How to Become a Successful Financial Advisor

How to Become a Successful Financial Advisor

How do you define success?  Success can come from many aspects: life, career, family.

Often I get asked how I became a financial advisor and what has led to my success. When someone views me as successful, I’m always flattered.  While I do consider myself to be successful, I’m also very humble.

By industry standards, I’m just a pea. I’m not a rainmaker, not a million dollar producer, not one of Forbes Top 100 financial advisors. I don’t have hundreds of millions under management.

Most big time producers would probably chuckle if they knew the size of my book of clients.  So why do others and myself consider me to be successful?   Because I love what I do (and it shows) and get paid very well to help people each and every day.

Being a financial advisor is not easy.  Being naive and inexperienced, that’s something that I really didn’t know when I got started in the business– but very quickly found out. 

How hard is it to get started? When I began my career with A.G. Edwards & Sons in 2002, I had a training class of around 55 people.  My class ranged from 23 year-olds, like myself, starting their careers to 50+ year-olds attempting a third career.  After completing training and being “in production” (better know as licensed to sell) for a year, our class of 55 had been slashed to less than half.  At my five year anniversary mark, there were only 5 of us left.

If you’re a numbers geek and you use my class as an example of your odds of surviving, then you have a 91% chance that you are going to fail if you decide to become a financial advisor.  How do you like your odds?

As I reflect back onto my young career, I’m truly thankful to many blessings that have been bestowed to me. There have been many emotional roller coasters along the way but I know that the following basic fundamental principles have been the foundation to my success.  Just so you didn’t think that I was blowing smoke, I recruited two other successful financial advisors, Russ Thornton and Brian Plain, to give their take what it takes to truly succeed in our business.

Abide by the Golden Rule

One of the keys to my success has much to do with how I was raised.  My family has always taught me live by the golden rule:

“Treat others the way that I would like to be treated”.

It’s such simple advice that rings true in every situation.  I apply this basic principle in life and most importantly in my career.  If a client calls me while I’m on the phone, I’m sure to call them back as soon as I can.  Why? Because I hate having to wait on someone to call me back and I don’t want my client having to wait.  Same thing on emails and sending out paperwork.

Brian concurs,

Always do what’s right for your client. This will often mean giving up short term financial gain. Do what’s right for your client because it is the RIGHT thing to do. Do it early and often and you’ll see it come back to you in spades.

Give 110% and Then Some

This business is not for everyone.  I’ve seen many people get started and think to themselves that they have what it takes only to see them fizzle out in under a year.  What made me different? Because I wanted it.  My first year, I spent all day and 2-3 night per week cold calling.  Yes, I was that annoying guy that would interrupt your favorite TV show by asking you the following:

“Hi, Mr.  So and So.  My name is Jeff Rose, and I’m calling from A.G. Edwards here in Carbondale.  I”m just calling you today to see if you are an investor and if you are open to new investment ideas from time to time.”

That was it.  That was my magical spiel.  Imagine saying that 100-2oo times a day?  If you weren’t jealous of me yet then I’m sure you’re jealous now :)

After cold-calling, I started hosting lunch and dinner seminars.  I used to beg invite potential clients to a free meal so they can hear me talk about some general investment message.   I used to do one of these every 6 weeks or so trying to get my name out there.  In addition, I would sacrifice weekends setting up booths at trade shows.  I would and have driven over 2 hours to meet with somebody hoping they would do business with me.  There were many highs and lows and I’ve enjoyed every moment.

Be Persistent, Not Pushy

When I first started in the business I had no clients given to me and it was up to me to find new ones.  When I came across someone who was a potential prospect, I was very eager to convert them to a client.  So eager that I would follow up more so than was properly necessary.  I learned along the way that you have to wait until people are ready to act, BUT you still want to make sure that they think of you when the time is right.  That’s why it is important to follow up: phone call, e-mail, hand written note.  Just make sure that when you do follow up it’s not too often.

Russ adds a bit of his experience in working in a Wall Street firm,

A Wall St brokerage firm is a sales firm.  I’m not criticizing sales because it’s a critical function in any healthy business.  In fact, though I’m an independent advisor today, I’m still selling my advice.  I guess my point is that you should understand up-front and make a career choice on the basis of what you want, and are willing, to sell to people.

Shut up and Listen

How you ever been to cocktail party and got stuck having to listen to a person who felt the need to tell you EVERYTHING about them even though you never asked.  Don’t worry I won’t do that to you :)  One thing about me is that I’m a very curious person by nature.  I like to ask a lot of questions and most importantly: L-I-S-T-E-N.

Brian adds,

Be an educator and share your knowledge. A successful advisor talks WITH clients, not AT clients. Making things simple and understandable isn’t easy, but it is essential.

