Client service associates are often the glue that holds an advisory business together. These valuable assistants are typically adept at performing myriad tasks that would take most brokers and advisors who employ them at least twice as long to accomplish.
What does it take to be hired for this position? The path to becoming a registered client service associate is fairly straightforward in many respects, but those who are most effective in this position often obtain training and certifications that make them invaluable additions to any team or office. (For related reading, see: Hiring? Regulations Small Businesses Need to Know.)
History and Evolution
The client service associate position has evolved over time, to the point that many of those who work in this capacity perform functions that go far beyond those of their predecessors. In the past, successful brokers hired secretaries who sometimes opted to obtain a securities license, so that they could take simple orders if their boss was not able to. They also performed routine administrative tasks, such as typing, filing, and mail duty. This position gradually morphed into the registered sales assistant position, where licensed administrative personnel might play a more active role in the broker’s business, and could help with tasks such as marketing campaigns and compliance management.
Today’s client service associates can often do almost everything brokers and planners can do, including bringing in new business, maintaining the company’s website and social media presence, managing compliance, and interacting with clients at a deeper level. And, of course, most of them still perform the normal routine duties of setting up new client accounts, processing paperwork, cashiering and handling securities, filing and planning office events. A recent job posting for this position listed the following duties for the eventual hire:
- Provide service to clients professionally, and respond to regular inquires
- Present clients with called information like stock quotes, account balances, and varied account-related details
- Ensure that concerned financial consultants are informed of details and activities associated with registered clients’ transactions and accounts
- Support concerned financial consultants in arranging and executing direct mail campaigns
- Comply and learn all company procedures and policies
- Convey potential problems promptly to respective branch management or financial consultants
- Resolve customer complaints and inquiries proactively
- Identify issues requiring instant elevation to financial advisor or branch management team member
- Provide top level of discretion related to client, branch, financial consultant, and company details
- Ensure all suitable and required account documents are acquired and updated
- Provide support professionally on telephone for respective financial consultants
- Help clients’ to transfer funds and securities, along with issuing checks as requested
- Convey information on absent paperwork and securities, along with unpaid funds, to clients
- Ensure conformance with firm and branch policies and standards
- Use company computer systems to provide services to clients and assigned FCs. (For related reading, see: 4 Common Questions About Hiring Staff.)
The Path to Get There
In terms of tangible criteria, the requirements to become a client service associate are simple. The word 'registered' usually means securities-licensed and -registered with FINRA and/or the SEC. Thus, a Series 6 or 7 and 66 licenses are usually required. Those who handle futures transactions or insurance accounts will need the proper licensure. Basic administrative and typing skills will be needed, along with proven attention to detail, and the ability to deal with customers. For these reasons, candidates with prior customer service experience are often favored for these positions.
Those who would like to attain this position would be wise to begin by working as, say, a customer service representative for a mutual fund company or bank, where they can learn basic skills such as dealing with unhappy clients, managing paperwork and multitasking. Earning some certifications, such as that of Financial Paraplanner, offered by the CFP Board – or working as a paralegal – can also be a good idea.
This type of experience looks good on a résumé, and will help to prepare applicants for the daily rigors of this job. Client service associates today are often expected to go above and beyond the normal call of duty in their daily routines, in order to help promote the business and satisfy the needs of its customers. There may be times when they are expected to spend weekends or holidays attending corporate events or completing necessary tasks that fall outside the initial job description. (For related reading, see: The Best Training Programs for CFP Exams.)
Compensation and Benefits
Most client service associates are paid either a salary or, less commonly, an hourly wage. Those who have securities or insurance licenses may also earn commissions on any transactions that they have done, and also receive bonuses or other additional incentives for their accomplishments. Glassdoor.com shows that the average compensation for registered associates is $47,845. The range for this job probably runs somewhere from $30,000 at the low end to perhaps $80,000 for superstar assistants who are able to perform unique high-level functions.
Those who work for brokers at large firms are also typically provided with benefits packages, such as life and health insurance, as well as a retirement plan. The benefits offered to associates at small retail firms can vary considerably from one company to another, but those who work for highly profitable firms may enjoy a considerable smorgasbord of perks not commonly offered to administrative assistants.
Those who aspire to become financial advisors or planners at some point should also consider starting as a client service associate. This can help them get their foot in the door and gain valuable experience while they take financial planning coursework or use their licenses to accumulate an own book of business.
The Bottom Line
Client service associates play a vital role in the financial industry, for both clients and the companies and advisors who employ them. Many of these associates are indispensable members of close-knit teams who perform high-level functions on a daily basis. For more information on what you need to do to get hired as a client service associate, visit the Financial Planning Association website at www.fpanet.org. (For related reading, see: The Best Financial Careers for Women.)