion.

Successful financial advisors know that the risk and return relationship drives almost every aspect of a financial plan. Structuring an investment portfolio the proper way and being able to reallocate the assets as time and goals change is crucial. A financial advisor needs to be able to analyze and plan a portfolio in the context of a variety of metrics, such as standard deviation, beta, strategic asset allocation, tactical asset allocation, and drawdown.

3. Professional Salesmanship

This is a key requirement for successful financial advisors. Financial advisors must grow their book of business to thrive. Being able to sell their services across the entire spectrum of financial planning, from investment management to estate planning, is necessary for financial advisors to be successful. Granted, sales of services or products shouldn't be made solely to make a sale. The service or product must genuinely help the client.

However, salesmanship nonetheless is necessary. A financial advisor must be able to communicate to the client the problem or gap in his or her financial plan that exists, properly convey the solution, and as a final step, ask for the client's or prospect's business. A financial advisor who cannot muster up the courage to ask for business will undoubtedly get none. With this in mind, the next trait is crucial.

5%

The long-term job growth rate for financial advisors from 2020 to 2030. This is slightly lower than the average rate of 8%.

4. Putting a Client's Interests First

Successful financial advisors are ones that put the interests of their clients first and their own interests second. The advisor must believe that the financial interests of both parties should be aligned, or else a harmful relationship may occur. It is unnecessary and unethical to sell a client products that the client doesn't need, such as irrelevant insurance policies or insurance policies with too much coverage.

Certain investment products fit this category as well, such as mutual funds that have high sales loads, since there are countless comparable and better mutual funds without such loads.

In addition, charging higher-than-necessary investment management fees is not good practice. A successful financial advisor shouldn't charge 2% on assets under management when 0.5% is typical for the same service. Successful financial advisors help people and are compensated fairly; they don't drain their clients of their hard-earned money.

5. Curiosity

Uncovering precisely what a client needs across all aspects of financial planning is similar to detective work. Small details must be found and pieced together, and a comprehensive solution to a large problem must be created and communicated. Successful financial advisors are ones who enjoy this process and thrive on the challenge.

However, financial advisors are still expected to implement strategies that have been proven over time. This doesn't mean necessarily picking the safest and most advantageous strategy for the advisor, but it also means they shouldn't take unnecessary risks with their client's money in order to test a theory or allocation.

What Are the Hard Skills of Financial Advisors?

Some of the hard skills required to be a financial advisor are research skills, wealth management knowledge, understanding of complex modeling programs, and usually a form of higher education.

How Can I Be a Good Financial Advisor?

Being a good financial advisor will come to a few key performance measures. Of course, you are required to act lawfully. Your client will generally have a specific financial goal in mind. This isn't always about maximizing profit, and as long as you perform your duties for the client in the correct way, they should be happy. This becomes more nuanced, however, if there is a market downturn or macro event you could not anticipate that negatively affects your client's portfolio, and your client believes it is your fault. For this reason, it is a large part of your job to make sure you are communicating proper expectations with your client.

Is It Hard to Be a Financial Advisor?

It can be difficult to become a financial advisor if you lack two key traits: the ability to deal with clients, and a thorough understanding of all things finance. You could be the best financial planner in the world but if you are terrible with your clients, they will transfer to someone else who may not do as good of a job, but who they are much more comfortable with. Financial advisors should not underestimate the soft skills required.

The Bottom Line

Successful financial advisors know not only how to manage their clients' money, but how to ensure their clients feel safe and financially cared for. Although the barrier to entry can be high, financial advisors can enjoy a healthy salary and fairly stable employment. There is an element of salesmanship when it comes to landing new clients, which is why servicing your existing clients is key, as they often lead to profitable referrals.

Article Sources

Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Personal Financial Advisors."

  2. Indeed. "7 Financial Advisor Skills."

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