How To Become A Financial Advisor


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So you want to learn how to become a financial advisor? That's great, you've come to the right place! This post will give you insight on what it takes to become a financial advisor, how you know it's right for you, and what steps to take to land your first job! If you want to learn more about what does a financial advisor so I encourage you to visit What is a Financial Advisor.

How to become a Financial Advisor

Step 0 - Look Within

Before investing your time, effort, and money there are some serious things you should take into consideration. When you become a financial advisor, you're not entering into a new field or getting yourself a job, you're making a life commitment. Doing your research, talking to people in the field and answering truthfully to some tough questions can be the difference of a long, thriving new career or wasting the next 5 years of your life.

I have watched hungry, high-energy advisors enter the industry and wipe out as fast as they came in. I have witnessed desperate advisors putting their own families money in products to generated themselves a high revenue in order to meet their numbers. Even I have been in front of a computer contemplating buying a more expensive product for my client over a cheaper fund that accomplished the same goal in order to help me meet my sales quota. It's unfortunate but when it's crunch time and the sale of a product can be the difference between an additional $8K in your paycheck and potentially your job, you become faced with a moral dilemma.

Becoming a financial advisor can be the best decision you've made, the potential is astronomical and you really can provide a better life for you and your family. But, when faced with the pressure, if you are going to make decisions that will be for your personal gain and not the benefit of your client, I can tell you right now your career is going to be short lived.

Building a book of business will be one of, if not the hardest thing you will ever do. You will work 12 hour days, weekends, and holidays. Some days you will feel like you're on top of the world, other days you'll want to bang your head against the wall.

From my experience, there are certain characteristics most successful financial advisors have in common with one another. 

Qualities that make good advisors

  • Communication Skills
  • People Skills
  • Phone skills 
  • Thick Skin
  • Persistent 
  • Awesome Marketer
  • Persuasive
  • Take Complicated Things and Explain them Simply
  • Willing to Work 65-80 hours week
  • Confident

Qualities that DON'T make good advisors

  • Poor Communicator
  • Shy
  • Introvert
  • Easily Discouraged
  • Unmotivated
  • Short-term thinker
  • Unethical
  • Intimated by Money 
  • Takes Rejection Personally 
  • Doesn't Perform Well Under Pressure

Step 1 - Get Yourself Ready

Now if you've made it here, congrats! You're in it for the right reasons and are ready to take the next steps in becoming a financial advisor. The next step is to clean up. What do I mean by that? I mean you need to clean the gutters, polish your shoes, and get yourself ready in all areas: 

1) Have a professional resume

Make sure you update your resume and have ten printed on resume paper. You can get the resume paper at your local FedEx Kinkos or on Amazon. If you're having trouble building your resume use a resume builder resource online to help you get ideas and wording. I used a resource to help me with mine. 

2) Google yourself, because they are going to

Have you ever googled yourself? What shows up on the first page? Is it going to increase the likelihood of landing the job? If you want to become a financial advisor you better believe your managers, clients, and colleagues will be googling you to find out more about you. So take the time to clean out the gutters, take down that picture of you doing a kegstand in college. If there's something incriminating, I would look into finding a way to remove that information immediately.

3) Get yourself a brand new fitted suit

Go out and buy yourself a nice fitted suit. Trust me, I know things can be tight, and a new suit is not just a casual purchase it can be quite expensive. Financial advisors are well-dressed, and if you want to hang, you need to invest in your wardrobe.

4) Build an awesome LinkedIn profile 

If you want to become a financial advisor, and you want to be successful you have to market yourself heavily. You have to be where your potential clients are. Today, that platform is social media, more specifically LinkedIn. Not only are your clients there but so are your colleagues and your managers. LinkedIn is a professional networking site. Your profile is essentially your resume online. Make sure you take some extra time to build a professional profile. You don't have to reinvent the wheel here, search for people in similar positions to get ideas and use similar strategies to help you build yours. 

5) Get a professional headshot

Make sure you have a professional-looking headshot in your new suit on your LinkedIn profile page (the picture of you on your wedding day cropped is no good). You will also use this picture for your new website with the company.

6) Set Expectations 

Read The Million-Dollar Financial Advisor. This book will give you an inside on what it takes to become successful in the industry. Read this book before your interview so you can impress your hiring manager.

 7) Make a business plan

Most hiring managers will require a business plan. You can find generic templates online and go from there. Even if it is not required have one and share it in your interview. This is will differentiate you from other candidates.

8) Make a list of 250-500 people you know 

Make a list of 250-500 people you know with names, email & phone numbers. Again, most hiring managers will require this. If not, it will surely impress them if you have one. The reason is, they know how hard it is to build a business in the beginning so that you can rely on a few people (family, friends, old colleagues) to get you started. 

Step 2 - Do your Research

There are three types of firms you can work for when you become a financial advisor:

1) Bank (JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America)  
2) Wirehouse firm (Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo)
3) Independent  

The independent channels are your small boutique firms in your neighborhood typically owned by a couple of partners or an individual. If you're just starting out, I would recommend you find a place that will sponsor your Series 7 exam and compensate you while you study for it. Typical salaries vary, but they can be anywhere from $45-80K depending on the program you join.

My best advice to help you figure out which route is to contact three financial advisors with different experience levels from each of the firms you are considering: 

  • Advisor 1 (less than 2 years)
  • Advisor 2 (5-10 years)
  • Advisor 3 (15+ years) 

A Financial advisor's contact information is typically public, and most have LinkedIn profiles so it should be easy to find their contact info. You can check https://brokercheck.finra.org/ to find out how long they have been licensed. Once you have your three candidates, from each of the firms you are considering, give them a call them and set a face-to-face appointment with each of them. 

