A repeated refrain from seasoned financial advisors is the relief they say they have of not having to start their careers now. While it’s never been a better time for the industry, many advisors still consider starting from scratch a challenge for new recruits.

In fact, that’s why most financial firms encourage new advisors to join existing teams, rather than operate as sole practitioners. Wealth management executives say that it may be too daunting for an individual advisor to start off on his or her own, and create a successful, sustainable practice.

While it is difficult work, allowing pessimistic thinking can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you don’t believe you can accomplish something, than the likelihood is you won’t.


Research on emotional intelligence indicates that optimism is one of the key predictors for success. You must believe you will achieve your goals or you will unknowingly create unnecessary roadblocks. Some advisors may find they are lacking desire, determination and dedication, when they don’t have to.

To move past these roadblocks, advisors must be willing to adopt a personal and business philosophy that embraces both optimism and the tenets of peak performance.

The first step in developing such philosophies requires creating a clear vision of yourself and your practice. You need to ask yourself where your passion in your work lies, why a client would choose you and how you can make a difference in their lives.

Next, you need to be able to shift your thinking and move from certainty to curiosity. A commitment to learning and excelling is essential to the growth of your practice.

Finally, you must embrace challenges and be willing to move out of your comfort zone so that you can provide better financial guidance for your clients. Having cleared away the obstacles, you should maintain a high-level of integrity and strong self-confidence. Both help clients feel comfortable entrusting their money and their future to advisors.


Improved client relationships also will help your outlook. Advisors should consider the following behavioral qualities for narrowing the gap with clients:

Developing a connection, which requires leveraging your impact through your interactions with others. Having an effective communication style is paramount to being successful. You must be able not only to share your ideas with current clients, but also to engage prospective clients in meaningful conversations that will encourage them to want to learn more about you.

To accomplish this, you need to understand different communication styles. Does your client prefer details and specifics, or does he want you to just tell him the “big picture”? It is also important to adopt a “learning mode” and ask relevant questions, while knowing which topics to avoid.

Credibility is essential in enhancing your ability to positively influence others, according to G. Richard Shell, professor of legal studies and business students at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. As applied to an advisor, your clients need to perceive you as an expert with knowledge that is relevant, as someone who is competent and as one who can be trusted.

Developing trust is a critical capability in establishing yourself as a credible financial advisor. If a potential client doesn’t view you as believable, it is unlikely that client will feel comfortable doing business with you.

There are several ways to develop trust. For example, advisors should always tell both sides of a story, deliver on promises and keep confidences. They should be consistent in their values, listen and encourage the exploration of ideas, and put the interests of others first. Advisors also will resonate with clients by demonstrating their expertise. Properly doing so requires that you research your ideas, get firsthand experience and cite trusted sources.  Make sure you can prove what you know, that you are a master of the language behind your topic, and don’t hide your credentials. Finally, team up with credible allies, and gather endorsements.

Making inroads with your clients requires strong self-awareness. That means understanding how others see you, and realizing that you are judged the moment you enter a room. It also means successfully assessing and navigating the unique needs and expectations of your clients. It is important that you take time to understand their core values and expectations of your financial role in their lives. Establishing mutual respect; aligning your goals; and being authentic are critical behavioral currencies that will enhance your value and influence with prospects and clients.

Furthering your success in influencing and forming trusted client relationships can be ensured by making your actions predictable, consistent and accountable. You must be prepared, propose your ideas succinctly, confidently answer questions and decisively close the conversation with specific required action steps.

The good news is that you can learn behavioral skills for a positive approach to starting a practice. The bad news is that it still takes passion and hard work needed to thrive in this demanding industry.


Denise P. Federer is a clinical psychologist, executive coach and founder of Federer Performance Management Group in Tampa, Fla. She has consulted with financial services firms for 20 years.

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