As I was making a few changes to the GreenBridge Advisors website, I found myself thinking about what it actually takes to be a good financial professional. I started considering the importance of age, education, experience, and certifications first. I personally believe that age has nothing to do with one’s qualifications, and certifications generally apply to a specific area. Educational background and experience certainly are up on the list of important things to consider. Then I started thinking about all of the horror stories I have heard throughout my career about supposedly reliable and trustworthy “lettered” professionals who failed at their jobs, stole from clients , or simply had no interpersonal skills. It was then that I realized that it is the intangibles that truly make someone stand out from the rest.
Yes, I said intangibles: qualities that cannot be quantified. Anyone can work in an industry for a number of years, or attain a certain professional achievement. The thing is, however, there are just some qualities that are even more important. Perhaps at the top of the list is honesty. It may sound trivial, but a majority of white-collar crimes arise out of a lack of honesty. The ability to be transparent with a client as to one’s true intentions and desires: Is a client’s interests truly best served investing in a certain mutual fund or is it because the fund carries a hefty load that will benefit the advisor’s interests? It can be as simple as padding fees on a mortgage loan, and claiming that the fees are a “necessary part of the application process”. Transparency and honesty are the foundation of trust in any relationship, especially one where the client’s money is involved.
Another key trait that a truly special financial professional will possess is the ability to communicate. This doesn’t mean that the professional has to be a charmer. No, this means that the professional has to be able to actually listen: listen to a client’s background, their needs, desires, concerns, confusion, etc. Once all of the pertinent information has been obtained, the next step is being able to communicate back to the client what the plan of action is going to be, but in such a way that the client will not only feel completely comfortable, they will actually understand everything. A major point of concern with people who work with any kind of professional advisor is the inability to escape the constant use of industry jargon, which only leads to more confusion.
To some people, this quality may go hand in hand with honesty, but making each and every client feel relevant is something that oftentimes falls by the wayside. Each client needs to be treated as if they are the only client a professional has–not just the few that pay the most. Part of building a business relationship involves building a personal relationship, and nobody wants to be involved in either type if they feel neglected or as though they do not matter. Too many professionals (in any field) tend to concentrate a majority of their attention on a select few clients. If one cannot devote the requisite amount of time that each client needs simply because the income is not there, then they should not have taken on those clients in the first place.
What it comes down to, is that a business relationship is essentially the same as a personal relationship. Aside from education and experience, those who are able to be truthful, communicative, and make time for each of their clients will be successful. Simply possessing knowledge and having years of experience alone are no longer all that define a truly good financial professional. All you need to do is search for recent white-collar crimes to discover that many educated and tenured professionals are just as likely to fail at their jobs or turn to fraudulent means to make an extra buck. Make sure you do your due diligence before making the decision to work with someone, especially if you are going to entrust them with the day-to-day management of your finances.
What do you thinks makes someone good at their job as a financial adviser? Do you rely simply on what is posted on the wall or the letters following the person’s name or do you try to discover more before deciding to work with someone?