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Advisor Best HR Practices: Job Titles Should Be All About the Client

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These days (and the older I get, frankly), it takes a lot for me to get worked up about anything.  But over the years the one thing that still gets me irritated is job titles

Daily, I work with lots of employees in advisory firms and there is a huge ego around job titles—a silly power struggle to my way of thinking. There are a lot of managers out there that will use job titles as motivation. I just so happen not to be one of them because I know that the motivation around giving someone a “cool” job title only lasts for one second and I want a longer-term solution. 

Don’t get me wrong, I believe job titles are critical, but when you have to give yourself a job title or request from your manager a job title to make yourself feel important…well, I just don’t buy it.

Over the years of working with advisory practices, I’ve come to the conclusion that everybody in the firm should have a job title that means something to the clients. That’s because the advisory business is a service business, which means everything about an advisory firm should be centered around the clients, including titles.

Many years ago, one of my clients was having a meeting of everyone in the firm, and the “office manager” observed: “We have a dedicated client relationship manager (CRM) at Schwab. When I call into Schwab, I always call our CRM whose job it is to either solve my problem herself, or quickly get me though to the person I need. It really makes me feel the whole company is there for me. Why can’t we have a CRM to make our clients feel the same way?”

So, naturally, we changed her job title to CRM, and the clients have never been happier. They have her direct number (a dedicated “client line”), and when they call in, they say “Hi!” to her by name. They know she’s there to help them, so they don’t hesitate to call with their problems. She knows her job is to help them, too: to solve their problem if she can, or forward their call to one of the advisors as needed.

Yes, it’s virtually the same job she was doing before, without the “office manager” title that clients didn’t understand. Calling someone a “client relationship manager” sends a message: To the clients—that this person is there for them; and to the employee—that their job is to help the clients. That means titles like receptionist, office manager, admin assistant, and even founder, owner or CEO need to become monikers of the past. Why? They don’t sound like they have anything to do with the clients, and usually the only reason that people decide to put these titles behind their names or give them to employees is because they have an ego problem or they are trying to establish their “alpha dog” status. 

Do me a favor, when thinking up job titles, make sure they mean something to the clients.  That’s all folks; I’ll jump off my soapbox now.


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