Advisors – I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

Oct 30, 2018

Gen-x

A lot has changed since our guest blogger Laura  posed a fairly straight forward question to advisors, “Do I need a financial advisor?” While the leaves have begun to change colors, pumpkin spice EVERYTHING has filled the shelves and we’re all still trying to accept the fact that LeBron James is donning a Lakers jersey…Laura still doesn’t have a financial advisor.

As opposed to a simple plea, Laura provides real life examples of steps she’s taking to proactively find one. And shares some of the frustrating headwinds investors may find when seeking out an independent financial advisor. In true Gen-Xer form, she is fairly blunt in her final plea – “if anyone on my shortlist can also meet me on a field or court, they’ll have a new client immediately.” (Spoiler alert, Laura probably doesn’t want to meet on the golf course).   

When I last left you, I was resigned to, but hopeful-ish about finding a financial advisor. Obviously, because I work at SEI, I could shortcut this process. “I asked four people in line at the café,” only helps me. The point is not just for me to find an advisor, but to also share my experience with you. So I ventured out in the world to research possibilities and assemble a list. (Okay, I didn’t so much “venture” as read things on the internet, and made an effort to notice the advisory things that were already happening around me.)

How we all start

We start with Google, of course. In almost any scenario, there will be internet searching. Yes, even if my best friend since 7th grade regales me with tales of how you changed her life. You’ve heard this often, but a great majority of “meeting you” is actually online research; if you haven’t already, Google yourself.

For this search, I used an incognito window so my past job-related finserv research didn’t affect results. My chosen search term: “Financial advisors near me” and the results in order were:

  1. Three ads. Of course. I take note of the sites, but quickly scroll past. (This might be a symptom of working in marketing – I don’t click on ads.)
  2. Google Map with red pins. This is your reminder to manage your business on Google. It’s a great opportunity for your contact information and website to appear high in results.  And you’ll need that because my first real result after the map was:
  3. A 2015 article from Lifehacker, How to Hire a Financial Advisor Who Won’t Rip You Off.  I’ll let that sink in.

This is noteworthy because to still be the top result, three years after publication – especially since my search term was generic – is not just search engine optimization wizardry. It strongly suggests that others, many others, share my same worries/fears/biases. That seems like something you should know. Needless to say, I read that article. Twice.  You should too, with the assumption that your next call will be from someone who memorized the advice.

Advisors: I still haven’t found what I’m looking for Click To Tweet

The professional way

Because I knew I was documenting this process, I had a plan before I ever hit enter on Google. That plan included using the “Find an Advisor” tools on two sites. Not surprisingly, both were on that first page of Google results. NAPFA was after the Lifehacker article, and letsmakeaplan.org by CFP was the top ad. They’re also both mentioned in the article, so anyone doing even light research will most likely search one or both of them.

Make sure if you can be, you are listed on these sites. Check them occasionally to ensure updated and accurate information. And most importantly, use that space as much as you can to differentiate yourself. The NAPFA site listed 22 firms within 10 miles of my home zip code. To narrow those down, I read the firm profile overviews. If they were well-written and gave me a clear idea of that firm’s mission (and if that mission matched mine), I added it to my short list.

The same distance-based search on the CFP site provided 7 pages of results. I’m a hard-no on weeding through those, so I used the filter function to narrow it down. Related note: please fill in all information. I actually do want to know your minimum investable assets requirement, I filtered on it. And “none provided” is not helpful.

Random and sundry ways

In the interest of full disclosure, know that I did ask a trusted friend for a recommendation. She’s a lawyer, and has many professional connections with advisors through shared clients. (Interestingly, she is ALSO a Gen-Xer and doesn’t have an advisor. She says her reason is pure hubris. Gen-X contains multitudes.) This just serves as a reminder that good service and good work will get you recommended to people who might not have been on your radar.

In addition, I’m lucky to work for a company that offers employees on-site workshops and financial education by outside firms. I’ve attended a few, but none directly related to this mission. If you have an opportunity to present and provide real information in a similar setting of interested participants; it seems like a great way for them to find you.

Know your audience

I see you local advisor who is everywhere, and I respect the hustle. I also have a suggestion: consider where your bio or profile or ad is being published. Understand what it’s surrounded by, who will most likely be looking at it there. Though I appreciate facts and only the facts options of professional organization websites, the same presentation of information doesn’t fit in as well on the local Chamber of Commerce site. And it’s definitely out of place in the community day brochure’s list of sponsors. Your clients and prospects want you to sound human and helpful, not like a boilerplate.

Next steps

I have my short-ish list, and now is the time for action. I understand what’s going to be asked of me –  be honest about my current situation, know my goals. And what I’ll ask of them. But I’m dreading this part. Contacting multiple people to make appointments is definitely not my favorite thing, not to mention it’s a time suck. How the shortlisted advisors handle this first contact – read: easy, efficient – is very important to me.

And once contact is initiated, there is another slight complication: my schedule. I have a second, part-time job. I’m a single parent of two daughters who are active, but not yet driving. I’m not sure how I will also fit in multiple, deep-dive conversations with strangers.

Lack of time is not a unique-to-me issue. I will be paying close attention to how the advisors on my list handle scheduling. I assume each of them may have a similar time crunch, and I will be respectful of that, but flexibility in place and time will earn bonus points.

Make it easy for your prospects and your clients, and promote that about yourself. Honestly, if anyone on my shortlist can also meet me on a field or a court, they’ll have a new client immediately.

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