Hey everyone, welcome to the most insightful write-up on How to Become an Independent Financial Advisor.
By the end of reading this, you will have a better knowledge of what it takes to become an Independent Financial Advisor: Educational requirements, experience, right skill sets and the benefits.
Here are the basic things you’ll learn in this piece:
Without further ado, let’s begin!
Do you know what it takes to be a successful financial advisor?
If your answer is yes, then it’s time to take the discourse further by learning how to become an independent financial advisor.
Becoming an Independent Financial Advisor
While it’s true that not every financial advisor will eventually own an independent firm, but for those who yearn for growth, freedom, and a chance to explore the industry, it is worth it!
Apart from educational requirements, experience, and the right skill sets, you need a committed, patient, and strategic spirit to build a successful independent advisory firm.
Before we go further, ask yourself if you wish to embark on this career path due to the envisioned financial rewards or out of passion.
As with any other business, going independent comes with many risks, uncertainties, and disappointments that you must be mentally prepared to bear.
Advisors need an in-depth understanding of the finance industry because they’ll have to transact business with people with intimidating net worth, engage in retirement planning, college financing, among others.
When it comes to basic educational requirements, a bachelor’s degree in a finance-related course such as risk management, business management, or estate planning is needed to be a financial advisor.
In addition, you also need to sharpen your communication skills as you’ll be working closely with clients in planning their finances and how well you communicate with them determines your level of profitability.
But before you can be formally engaged to offer financial advice to people on their financial products, you have to be a registered investment advisor (RIA).
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is empowered to register RIAs while the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) conducts different licensing examinations.
After taking the necessary FINRA exams and being certified, you should focus on garnering practical experience in independent financial planning.
However, to be an independent advisor, you must be an early starter—you should look for internship opportunities with banks, brokerage companies, or insurance companies as soon as you complete your coursework.
Also, your years of experience in wealth management matter a lot when trying to establish an independent advisory company, as no one wants to put their financial fortunes in the hands of an inexperienced investment adviser.
So, before diving into the murky waters of offering independent financial advice to people, endeavor to stay true to the learning process for years and show yourself approved as an RIA working with recognized brokerage firms.
But what qualifications should an independent financial advisor have?
While no one requires certification from you to offer independent investment advice, it’s a good way of boosting your credibility in the industry as a financial planner.
The most common certification is the certified financial planner (CFP), organized by the CFP Board to promote excellence among financial advisors.
The CFP certification is well-recommended because it’s the hallmark of industrial expertise and excellence that doesn’t require further explanation to convince prospective clients of your ability to offer them sound financial advisory.
Similar to the CFP is the Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) designation, and it’s ideal for a financial adviser who wants to become a chartered financial analyst (CFA).
The Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is another designation that distinguishes renowned advisors.
As you increase your real-world experience in financial planning, you should also sharpen your skills by acquiring the relevant certifications because it will eventually make you an outstanding independent adviser.
But how can you go from working at a firm to establishing yourself as an Independent Advisor?
Transitioning from RIA to Independent Financial Advisor
As an advisor planning to have your own independent finance company, there are many things you must put in place for this lofty dream not to become reality.
For your independent firm to become sought-after in the industry, here are some key steps you should take:
Acquire New Skill Sets
By now, you’d have noticed that we’re not just teaching you how to become an independent investment advisor but also highlighting how you can be a successful one.
You require “new” skill sets to be a successful independent financial adviser, and like every new outfit, having your own business will come with its down moments.
Personal financial advisors need to be patient, more dedicated to work than their colleagues working with big firms and stay focused to have a breakthrough.
As an independent financial advisor, you also have to be persuasive, organized, pay attention to detail, be versatile, and have good communication abilities.
After you’ve acquired these skills, possibly more, it’s time to put them to solid use.
Build Solid Relationships
Everything in business starts and ends on the knees of a relationship.
One of the invaluable skills you need to succeed as a financial advisor is interpersonal communication skills.
Make sure you’ve invested heavily in client relationships before quitting your paid job to start your own firm.
Apart from managing personal finance, you should also maintain a personal relationship with your clients.
You have to be intentional about building client relationships, calling them regularly, knowing them personally, and going the extra mile to meet their financial goals.
One strategy you can use in expanding your client base is to make your clients feel loved; you should always look for the best way to serve them better.
Shore up your client relationships weeks ahead of your planned move.
Loyal clients whose financial goals you’ve gone out of your comfort zone to meet will stay committed to you when you start your firm.
But if you offer mediocre or average-level financial services to clients, they will rather stay loyal to the brand you currently represent than follow you wherever you go.
Remember: Advisors only become irresistible to clients by building stronger relationships with them.
It will be pure self-deceit to think you can quickly build a client base from scratch when you float your new company, probably by relying on social media and referrals from friends.
You have fair leverage for sustainable growth if you can attract existing clients to your new firm – so go for it!
Don’t Let Go!
It’s now an established protocol in many advisory firms that a financial advisor can go with client data while moving to another firm.