Example script: “Hi is this Bob? Hi, Bob thanks for taking my call. My name is Dave, and the reason for my call is I was wondering if you would be open to meeting with me sometime next week. I’m seriously considering becoming a financial advisor and wanted to spend some time with you to learn more about what it is you actually do. I prefer meeting face-to-face, but if it’s more convenient for you, I’d be happy to set up a phone call.”

This will do two things:

1) Give you remarkable insight into the firm from three different perspectives
2) Bridge a relationship inside the firm (HUGE) 

Once you get your appointments, write down 5-6 thought provoking questions and collect as much data as possible. Find out who the branch manager is (although branch manager profiles are typically online) ask them what the culture is like and what is expected from rookie advisors. If you need additional people from inside the firm, this is your opportunity. 

Example Questions for Advisor Interview:

  • How did you get in the business? (good question to start as it builds good rapport, advisors love to tell their story)
  • Can you tell me a little more about your business (partners, business model, your process and how you work with clients)
  • What’s your favorite part about your job, what’s your biggest challenge?
  • What do you think helped most contribute to your success?
  • What is the biggest challenge working for (firm name)?
  • If you were to start over today, how would you do it?
  • I see that you worked for (previous firm name) in the past, how does it compare to (current firm name)?
  • Where do you see the future of personalized advice headed?
  • Who would you recommend I reach out to in your office?

Remember, the person hiring you will be the branch manager so if you can meet them at this point go for it! If not, once you have made a decision on which company is right for you, you should apply online and let your favorite point of contact know that you would be grateful for an introduction to the branch manager. 

If you don't think you can rely on your point of contact, that's ok. Go online and find the contact information of the branch manager. Reach out to them and introduce yourself. Do this by telephone first, and if you can't reach them by telephone shoot them an email and then follow up a few days later. Being persistent will pay off as this is exactly what branch managers are looking for, go-getters.  

Step 3 - Get Licensed (Series 7, Series 66, Life and Variable Annuities)

From the date of hire, you will typically have around 3 months to take and pass the Series 7 and an additional month to pass your Series 66 (if required by your state) and insurance exams.  You can't become a financial advisor without them. Most firms give you studying material or a study program to help you. I used STC (Securities Training Corporation) and found it to be pretty good. Once you're consistently scoring 80% on your practice exams, you are ready to sit down for the exam. The series 7 itself is a six-hour, multiple choice exam. The exam contains 260 questions broken up into two three-hour sections 130 questions for each section. The passing rate is 72%. For more information about the Series 7 click HERE.

There is typically one section that is substantially easier than the other section. So, if you begin the exam and feel overwhelmed and feel as if you're getting lot's of questions wrong, don't worry you probably started off with the harder portion and the second half will be much easier.

The Series 66 is challenging because it is written by lawyers and can be very dry when studying. It is a 100-questions, 2.5 hours exam. The passing score is 73/100 questions answered correctly. For more information on the Series 66 click HERE

After studying for the Series 7 and 66 your Life Insurance Exam and Variable Annuity will be a piece of cake.

Useful Information

Financial Advisor Salary

Financial Advisor (United States)
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Financial Advisor Career Path

Bonus Tips

Build Internal Relationship

Building internal relationships is essential to successfully become a financial advisor. You are going to be spending lots of time at the office studying. The best thing you can do while studying is to build relationships with your new colleagues. Have your branch manager introduce you to the advisors, compliance team, and administrators. The key here is to create genuine relationships with your colleagues. Internal relationships are significant for your growth and future. Growing advisors are always looking to add to their team, and retiring advisors are looking for young advisors to partner and eventually take over their book of business. Be on your A-game from day 1. Be in the office early and leave late, they will notice your work ethic. Dress to impress every day.

Once you've built some solid relationships, pick 1-2 advisors that you hit it off and ask them to mentor you. Meet with them on a weekly basis and ask to sit in on one or two of their meetings. This will help you tremendously once you are on your own. Ask them if you can schedule meetings with them so you can get comfortable talking to clients over the phone. Remember though; you cannot take orders or talk about anything financial for that matter until you have passed your series 7. 

Build External Relationship 

While creating internal relationships, you should also be building external relationships. External relationships are wholesalers and centers of influence like CPA's and Estate Attorneys. The wholesalers will be a great resource because you will more than likely be recommending their mutual fund, annuity or other product so it's good to have someone you can call to get information. Also, many wholesalers are given an expense account to support your business, so this can be huge when you want to do a luncheon or dinner with some of your prospects. 

CPA's, Estate Attorneys, and other Center of Influence will also be very important in your business. They can be a huge referral source that can help you grow. The hardest part is finding one you can count on. Most good CPA's and Estate Attorneys are bombarded by financial advisors looking for referrals. And, even if you break through what I have found is that both parties want the other party to start referring people to them first and when you're first starting out and have no clients this can be a challenge.

My best advice here is to join a group like BNI or Rotary Club where you meet on a consistent basis and can build a meaningful relationship with a CPA or Estate Attorney over time. The other option is to get a few on your email list and send them a weekly newsletter with topics they are interested in. The point here is to continually be a top of mind. Sooner or later, if you're persistent enough, something will come through and once it does make sure you seize the opportunity.

Protect your U4-U5

Do not do anything to compromise your professional record and/or license. This is the most important asset you possess. So remember that in all of your actions. If you feel like you are being investigated by your firm or you're not meeting your sales quota and you think you are going to get fired, it is better to resign than to let a firm fire you for any reason. The firm has a legal obligation to state a reason for termination and anything other than a voluntary resignation the future hiring firm will take have to take into consideration before hiring you. So again, it's better for them to see that you resigned on your own terms than anything else. 

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