Training and education have become more important than ever to a financial representative’s career growth and development. Today’s clients are more affluent, sophisticated and demanding than ever before.
As a result, a key to the promise of accelerated career growth for financial representatives can be found in commitment to a challenging, high-quality training and education program united with a mission to help them build practices in the affluent marketplace as quickly as possible.
As the complexity of the financial services business increases, it’s imperative that today’s financial representatives become adept at what we refer to as the “art and science of wealth management.” In other words, they must be able to combine “non-scientific” skills of establishing relationships, managing clients and being creative in developing financial solutions with fact-based knowledge of the products, financial concepts and services offered.
We believe that for a financial representative to be successful, a firm must provide access to both the training and education that will enable this development, as well as access to a team of specialists to adequately support each client’s unique circumstances.
To enable our financial representatives to be successful and achieve their true growth potential, our firm has created a supportive organization and culture that breaks training and education into its essential elements. The cornerstone of our training philosophy can be encompassed by one of our firm’s often-repeated mantras: Capture, expand, and teach.
The first step in our process is a 15-month core curriculum designed to help financial representatives capture the essential information they’ll need to operate effectively in the affluent marketplace. It includes understanding the value proposition of our team-based planning process, building a strong system for referrals and comprehending the basic products and financial solutions offered by the firm.
This step also focuses on how the financial representative should discuss financial strategies with prospects and customers. It provides them with the basics of estate planning, business planning, financial planning and wealth management at a 30,000-foot view. By being exposed to the big picture, our financial reps can quickly focus on finding affluent prospects with whom to discuss the value of our financial analysis process and build relationships.
Early achievement in establishing client relationships buys the new financial representative the time needed to understand how the classroom concepts we teach are used in the field. This is the basis for growing one’s own business successfully.
We cannot overstate the importance of vigorous marketing activity at this stage. No amount of classroom training will ever be a substitute for actively seeking new prospects through effective marketing. By integrating the training directly with marketing, we are able to provide real-life exercises that help our financial representatives not only learn faster and more efficiently but also begin to generate revenue for their business.
For example, we all know the importance of building a viable business plan for one’s practice. But the common perception is that this is a cumbersome, time-consuming process–and it often gets ignored. However, we require all our associates to complete their own business “blueprint,” which enables them to effectively plan how they will build a viable business model in the affluent marketplace. We then leverage the firm’s training, education, marketing systems and team of specialists to help our financial reps effectively execute their plan.
Using a client-centered approach, new financial representatives focus their efforts on identifying target markets in which they already have an interest or numerous contacts. This allows them to build a referral business right away, not a cold calling one. They use an “uncovering your markets” tool to find and penetrate the markets that they find fun and interesting, particularly those that reflect their passions.
Financial reps can uncover markets in a college alumni group, a club for sports (such as sailing or golf), or enterprise markets, like small business owners in real estate or construction. The key is to help them find a sustainable market and understand how to effectively penetrate it to drive early sales results and build for the future.
Our marketing systems and the associated education and training leverage a specific process that focuses on how to research markets, reach potential customers and cultivate clients. The goal is for financial representatives to develop solid relationships based on the personal and financial interests of the clients.
And because the financial representative has worked diligently to understand the market through research and approaching the market the way the client prefers, clients know and trust both the firm and the financial representative. These clients then become a key source of referrals that accelerate the growth and success of the new financial representative’s practice.
But, as mentioned earlier, this marketing strategy must be aligned with a training curriculum that reflects the needs and services of these markets. In other words, the training program supports the financial rep’s targeted marketplace through a customized curriculum that helps them penetrate the market and understand the necessary basic knowledge to operate effectively in it.
Once our new associates have completed the 15-month curriculum, they continue to “expand” their knowledge in one of our firm’s 4 areas of expertise: financial planning, estate planning, business planning and wealth management. This expansion is accomplished through a series of training boot camps that provide detailed product and marketing immersion into these specific areas. We also require our financial reps to obtain advanced designations to expand their knowledge in line with our firm’s training and education platform.
