Becoming the Financial Advisor of the Future
(If you want to start your financial services firm, you’re in the right place! My 5 Day challenge is something you’ll receive after reading this post. After you finish this post, I’ll show you how to access it!)
As a financial advisor, it’s obvious you should have a broad range of knowledge in order to provide the best possible advice for clients in any type of situation. You also need to understand what is happening in your economy, have information on current market trends and take into account your client’s personal goals. You must also be empathetic and personable while having knowledge of different industries and business models.
But let’s say you have all those things under control or at least some way you will acquire those skills.
How do you build a business that will attract the type of clients you want to work with and that will want to work with you?
In this post, that I’m dubbing: “Everything You Need to Start Your Financial Services Firm: Becoming the Financial Advisor of the Future”, I’m going to share with you what I’ve noticed from working with dozens of successful financial advisors, building my own financial services practice, and helping new advisors establish their own registered advisory firms.
In this video, I provide ten considerations for starting your own registered investment advisory firm. Although it’s not a definitive list, it’s a good start if you’re starting from scratch. But I feel the need to expand on that list.
It’s because many advisors don’t truly count the cost of striking out on their own. I’ve seen some really bad reasons used for starting a financial services firm (which BTW I feel is one of the hardest things to do).
First things first…let’s talk about qualifications.
There shouldn’t be any conjecture around this…but sadly there is.
To legally give financial advice, you’ll need to at least have the Series 65. This is the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) exam administered by FINRA. In most cases, you should be able to study for and pass this exam in about 90 days.
Is this the “gold” standard for financial professionals wanting to give financial advice? Absolutely not. It just happens to be the standard that most state securities boards have agreed is the bare minimum.
Here’s why I bring that up.
There are a lot of considerations that you will need to adhere to–this compliance/legal one is just the first that you’ll need to “check off” before you start marketing your services (i.e. talking to prospective clients). If you don’t, you can get yourself into trouble real quick and end your business venture even before it starts.
Each state will have a bit of nuance to their registration requirements which you can usually find by just googling “[your state] requirements to start a registered investment advisory firm”.
Beyond compliance and legal qualifications you will want to incorporate some type of ongoing training to increase your skill and knowledge around financial planning, investment, insurance, retirement planning, taxes, or estate planning according to the type of clients you will be dealing with. If you’re reading this as someone fairly new to the field of financial services, don’t think that you’re done “learning” once you’ve passed one or two tests. The journey has just begun! You’ll want to keep yourself sharp so that you develop a specialized set of skills for your ideal client (we’ll get to that a little later).
Next, who are you going to serve?
I think the first disservice most new financial advisors do to themselves in starting their firm is not to get specific about who they will work with.
I get why this happens though.
In narrowing down the field of individuals that you would work with, you will inevitably turn some off or away.
There’s a such a thing as good and bad revenue. Having to deal with a client you bring on that you’re really not equipped or willing to serve, will drain your energy in the future. It also takes away from the energy and service you could be providing to the clients you are equipped and willing to serve. So in reality this “bad” revenue diminishes from your “good” revenue and starts to cause an internal conflict that is just not worth going through.
The fix is simple–don’t take on bad revenue clients from the beginning.
You can do this (as scary as it may seem) and still have a wildy successful and profitable practice.
What’s the point of this person working with YOU?
At a high level there are 5 steps that you’ll need to take:
- Find out what your niche/target has in common with everyone. Most people start thinking about unique qualities of their ideal client avatar (“ICA”), but common wisdom tells us opposite. Remember Maslov’s hierarchy of needs from elementary school? Ok. I’m dating myself a bit. But Drew Eric Whitman’s book Cashvertising is a great reminder of the common things that make people tick and more relevant to this discussion–make them buy. In his book, he walks you through the 8 biological programmed needs/desires in all humans that really center around our need for safety, relationship and significance. When determining who you will serve you have to start with the basics!
- Find out what your niche/target has that is unique. After this you’re ready to drill down and figure out how your ICA is different. There are many ways to differentiate–it could be where they hang out, where they work, what they like to do in their spare time, etc. Your job is to pick something (bonus points if it interests you also for the subsequent steps) and then learn as much as you can about that topic.
- Brainstorm a list of 10-20 mistakes with corresponding desires/results. Most people don’t just show up to work with you because everything is going fine. There’s usually been an event or circumstance that has gotten their attention. Since you don’t know exactly what it may be (especially if you’re newer to this career), you’ll need to make a list of possible or potential reasons they are looking for help. You’ll also need to make a corresponding list of solutions that can be applied to these potential problems.
- Pick a topic/subject for your angle. You need to have an “angle” that you’re proposing as to why they would want to work with you. Is it that you’re going to save them 50% more in taxes because of your expertise in tax strategy or that you’ll help them create tax-free retirement income. Regardless of it this centers around your specialty or their need (ideally both), you need to pick something that allows you to frame all your messaging to them.
