Looking Beyond the “Advisor” – Finding Opportunities in the Wealth Management Industry
By Kate Healy, Diversitas board member
What do you imagine when you think of wealth management? For many, this perception includes a broker, selling stocks, or an advisor, providing financial advice to wealthy clients, in a spacious office, with mahogany furniture. This vision likely includes a middle-aged white man.
What if I told you there were other scenarios to consider? Where 46% of associates at advisory firms were women1. And while nowhere near enough, there was a place for underrepresented coworkers. With innovative technology, and modern furniture. Where everyone wasn’t a financial advisor. And functions that included client relations, marketing, compliance, trading and other professional roles.
You might think you were dreaming. But 21st century wealth management is much more than investment advice. Professional wealth management firms have many roles besides that of a financial advisor. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a financial advisor. In fact, your path to becoming a financial advisor may include a few stops along the way.
Trading & Investments
Many students learn about financial planning while they are studying Finance and Investments. Which can put you on a path to be an advisor. Or you can become part of the firm’s Investment and/or Trading department. These teams help find the appropriate investments that work for clients’ risk tolerance, ESG preferences and tax situations.
Some firms may outsource these functions to a third party. There are Investment Management firms and Turnkey Asset Management Programs (TAMP) that allow advisor to spend more time focusing on their clients. These firms support the financial advisory firms and can be another avenue to helping clients achieve their goals. You will spend less time face to face with the advisor’s client, but you may spend some time working with advisors to understand their clients. If you have always been interested in the markets and portfolio management, an investment-focused role could be the right fit for you.
Many people love to work with clients. When you are starting out in your career, it can be daunting to try to find them. Many client support positions within an advisory firm allow you to have relationships with clients, without being their financial advisor. Here are some roles you can consider:
- Client Service/Operations/Administrative Associate – client service administration, new account opening, administrative and advisor support
- Senior Specialist – next level after Associate, can include hiring, training and supervising associates
- Director/Team Lead – managing a team of Operations, Human Resources, Trading, or other associates
- Department Leader/CXO positions – overseeing several teams, these are essential functions to ensuring a professionally managed firm.
As you can see, there are career paths that don’t include being an advisor. However, working in client services and operations are excellent ways to become more familiar with how advisors work with clients, and can be part of the career path to become an advisor. Don’t be afraid to switch your path as you go through your career. Always make sure you are having development and career path discussions with your supervisor and mentor.
How do advisors get the clients they serve? Providing excellent service and value to a client is a great way to gain referrals. A powerful, scalable way to get more clients is to create a marketing function within the advisory firm. Helping firms create a digital marketing function, turning their website into an acquisition tool, creating thought leadership that highlights the firm’s experts and developing exceptional prospect and client experiences through events are ways that marketing helps the firm grow.
One of the most important roles of marketing is to create the firm’s brand. Differentiating the firm from its competition and creating a unifying brand story helps align the firm to their value proposition. This is crucial for a firm’s growth and an important way to ensure people can be served by financial advisors. If you are looking to gain more insight into who uses financial planners, along with understanding all the functions within a firm and how they help clients, marketing may be the perfect fit for you.
Depending on the firm, advisors may bring in their own clients. Or there may be a business development team that brings in new clients who are assigned to advisors or teams.
The CFP Board has created resources that go into detail about the career path of a financial advisor, along with more information on the roles above. Be sure to check out Financial Planning Career Paths: Building more sustainable and successful businesses and Guide to Careers in Financial Planning to get more insights, including day in the life descriptions, competencies needed for advancement and pay guidelines for financial advisory careers.
A Career in the Financial Advice Profession
Hopefully, you now have a better idea of the many different ways you can be part of the financial advice profession – whether or not you are a financial advisor. The path we each take is often different, but all are supportive of providing clients with the advice and planning they need to live their dreams. It’s also a great place to find yours.
1 2019 FA Insight Study of Advisory Firms: People and Pay
Kate Healy is a financial services industry executive and NextGen advocate focused on building brands. Healy focuses on advocacy for the financial planning profession, leading initiatives which support the profession’s future through programs designed to raise visibility and provide support and resources to guide professional development.
Healy is widely recognized as a leading advocate for the next generation of financial planners, for women advisors and for the financial planning profession. Wealthmanagement.com named her to the 2018 “Ten to Watch” list. In 2016, Investment Advisor magazine named Healy as one of the industry’s 25 most influential people. Healy was named to InvestmentNews’ inaugural “Women to Watch” in 2015. Additionally, she was TD Ameritrade’s 2014 Impact Award winner for Diversity and Inclusiveness.