Learn How To Be a Teacher

can you become a part-time financial planner

“A child miseducated is a child lost.”
John F. Kennedy

One of the surprising aspects of job is how much I play the role as educator.  Most people that I work with don’t have the desire to know or understand what the beta or standard deviation is on their portfolio.  They just know that they have worked there butt off to save as much as they have and that money has to last through the rest of their life.  And they are hiring me to help them through the process.   Some part of the process is easy (I need X amount dollars per month to survive) while other aspects can be confusing (I’m looking to set up an A-B Trust to protect my assets from estate tax).  Whatever the circumstance, it’s imperative that all parties have a good understanding of what we are trying to accomplish.  Without that  general understanding, that education of the financial goals at hand, any major bump along the way could jeopardize the desired result.

Russ points out,

When it’s all said and done, it’s the client’s money.  You can give them the best advice and listen to anything and everything they’re willing to share with you, but they have the final say in any decisions that are made.  I’ve found the best way to work with clients is to be a caring educator.  No, I’m not trying to teach them everything I know, but I want my clients to have a thorough understanding of their choices and the possible consequences of each choice they might make.

Give a Damn

If you really want to be a successful financial advisor you have to genuinely care about the people (your clients) that you are helping.  You can’t look at them as “how much money they have” or “how much you make off of them”.   In 2008 when the market was falling, I could care less about how much I lost.  I was more concerned about all my retired and soon to be retiring clients and how this would affect them.  If you don’t care- truly, genuinely care, then people see right through you.

Have Some Faith

“See, the LORD your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it as the LORD, the God of your fathers, told you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
Deuteronomy 1:21

I can remember in my first year of becoming a financial advisor I had one of the worst earning months of my short career.  I made less in a month that I made when I was still working part-time at GNC making $6/hour while I was in college.  Luckily, I was still young and didn’t have a family to support, so I made it.  What also helped me is having God on my side and giving me the strength and power to not doubt myself and continue forward and succeed.

Brian ends with,

Worry about the things that you can control. Always take care of your clients and do right by them. Don’t be afraid to let them know how they can help you grow your practice. If you’re consistently exceeding your clients expectations, they’ll likely become your best source of potential referrals.

Russ concludes,

There are very few certainties in life.  And there are perhaps even fewer in the financial services world.  But I sleep comfortably at night knowing that I’m doing work I love and working hard to take the best possible care of my clients.  I consider my clients part of my extended family and do my best to treat them as such.  Sure there will be problems and obstacles that inevitably pop up along the way, and there’s only so much I can do to minimize these, but I am comforted by the knowledge that there is no one else out there that could care about my clients as much as I do.

Thanks for Brian and Russ for contributing!

photo credit: Guillaume (Barcelona)
photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

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Comments | 13 Responses

  1. Kevin Clayton says

    Thanks Jeff for the very nice site. I am just working on my licensing now. Just passed my Life and am starting to study for my series 6 and 63. I’m one of those 3rd career guys. Very encouraging to see someone work hard and be persistent. Best of luck to you. You have inspired me.

    • Orlando says

      Thanks for the helpful tips. I am in my 2nd year of being a financial advisor. You are right there are a lot of ups and downs in this business. Some days you just want to look for another job, but then you get the highlight of your week. The person you have been trying to close or meet with for months gives you a call or sets an appointment with you. I hear if you work hard for 6-10 years straight you will be successful.

  2. Stephen C. Naromal says

    Hi Jeff. I am glad I came across your inspiring story as a financial advisor. I learned a lot and I even want to use your line when you cold call. Do not worry, I will try to come up with different words same meaning kind of line.

    What really struck me is the fact you are a Christian and the verse you shared (Deut 1:21). Faith indeed is very important coupled with optimism and genuine concern for people.

    I am just on my fifth month as Financial Advisor and really contemplating to quit but after reading your story and absorbing that very powerful verse, I will continue to strive on, meet people, give some financial advice and commit everything else to God.

    Thank you Jeff.

    Stephen

  3. Marshall says

    Very insightful! I am one of those guys who tried and failed. I tried selling life and long term insurance but, after 3 weeks, was forced to go back to my old job. My savings was not deep enough for me to truly give it my all.

    I am reading more and am still interested in sell insurance and want to get involved in investing. Just need to get a deep savings account.

  4. Hanson Chao says

    Dear Mr. Jeff Rose,

    Thank you for your wonderful and inspiring blog. I’m now 27 years old. I’m a financial advisor here in the Philippines in one of the top insurance company globally.

    I came from a real estate company and work there for 3 years as a sales consultant. I find that the work as a financial advisor has more value and fulfillment that’s why I resigned and pursue this career.

