Financial Advisor Career Profile

What Financial Advisor Careers Are All About

Financial advisors are the face of financial services to many.
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Financial advisor (FA) and financial consultant (FC) are contemporary job titles for what used to be called a stockbroker, broker, account executive or registered representative. A variant spelling, financial adviser, also is used by some firms in the industry, and by some financial reporters and publications.

Though the term financial advisor has been in general use since the early 1990s, it is not without controversy.

Many critics still maintain that it implies adherence to the strict fiduciary standard that requires acting in the best interests of clients, rather than the less stringent suitability standard that traditionally binds brokers. Merrill Lynch, for example, was among the last of the major firms to adopt the term, entirely due to this concern on the part of its legal and compliance department, which was very conservative at the time.

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More Detail on the Job

For those seeking information beyond an introductory level, this guide site includes a number of other articles that explore financial advisor careers and related issues in more detail. These articles are organized into these categories:

  • Career Development for Financial Advisors
  • Practice Development for Financial Advisors
  • Client Service Issues for Financial Advisors
  • Investment Products
  • Investment Strategies
  • Behavioral Finance
  • Ideas for Small Business Clients

Traditionally, the job of a financial advisor has involved buying and selling securities (such as stocks and bonds) on behalf of clients. The change in titles outlined above is supposed to reflect the fact that, rather than being focused primarily on facilitating transactions, financial advisors really should be more like investment advisers and financial planners who take a holistic view of their clients' financial needs and goals.

Other variations in title, such as wealth management advisor, also are used, sometimes to denote a financial advisor who has additional training, certifications and/or experience.

Specialization

Some financial advisors focus on serving individual or retail clients and others concentrate on business or institutional clients. Some securities firms prefer that financial advisors specialize in this fashion, others leave it up to the individual advisors to choose whatever mix of clients they prefer. Business clients who require specialized advice and services (such as in working capital management or business loans) may prefer financial advisors with detailed knowledge in these areas.

Duties and Responsibilities

Financial advisors counsel clients on investment opportunities, consonant with the latter's needs, goals and tolerance for risk. The job requires keeping abreast of the financial markets, constantly monitoring the specific investments in clients' portfolios, and being on top of new investment strategies and investment vehicles. Financial advisors must be confident about decision-making under uncertainty and under extreme time pressure, have excellent people and communication skills, and know how to deal with failure and with dissatisfied clients.

Success is highly dependent on sales ability, both in the acquisition of new clients and in the pitching of investment ideas to existing clients. Serving clients, compliance and practice management are closely-intertwined issues for financial advisors.

Financial advisors can greatly enhance their productivity and their ability to serve a large book of business if they are supported by one or more sales assistants. However, in many financial services firms, financial advisors must fund the pay of their sales assistants, in whole or in part, out of their own compensation (see below).

Typical Schedule

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that 24% work more than 50 hours per week. However, the actual time commitment can be much heavier (60-80 hours per week or more), both for those starting out in the field and for established financial advisors committed to delivering excellent service and to growing their business.

What's to Like

Financial advisors have a high degree of professional autonomy, more akin to being an independent entrepreneur than a corporate employee. There is a close linkage between performance and reward, with virtually unlimited earnings potential. Do your job well, and you make a discernible, positive impact on your clients' lives.

What's Not to Like

The pressures on a financial advisor to process a constant avalanche of information, to make quick decisions under uncertainty that, if wrong, can be costly to clients, to sell constantly and to justify yourself daily can be overwhelming for some people.

Compensation

Median annual compensation was about $67,520 as of May 2012, with 90% earning between $32,280 and $187,200. Financial advisor compensation typically is commission-based. That is, a financial advisor gets a share of the revenue generated for the firm by his/her clients. Other metrics, such as the total value of client financial assets on deposit with the financial advisor's firm, may also factor into compensation. Top financial advisors can earn well over $1,000,000.

How to Become a Financial Advisor: Follow this link for a detailed discussion of the education, training and professional certifications necessary to embark on a career as a financial advisor.

Other Related Categories: You may want to browse our extensive library of articles on these other aspects of financial careers:

  • Financial Career and Job Profiles
  • Leading Employers in Finance
  • Education, Training, and Certifications for Financial Careers
  • How to Manage Your Career
  • Pay for Financial Jobs

For More Information on Financial Advisor Careers: Follow the links below for more detail on compensation, credentials, career advancement and more.

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