- Create content talking about the payoff from applying your solution. We all have problems and are therefore looking for solutions. But to just skip all the fluff, we’re looking for what life will be like with the solution applied. If you had a flat tire (problem), you know you need a new tire whether it’s patched or replaced (solution). However, you really just care about what you’ll be able to do once the flat is fixed! Your ICA is no different. They want the same result, but just as it pertains to their financial life.
How will you get (and stay) in front of the right people?
This is where most advisors will stall out and not become the financial advisor of the future that they could be.
There are various platforms to convey your message on, but let’s just keep it simple. There’s voice, audio, video or written. Let’s cover each briefly.
- Voice. This is the newest platform but likely has the most promise. When you think of the trend of technology (I can still remember cassette tapes and rotary phones), it is not hard to believe that “Alexa, play the latest financial advice from Dominique Henderson” will be a pretty normal statement in many households. Building a footprint on this platform is not for the faint of heart, but first movers with a strategic message have already seen rewards.
- Audio. Not to be confused with voice, audio is what we traditionally call “podcasts”. (Here’s a shameless plug for my own podcast.) Surprisingly enough, podcasts still remain a wide-open opportunity for those that have a specific message (notice the theme of specificity). I’m not saying that your spin on how to do a back-door Roth is not needed in the world, but it might be better if you’re talking about that strategy to a specific type of audience versus the general public.
- Video. Arguably the platform with the largest possible reach (at this point) is video. This can also come in so many forms, from pre-recorded videos uploaded to the second-largest search engine (YouTube) all the way to 15-second TikTok videos. How you use any one of them or all the versions in between will be a function of your style, personality and technical know-how.
- Written. This is the oldest platform and probably in the “comfort-zone” of most advisors (so they think!). Although blogging can be beneficial, you’re assuming a lot when you go down this path. First, that your words will be found in the oversaturated sea of blogs that are currently out there. Second, that you can produce content that is relevant and fresher than what artificial intelligence is currently spitting out nowadays. And finally (but not least), that you are able to benefit from the entire exercise. In that, you’ll usually need people to find the blog post, read it and then complete your specific “call to action” so that you get an email address to follow up with them. Despite all that, it is still possible to build a viable business using this platform.
So after you pick your platform(s), what do you do?
What’s going to fuel the engine of growth for your new firm?
So many advisors get this wrong starting out. Before they get to this step they’ve already spent many hours designing a website (or paying someone to do so), purchased expensive software and other things that should all be done after everything we’ve discussed.
Why is this a problem?
Because they’re doing things out of order.
Imagine wanting to go into the restaurant business and not knowing what type of food you’ll be serving and going to buy a big wood-burning oven. I hope you plan to serve some pizza or flatbreads because otherwise you’ve just wasted a lot of money!
Starting your financial services practice is no different. Until you’ve narrowed down your audience, decided on what you plan to say to them, and chosen which particular platform to do this on, you have no need for a website or fancy software.
It’s better to do the work of finding out more about your ICA with all the fits and starts you will have before you start determining tech and other fun tools.
Herein lies the problem though…
Since that part is so exciting and fun, most advisors rush right into that part.
However, unless you plan exactly how you will build a sustainable and scalable business by identifying your ICA properly, you’ll likely end up with not enough clients to justify those fancy purchases. The result is that you will struggle.
So let’s do this thing the right way!
You’ll want to focus on what your offer will be. I suggest starting with the list we made earlier of all their problems and the intended solutions.
To this list, you’ll want to add another couple of columns: (1) you should have what corresponding service you offer to solve their problem, (2) what it will take to deliver that service (in terms of man hours), and (3) what you plan to charge for the service. It should look something like this…
Here’s why you want to create a full list of your product/services…
First, it will make you very clear on your offer, so that when you craft an email or any other type of communication for your ICA you are focusing on their problem and your solution. The second thing it offers is a good way for you to not “underprice” your services. A lot of advisors underprice their value initially because they don’t do this exercise, but more so because they have imposter syndrome. There’s a lot to say about that and I’ll likely address it in another blog post so stay tuned.
Next, you need to design a workflow that works for you and your ICA. How will you deliver on these service promises? How often will you meet? Will the meetings be virtual or in person? This is where you’ll want to put some thought, because as your practice begins to grow you don’t want the bottleneck to be on service delivery. That will reflect badly on you.
Difficult to accomplish?
Yes indeed, but definitely not impossible by any means.
If you’re like most, you’re probably thinking that this is a lot to comprehend and you’re right. It can be tough especially if you’re just starting out.
If you’ve been thinking about starting your own firm and wondering how exactly you could pull it off, you may be a candidate for my Masterclass Coaching Lab. This is a solution designed for individuals looking to start their own financial services practice.
When you join my email list, I’ll send you you my 5-DAY CONTENT CREATION SERIES that will provide you with the framework I use to operate my financial services practice–DJH Capital Management.