    Right now is my fifth month on full time, at first I was very excited about it, but after several rejections, sometimes I feel down and sometimes I think if this career is really for me.

    I hope you could give me some advice.

    Thank you and God Speed!

    • says

      Hanson,

      This business is a tough business, especially in the beginning. I can’t even even remember how many times I was rejected in my first year. Thousands of times I’m sure. After being in the business for over 8 years I still get rejected. What I learned along the way is that for every “no” you receive, you’re that much closer to a “yes”. You just have to keep asking and make more connections. Don’t take rejection personally. I’ve had many people say “no” in the beginning only to become clients one year, and sometimes, 2+ years after the first rejection. Keep at it!

  5. Dillon Cunningham says

    Hello Jeff,
    Great article man. I really appreciate the time you take putting out your blog with all of your excellent financial advice, as well as your personal stories about family and friends. I feel that we have a lot in common, although I am only 19 years old I feel we share the same type of energy and drive in life when it comes to accomplishing the goals in our lives as well as having a strong faith in God and love for our family and friends. I’ve had a rocky road in my life (not always making the best decisions) but finally was able to mature and understand the important things in life. I am in need of a mentor in the financial industry (someone to talk to and get advice from as far as breaking into a financial planning career) and the proper steps to take to get there? I’m currently working part time at an insurance and financial services firm in St. Augustine, FL as a Commercial Lines Account Administrator (after successfully completing the companies first internship program over the summer). Any advice or suggestions would be greatly appreciated Jeff.
    Thank you,
    Dillon Cunningham

  6. Kim says

    Thank you for writing this. I’ve been considering becoming a Financial Advisor and asking God to show me what to do, and if I can even do it. I’m a single mom, and scared, but I have an accounting and analyst background and want to use it to help others. I keep telling myself “I can do all things through Christ who strenthens me” (Phil. 4:13). Your writing has been very encouraging – thank you!

  7. Michael Glantz says

    Jeff,

    My name is Michael Glantz, Im a senior at the University of Central Florida majoring in Marketing and Finance. I currently have the passion and desire to become a financial advisor. I read your article and did some research and I have one question for you. It says you started in a training course with A & G. Do you perfer that, now that you are in the industry or do you perfer somebody going out and getting the certificates and trying to find a job with the tests under their belt (series 7, 63, CFP or CFA). I currently am interested in working for Meryl Lynch or Wells Fargo and going through their trainee program. Your help would be greatly appriciated. Hope all is well and business is booming.

    • Jeff Rose says

      @ Michael

      I don’t regret the path I went; because the training at my old firm is the reason I’m here today.

      Starting out I think you need some training. There’s so much to learn in our profession and there’s still situations to this day that I don’t know the answer and have to do research to figure it out.

      If I had to do it all over again, I don’t think I would have changed a thing.

      An alternative than working for a big brokerage firm is to find some sort of independent shop. You’ll get the same training but hopefully in a lot less stressful environment.

  8. Lauren says

    Hi Jeff

    So happy to have stumbled apon your article!
    I am 24year old female, a graphic designer by trait. I am thinking of leaving the industry and becoming a finacial advisor.
    I have absolutely no mathematical / accounting background ( I only took maths to my first year in high school )

    Despite this..I have made it through my first 2 interviews with an international investment company ( have my final interview today)

    Although I have no experience, they provide you with all the training, like you say. I am excited to help people, learn and give people advice. I am very money / future / saving / planning smart, and I think this being a passion, I could put it to good use..I want this. I’m just nervous because i will be up against people who have knowledge of accounting, and numbers..of which i do not know much on.
    Advise…?

    Warm regards

    Lauren

  9. Nauman Wasif, Manchester says

    Hi Jeff,

    Great motivational article, I’ve just finished my business management degree from the University of Chester with First Class honours, and I’m starting out as a trainee financial advisor at Bauer Financial in Manchester next week.

    As it is commission-only, I have other part time jobs on the side to get me regular money I can rely on to pay for bills. Would you advise me if it’s better to give up my other jobs and give my 100% to the financial advisor opportunity to increase likelihood of getting successful in this industry, or do you think it’s completely okay to continue with other jobs and use those contacts to boost my chances of success? Finance is my stronghold, and this is where I really enjoy and want to be in!

    Thanks

  10. keun says

    Hey, nice and straight to the point article…enjoyed reading it. The way you worked reminds me of myself when i was starting out. I started wall st for the first 4 years…and now its been 8 years since i left to start my own co. Never looked back, but i do admit i got a little bit content last couple years. I Plan on marketing in the new yr just as i did when i was starting out. Good article.

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