If you know a financial advisor, consider respecting the time and hard work that individual put into this endeavor. Many people with dreams of becoming a financial advisor will begin by taking a focused course at New York University, Texas Tech, College for Financial Planning, or JR Financial Group. Following that, in order to become a certified financial planner, that individual must take a test with a roughly 60% pass rate on the first attempt.
If all goes well, then a financial advisor must further educating themselves in regards to investments, insurance, mortgages, taxes and plenty more. The ultimate goal is to then educate clients on how to spend and save in order to achieve long-term goals. This isn’t a one-strategy-covers-all approach. Rather, strategies need to be devised on a case-by-case basis based on the client’s current financial situation and goals. (For more, see: The Best Schools for Financial Planning and Want to Be a Financial Planner? Click Here.)
To give you an idea on how much pressure comes with this occupation, it involves actively managing a client’s investments, which includes stocks, bonds, real estate, mutual funds, ETFs, bonds, and more. Despite long-term goals, a financial advisor will usually provide quarterly statements for asset appraisal and performance.
Even the best financial advisors can have a bad quarter, which is a very short time frame in the investing world. It’s imperative for financial advisors to help clients understand that they are not traders, but advisors that aim to stay the course and deliver realistic long-term returns. (For more, see: How Advisors Can Help Clients Stomach Volatility.)
A good financial advisor will also inform clients on how to maximize tax returns based on deductions and exemptions, help a client figure out how to pay for their child's college, and how to fiscally prepare for retirement. This goes much deeper than many layman would realize and includes inflation projections, expected asset appreciation, and life expectancy. With this information in hand, a skilled financial advisor can recommend changes to a client’s spending and saving habits. (For related reading, see: 5 Vital Questions Advisors Should Ask New Clients.)
All of this might sound like a lot of hard work, and that is certainly the case. That’s why financial advisors need assistance.
Assistance and Tools
Financial planners live in a dynamic business environment where it’s imperative to keep up with recent changes and modern technology. For example, a good financial planner in today’s world uses a CRM, or Customer Relationship Management. This term is self-explanatory, but investopedia offers a more in-depth definition:
“The principles, practices, and guidelines that an organization follows when interacting with its customers. From the organization's point of view, this entire relationship not only encompasses the direct interaction aspect, such as sales and/or service related processes, but also in the forecasting and analysis of customer trends and behaviors, which ultimately serve to enhance the customer's overall experience.”
In simplest terms, a CRM allows a financial advisor to:
- Manage contacts and clients
- Access platforms to be shown to clients via smartphones and tablets
- Access proposal tools that are quick and simple
Improved technology has led to improved time efficiency. Think of how public companies are always looking to cut costs in order to improve the bottom line. Financial advisors take a similar approach, but it often begins with time. (Click here for a list of CRM software providers.)
Financial advisors can’t go it alone. Regardless of how good someone is at what they do, a support system always provides an advantage. A financial advisor needs a broker-dealer. There are many institutions that offer broker-dealer services, including Wells Fargo Advisors and Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management, and LPL Financial Holdings Inc. (LPLA).
LPL Financial is the largest independent broker-dealer in the United States and is used by 13,500 independent financial advisors. If offers everything from an internal team that can talk in-depth about life insurance plans and how to structure them to compensation support in the way of payout, health benefits, pension, E&O coverage and more.
By taking advantage of technology-based tools offered by LPL Financial (and other broker-dealers), financial advisors will be able to reduce costs, increase speed, and enhance overall productivity and efficiency. These tools allow for the streamlining of investment operation; professional presentations; specialized research; access to a trading desk with experienced equity, fixed income, and mutual fund traders that use modern technology to execute high-volume trades; client acquisition and retention advice and materials; cost-effective marketing tools; and the simplification of portfolio management. (For related reading, see: Which Robo-advisor is Best for Financial Advisors?)
Many advisors employ an array of computing technology to manage their workload, communicate with clients and co-workers, make presentations and run CRM programs and other apps (some of which may be only available on Windows-enable computers). For example, some advisors swear by Fidelity AdvisorChannel, a tool that helps advisors monitor and trade client accounts. And for advisors on the go (and those lacking a VPN), GoToMyPC and similar services can be a valuable tool for accessing files remotely. Speaking of those files, you'd better back them up regularly — or better yet — automatically. There are various services that help you do this; here's a good list from PC Magazine. Don't forget the small stuff that can really aid productivity, such as a good smartphone and data plan, extra computer monitor, shredder and easy-to-use scanner.
The Bottom Line
It takes a lot of education, time, and hard work for a financial advisor to meet professional status. Then the real work begins. In order for a financial advisor to offer the best advice and service to clients, he or she must take advantage of available tools, and in today’s world, that has a lot to do with technology. These technology-oriented tools have the potential to optimize asset allocation, save time, and reduce costs. If you read that from an investor’s perspective, then it's the same as simultaneously growing the top and bottom line, which is the goal for any business. (For related reading, see: Trends Challenging Financial Advisors and CPA, CFA or CFP - Pick Your Abbreviation Carefully.)
Dan Moskowitz does not have any positions in Wells Fargo or LPL.