Working at a financial services firm can be a rewarding choice for the next generation of advisors. You can have real impact in people’s lives as you help clients set their financial goals and see them succeed over time. It is an environment where there is constant change and continued opportunities for learning. And, the financial services industry offers a lot of choice in terms of specialization, type of firm and location. It is important to find the right company and team to work with to put your career on the right path.
During a job interview with a potential firm you will have the opportunity to ask your own questions about the business and the team. Asking the right questions shows you are intelligent and engaged, in addition to providing you with critical information to help you make the right choice for your career.
You will, of course, have questions to ask specific to your own goals and concerns, but here are three relevant to every advisor's career that should be on your list:
"Does the firm have a succession plan, and, if so, what does it look like?”
One of the biggest reasons young advisors will leave a firm is that they do not see opportunities for long- term career growth and advancement.
In our industry, a succession plan is defined as a professional plan designed to gradually transition ownership and leadership internally to the next generation of advisors. If the firm has an active succession plan, it shows they have thought about the long-view future of the business as well as a sustainable career path for exceptional employees. You could, one day, hold ownership in the company as the owners who hired you begin to step back from day-to-day duties. Ownership involves a higher level of commitment, time and skills, but can also be a rewarding investment in your future.
Whether ownership is one of your goals or not, asking about the succession plan for the company shows you are concerned with the big picture and the ongoing prosperity of the firm – that you have a long-term view which benefits both the business and your own career.
Along these lines, you should also be asking about a continuity plan, especially if their succession plans are not quite solidified. A continuity plan outlines what happens if there is an unforeseen event and the owner(s) is no longer able to work. In a smaller firm, the unplanned permanent or short-term loss of a leader can lead to a rapid decline in the client base and closure of the firm. Clients often ask their advisors, "What happens to me if something happens to you?"–and you should too.
“How has the company grown over the last few years, and what are the company’s growth goals? What is the plan for meeting those goals?”
A growing firm provides more opportunity for a new employee than a firm that is stagnant or in decline. During your first conversations and interview, probe the growth facts of the firm.
- How many new clients a year do they bring on board and how do they find those new clients? Not only are new clients important for growth, they are necessary to maintain business profitability as older clients reach retirement age and are no longer investing, but withdrawing assets.
- How profitable is the firm? How well do they manage expenses so that they have money for business improvements, bonuses, or profit sharing? Strong profitability is the sign of a firm that spends time working on their business as well as in it.
- Are there plans to hire more people in the future or expand in other ways? These plans can tell you where the firm is going and help you decide if that path is exciting to you.
Many financial professionals set income and productivity goals. Encountering a candidate who appreciates goal-setting and is similarly forward-thinking sets an excellent first impression.
“What learning and development opportunities are available to advisors at your firm?”
As a next generation financial advisor, you’ll want to continue to learn and grow as a professional. Finding the right team to be a part of is just the first step. Perhaps you’ll want to get your CFP™ or seek additional credentials. You might want to expand your knowledge base into different investment avenues, or introduce a new technology to the firm. Look for specific opportunities available within the firm:
- Will you be able to sit in on client meetings? This truly is one of the best ways to learn the interpersonal skills needed to advise clients.
- Are professionals in the firm available and open to questions from new advisors? There can be no better way to learn than from your colleagues and peers.
- What industry organizations are they affiliated with? Many financial firms belong to professional associations that offer conferences, webinars, discussion boards, and local meetings.
It is important to know up front what training and education opportunities are available to you. No matter what your personal growth goals are, you should be looking for a company that supports and encourages an expansion of expertise.
Thoroughly prepare for the interview. Take some time in the days before your interview to read and watch everything you can about the firm. Explore their website and read bios and press pages in addition to viewing any videos or social media accounts.
This little bit of research will help you decide if the company culture is a fit for you. You’ll also feel more comfortable in the interview having immersed yourself in the firm’s history, staff, client niche, and priorities. You’ll be able to focus on deeper questions (like those above) during the interview rather than spending time getting up to speed on the background of the firm. Your knowledge about the firm will likely be welcomed and appreciated, leaving a good impression on the interviewer.
The search for a good fit between firm and advisor is a two way street. Asking the right questions not only ensures you have a better chance of finding the right fit, but it also shows the interviewer you’ll be a thoughtful, prepared, and forward-thinking employee.