The Unexpected Skills Financial Advisors Need to Succeed in 2017

By Nathan Mersereau

Canoe_SoftSkillsThere are certain skills and traits that financial advisors absolutely must possess. If you’re an employer, it’s critical that you keep a close eye out for these strengths and characteristics when evaluating job candidates.

What are these key selling points to look for?

A financial advisor obviously needs to be able to help clients solve financial problems, avoid pitfalls, get organized and save time. And advisors today absolutely need to be equally adept with numbers and people. OK, so that’s always been the case. But I wholeheartedly believe the “good with people” aspect is increasingly crucial for financial firms to demonstrate from top to bottom if they are to win business in an industry rife with change and disruption.

Strong advisors are clear communicators who are able to break down potentially confusing financial information into easily digestible chunks. But there’s much more to the picture that requires great finesse, keen observational skills, intuition and the ability to show real empathy.

In a rapidly evolving business world, I feel financial planners now more than ever need to:

Be extremely perceptive

Being perceptive is more than just noticing a client’s nice new haircut. It means staying attuned to subtle cues that clients offer. A shift in body language, an extended pause or a quick glance exchanged between spouses can all communicate a ton about their concerns, confusion or consternation about the topic at hand. But you can’t address their concerns and help solve their problems if you’re not paying close attention to the signals they send. In an era of increasing tech automation and so-called robo-planners, the ability to truly attune yourself to others’ needs and emotions is a competitive advantage.

Understand the influencers

Not so long ago, parents were accompanying their recent graduate children to financial meetings. Now it’s just as, if not more, likely that millennials, many of whom see themselves as advisors to their baby boomer parents, are joining mom and dad when they consult with financial planners. This means you might have multiple stakeholders, different communication styles and even competing ideas in the room. Pay close attention to family dynamics and understand that the decision maker you need to win over or convince about a particular strategy isn’t always the person with the money.

Listen up

I’ve always thought that financial advisors should be required to take an active listening course early in their careers. At Planning Alternatives, we often say that we “do life” with our clients. We want to use our expertise as a vehicle to actually improve their whole lives – not just their financial lives. But that requires a commitment to listening to their biggest money-related dreams and fears. Enter client discussions ready to listen and learn about many aspects of their lives. And be adaptable based on what you hear. As the wise Stephen R. Covey once observed, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Listen to understand.

Talk like a human

Every industry has its own lingo. As financial advisors, it’s easy to fall into the habit of waxing poetic about the impact of certain laws or tax codes that are so familiar to us. The problem is that the client might feel like we’re drowning them in a sea of buzzwords or obscure acronyms. And that creates unnecessary distance. No, you don’t need to dumb every sentence down but avoiding jargon and speaking like an actual human being is essential to being deemed relatable and making a meaningful connection.

Remain calm under fire

We live in a world overflowing with information. Many clients have conducted significant homework about their investment options. While we don’t know the quality of that research, the bottom line is that we are competing with search engine results anyway. Your expert advice may differ from what a client read online (perhaps because the advice they read was misinterpreted, wrongheaded or absolutely insane). Your expertise might be subtly (and sometimes not-so-subtly) questioned. If this happens, the key is to not allow yourself to get emotionally sucked in when someone is pressing your hot buttons. This requires a cool demeanor that’s rooted in elevated emotional intelligence.

When I am hiring financial advisors, I look for the above skills, abilities and traits. I believe it’s serving our firm incredibly well. The next time you bring in a financial advisor job candidate, I suggest taking a hard look at their all-important soft skills.

Related article:
4 Proven Ways to Attract Talent to Your Financial Organization

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