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Three Things I Wish I Knew As A Young Financial Advisor

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I set out to be a financial advisor in my early 30s and getting started wasn’t pretty. Here’s my advice to my younger self about how to use youth as a marketing strength rather than as a detractor from your credibility.

[REITs]

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  1. Counterbalance stereotypes, don’t reinforce them

When I became a financial advisor, I thought it was okay to run around doing business dressed informally. I bought a membership to the Harvard Club and became part of the “scene,” frequently attending social events there, thinking the clients would flock to me. That was a good move because it put me in front of many pre-retirees and retirees, but that’s as far the good judgement went.

I was able to generate a fair amount of business from the Harvard Club, but not as much as I needed. The problem was that I didn’t present myself as someone with whom they’d want to do business. My dress was too casual. I rarely wore a suit. I typically wore a slim black dress with my long hair down like an untamed lion’s mane.

The way I behaved wasn’t the most professional, either – laughing freely, speaking a bit more loudly than I should have, using informal speech, discussing any topic that came to mind, etc. Sure, I was the life of the party, and I met a lot of people, but it wasn’t the best way to impress billionaires as being the next Warren Buffett.

As a result, the people who were attracted to me were young people who were excited to work with someone who acted like Lady Gaga, but they had small portfolios. I met some older men who were intrigued by my fun, hotsy-totsy personality. Those men tended to be divorced or about to get a divorce. Even though I displayed zero interest in them socially, I think that was what they had on their agenda. In a few cases, they revealed their true intentions a few months after engaging me as their advisor. How awkward!

My misguided free-spirited brand aligns better with what I am now (a digital-marketing consultant) rather than the financial advisor you’d hire to guard your millions and protect your kids from having to eat Alpo if a market crash happens.

In essence, I was reinforcing the stereotype of being a young, free-spirited person with my demeanor. They needed to see the opposite if they were going to trust me.

If I could have done it over again, I would have been obeyed what I now understand to be the golden rule of professional attire: dress as if you are well off enough to afford the product you are selling. I also would have conducted myself as if the Harvard Club were a professional setting and followed the same professional standards of conduct that you would expect in a formal office environment.

  1. Specialize

Even if you do all the image things right that I described before, you still face more competition as a younger advisor targeting retirees than if you were 20 years older.

Think about it for a second. If you were choosing an advisor for your retiring parents, would you pick the 30-year old or the 50-year old, assuming you liked them both equally? You’d naturally choose the older advisor because you’d view him or her as more experienced. It’s more comfortable to pick someone who has been through a few more market cycles and would conceivably know how to deal with almost any situation that came up.

And that’s exactly where you can strike. Give them a real solid reason to like you better. This is best accomplished by becoming an expert is some small sliver. I’ve written about how to best use this niche strategy before.

If I were to do it all over again, I would have sat down and studied what the investment world was likely to look like in 30 years, and then reverse engineered my service offering to meet that demand before anyone else got in on the scene. For example, with the millennial wealth coming on the scene, word on the street is that impact investing is going to be big as this generation is more conscious of social good. What if I had been the first robo-advisor? I would be bigger than Betterment right now. These pockets of future opportunity do exist but you have to see them way in advance, which is what I neglected to do.

Read the full article by Sara Grillo, Advisor Perspective