Similarly, some broker-dealers allow advisors to formally brief their clients when leaving their firm on when they’ll sign out of their present employment and their next destination.
Both instances have provided independent advisors the opportunity to increase the number of their clients through existing relationships without being sued by their former employers.
It’s in clients’ interest to move their account to your firm because a change in advisors can have devastating effects on their financial decisions.
However, if you signed a non-compete agreement at the point of employment, you must be cautious with how you interact with clients to avoid being accused of saboteur.
You should always respect the terms of the agreement and look for acceptable means of communicating and attracting clients to your business.
Keep Communication Intact Despite Impediments
Even if you signed a non-compete agreement at your present workplace, nothing stops you from giving your clients your unofficial contact details to call you if they wish to continue doing business with you.
In cases where financial advisors are allowed to have access to the contact details of their clients, they can build on it by sending emails to the clients.
Despite the hurdles of signing a non-solicitation agreement, you can still devise ways to communicate with your clients as a creative financial advisor.
A new independent financial adviser who doesn’t leverage communication to build relationships with clients would be frustrated.
Be Financially Prepared
There’s no gainsaying that being an independent advisor is financially demanding.
An advisor who can’t figure out their finances doesn’t deserve to hold a license of any reputable body.
It is ironic to want to help clients trade stocks, mutual funds, and bonds profitably when your finances are in shambles.
Except in rare cases, money won’t roll in at the early stage of the business, and you must be ready to earn less than what you made while under an advisory firm.
While financial advisors battle with low patronage in the first few months of establishing their outfit, they still have to incur more administrative charges during this period.
As a financial advisor who wants to become independent, the best decision for you is to first make findings on how much the new adventure will cost you and save up beyond the projected amount.
If you cannot save up to the required amount before quitting your job, you may explore other financing means such as speaking with a broker-dealer, taking bank loans, or opting for a line of credit (this means of funding is now difficult to access).
As an independent investment advisor, you should be strategic in your finances for the first year of your business because it’s critical to determine how the firm will turn out.
Start-ups should explore the option of working from home rather than spending their meager resources on getting an office space or incurring other avoidable costs.
Independent financial planners who can weather through the storm of the financial demands at the early stage of their new business will carve a niche for themselves and prove that they can offer independent financial services to clients.
Strategically Source Clients
While we’ve talked extensively about the need to work closely with your existing clients where you work, it shouldn’t just end there because you have to expand.
If cornering your present clients to yourself is the only motivation you have to own an independent financial advisory firm, then it’s not worth it.
Creatively and strategically map out plans on how you’ll source new clients to grow your business and become a household name in the industry.
Your niche must be clearly defined so that you’ll know those who need your independent financial services.
Offer exceptional independent financial services to the existing clients, broker relationships with them, and solicit referrals.
Social media, if well studied and understood, is good leverage for IRAs to source clients.
Partner with an Independent Advisory Firm
If the idea of floating an independent advisory firm is too frightening, but you still crave independence, you can liaise with an existing independent financial group.
This move eliminates start-up and overhead costs and other organizational financial burdens too.
This form of partnership is mutually beneficial to both parties and can be sustained for a higher level of productivity.
Benefits of Being an Independent Financial Advisor
Now that you know what it takes and the steps involved in becoming a reputable independent financial planner, let’s consider the benefits of floating your own company.
It Helps You Carve a Niche for Yourself
While working under a firm, your freedom is limited, and you need to key into the company’s goals even when they’re against your vision.
However, if you own your company, you’ll build it according to your vision and give investment advice on the niches you naturally love.
Instead of being a jack of all trades, you’ll focus on a given segment and be exceptional in it.
The Hybrid RIA Approach allows advisors to offer the duo of fee-based and commission-based services.
While your business goals remain unshaken, you’re able to serve your clients better.
Being independent also allows you to show how creative you are.
You’ll be able to try different means of meeting a client’s needs.
Higher Chances of Profitability
Unlike in the past, where you’d need to depend on stockbrokers to give you a commission as remuneration, you won’t rely on their meager pay again with your independent firm in place.
You now have the chance to serve as many clients as possible, fix your rates and do an upward review as and when due.
Without mincing words, setting up an independent financial planning firm is very tasking initially, but resolute personal financial advisors eventually turn out well and can meet their financial needs.
A Chance to Serve Your Clients Better
While working under a firm, there’s a limit to how far you can go, but if you’re running your independent firm, you’ll be able to go to any length to build a solid relationship with your clients.
You’ll know them better, offer them tailor-made solutions, and forecast some of their financial needs.
With your firm, there’s no limit placed on you on how far you can go in serving your clients.
The relationship you build with your clients must be natural and passionate so that they won’t feel you’re doing it just because of your selfish interest.
It’s crystal clear that only bold, determined, and thoroughbred advisors can successfully become independent.
As we wrap up our discussion on this concept, remember that you must be client-driven, financially buoyant, and calculative to succeed as an independent advisor.
There will be many obstacles on your way to becoming an independent advisor, but hold your head high and go for the goal!