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What Does a Financial Advisor Do?
The financial advisor career involves much more than investment planning.
JULY 7, 2020
By Coryanne Hicks

Financial advisors stay busy with client meetings, keeping current on market events and much more. 

FINANCIAL ADVISORS HELP investors untangle the knot of their financial lives. They help clients draw a line from where they are today to where they want to be and then provide financial guidance to get them there. Financial advisors can be a significant part of their clients' entire lives.
"As retirement planners, we want to be there for them throughout the remainder of their lives, and it's important for me to make sure I'm not just the guy who handles their money," says Andrew Wood, a retirement planning advisor with Daniel A. White & Associates in Middletown, Delaware.
There's a common misconception that financial advisors spend all of their time studying investments. While investment planning is an integral part of the job, it's often not the central part of an advisor's daily duties.
Sonya Ranker, a certified divorce financial analyst and certified financial planner at Questmont Strategic Wealth Advisors, estimates 30 percent of her time is specific to investments. "The rest of the time is more advanced planning and goal strategizing," she says. "I review tax returns as much as I review investment statements."
Beyond investment planning, what financial advisors do can include:
  • Meeting with clients.
  • Background planning for client meetings.
  • Staying up-to-date on market events.
  • Working with centers of influence.
  • Marketing.
What Do Financial Advisors Do?
Financial advisors meet with current and prospective clients to assess their financial situations and create plans for their futures. When not in front of clients, they're often preparing for client meetings, staying up-to-date on market events, working with other professionals, and marketing their services.
Financial advisors spend a majority of their time meeting with and talking to investors. Clients are "the engine of the business," says John Harris, managing director of South Florida-based Coral Gables Trust Company. "We have to make sure our clients are getting what we promise and that they're satisfied."

To this end, the first and most important thing he does every day is to address any current or prospective client needs. "You always want to differentiate yourself in this business," especially if you're a smaller firm, he says. Responsiveness is one way to do that, as is flexibility in solutions.
Meetings With Clients

New limitations on in-person contact have changed the way advisors may meet with their clients. Being an essential business has only increased the need for advisors and their firms to be adaptable. While the means of communication may have changed from in-person to virtual, the importance of communicating at a high level and promptly with clients has not changed, Harris says.
At Coral Gables Trust Company, for instance, by quickly embracing virtual meeting platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, they could keep all their offices open and continue providing the support their clients needed. "Our clients have expressed their gratitude for this," Harris says.
Whether advisors meet their clients online or in the office, the structure of a client meeting remains largely the same.
Client meetings are often spent "learning about their situations and putting together a plan of action to improve their situation and help them to reach their goals," Wood says.
With existing clients, his goal is to uncover anything that's changed in their situation and if adjustments need to be made to their financial plans. For prospects, he spends "a great deal of time just learning about their unique situations, what they're looking for and what they need," he says.
"It always comes down to the goals the client has outlined," Ranker says. Their financial goals will shape the trajectory of the meeting and the background planning that goes into preparing for it.
Background Planning for Meetings

Background planning for meetings is where the investment analysis often comes into play. Preparation involves running diagnostics on client plans and researching investment solutions.
"We also spend time writing articles and creating materials that can be used during client meetings or presentations," says Allison Vanaski, a senior financial planner and vice president of investments at Arcadia Wealth Management in Smithtown, New York.
Financial advisors are as much educators as they are advisors.
The biggest role Ranker takes on on a day-to-day basis is managing client behaviors and perspectives. "Most of the information people get is from the news," she says. "They get wrapped up in the emotion of what's happening on a day-to-day basis, and it separates the money and the performance from their actual life goals." It falls to advisors to educate their clients about market cycles and volatility.
Following Market Events

Staying up-to-date on market events is an essential part of the job. When not working directly with clients or other team members, Vanaski is often reading up on current events and news that could impact her clients or researching better ways to serve those clients. She averages two face-to-face client meetings each day, with around 15 to 20 phone calls daily.
"It's not all client phone calls," Vanaski says. "We're constantly working with accountants, attorneys, insurance agents, to brainstorm about client situations or review something they're working on for our client."
These other professionals are called centers of influence. They're the experts who are advising clients in other areas of their lives.
Centers of Influence

Centers of influence can be key sources of client referrals for advisors. For instance, when a woman wants a different advisor than her former husband following a divorce, she may ask her attorney or accountant for a referral.
Harris spends a lot of time "right away, every day" ensuring those "important centers of influence are satisfied and taken care of," he says. "If they have open questions about one of their clients, we make sure we're addressing those."

It's all about marketing and keeping the business "engine" fueled through constant outreach and engagement. "Without a systematized marketing and growth plan, growth is inevitably quite difficult - much like the saying 'if you aren't growing you're dying,'" says Dan Simon, a retirement planning advisor with Daniel A. White & Associates. His firm in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania and Middletown, Delaware holds two educational seminars a week on average to draw in new clients.
"The most successful financial advisors are very active and will be doing several events every week," be it breakfasts, lunches, after-work events or even weekend outings, Harris says.
Most tasks that a financial advisor does is done with the goal of improving their clients' financial lives. This can be challenging when everyone's life situation is unique. To this end, many financial advisors choose to specialize in a particular nichefor clientele.
The types of financial advisor specializations can include:
  • A particular client group, such as women, teachers or millennials.
  • A type of planning, such as retirement planning, estate planning or insurance planning.
  • An investment style, such as socially responsible investing or income investing.
A specialization "allows you to become an expert in solutions that serve that specific market, distinguishing yourself from the firm down the street," Simon says.

View article on U.S. News & World Report

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