We believe there is nothing like experience to expand the general knowledge provided by our curriculum. Experience comes in different forms, and one of the most important for new financial representatives is learning through the experience of a mentor who is aligned with one of our firm’s 4 areas of expertise. We feel very strongly that our whole firm should have a stake in the success of our new people; therefore, we all work together to support their development and growth.
For example, if financial reps are learning about wealth management, then they are working with one of our CFAs on specific cases and in training. If learning about estate planning, they are working with one of our knowledgeable estate planning specialists, as well as an estate planning attorney. The same is true for any area of planning they choose: They are teamed up with successful, experienced people in that arena to learn from them and to accelerate their own development in the business.
As new financial reps learn advanced concepts in their “majors,” target markets and attend sales calls with their mentors, they build marketing plans that incorporate these mentors and specialists as a team. This allows the reps to more effectively leverage their time and exposure, and to expand their knowledge and generate leads from target markets. Seeing how it’s done is exponentially better than reading a script or reviewing potential objections in a workbook.
We want our financial representatives to be excellent listeners, to build trusting relationships with their clients and to have the capability to explore options for their clients’ financial strategy. Part of the “art” in the art of wealth management is genuinely understanding your client, learning about their unique dreams and goals, and guiding them on a path that makes sense for their personal situation. This skill grows over time and picks up speed under the direction of someone who has successfully mastered this process and has in-depth knowledge with one or more specialty areas.
Working with experienced financial representatives is instrumental in the expansion of a new associate’s knowledge base. It also helps the new financial representative learn how to utilize our team-based approach and access the resources of the firm to best serve their clients.
Because we have 4 areas of expertise, the specialists in each discipline are available to others should a deeper knowledge be helpful to clients. In addition to our specialists, we have other professional advisors available, including attorneys and CPAs. These professionals are resources that financial reps can consult to expand their knowledge and also bring along to a presentation to assist their client.
The “teach” step of our training is directly linked to the “expand” step. Successful financial reps often are the best teachers, which is why we have set up the mentoring and team-based system that facilitates this connection. By making the system turnkey, our seasoned financial reps have a simple and convenient way to establish their credibility within the firm and to teach our new representatives the fundamentals of their specialty to pass on to the next generation of colleagues.
There are many forums for this teaching. One is the one-on-one mentoring and market development described previously. Another is our weekly case studies that are shared throughout the firm. Additionally, experienced financial reps take part in our boot camps with presentations and role playing. We also host informal breakfast meetings to review a specific concept or conduct more formal seminars for new reps on updated products or regulations.
By requiring our associates to teach and mentor, they know we are serious about fostering an atmosphere of cooperation and support within the firm. With this philosophy, we’ve developed a team-oriented culture in which financial reps and staff work together to serve their clients in a highly personalized manner. The philosophy also allows us to organically grow some of our specialists from within the firm as new reps become experienced in a specialty.
Another key benefit is that when the mentors work with new representatives, the less experienced reps help service the mentors’ large client base, assist the mentors in prospecting for new customers and help free the experienced financial representative to focus more on closing cases.
A financial services career is incredibly dynamic, with the continual introduction of new products and changes in regulations, economics and investment markets. Learning new concepts is a life-long process, and while having the latest learning technology or curriculum is helpful, creating a supportive learning environment is critical.
A very successful program needs to integrate the “art” of marketing, getting referrals and developing client relationships with the “science” of choosing appropriate products and financial concepts to meet the client’s need.
Just as important these days is compliance. Compliance must play an integral role in the training process, as we are living in an increasingly regulated industry. It’s clear we need to be ever vigilant in protecting the trust we earn from our clients.
Additionally, we feel strongly that creating an environment that supports learning in a unique and integrated way can set a firm apart from the competition while attracting the best and brightest talent. It’s not a cost item; it’s a philosophical approach to the way we do business. And it works.