Attention: Smith Barney (interview)

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young_gun's picture
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Joined: 2006-08-21

Alright, I've given this some thought and it seems that I must move on.  I am at a small firm where there is no evidence that any "new" advisors have survived.  9 out of 10 of them have been tossed out like a rag doll and the others have quit.  I am the sole survivor out of the new wave of advisors (young and old), but that can only mean so much. The only "producers" are the ones who have been in the game for over 8+ years and are treated royally.
Moving foward, I am looking to build my business elsewhere.  I am going to interview with Smith Barney and had some questions to those who have experience in the hiring or those who have gone through the process.
Questions
1.) What types of questions should I expect from my interview? (keep in mind that I am not entirely "new" because I've been an advisor for 8 months.)
2.)  What would be a good approach to answering these questions?
Example question: Why are you looking for work?
Possible answer: better branding, better technology, better training, better platform, etc.
Bad answer: I didn't get along with my cashiering dept. and I got in a fist fight with another broker.
Example question: Why is your production level/AUM low?
Possible answer: My firms reputation was known more for being a bond house.  Therefore, many of my clients only gave me their fixed income business and I couldn't capture all of their assets b/c they didn't feel we had a command in those other areas.  That is why I want to build my practice into being full service like Smith Barney.
Bad Answer: My daily routine would consist of reading the newspaper funnies, hanging around chit chating, and catching up with watching new youtube videos on the internet.
3.) Can anyone chime in on things they have said or done in interviews that has helped?  It could be small things like telling a joke or an icebreaker that has always worked.  Stuff like that would help.
Lastly, the branch administrator told me that I still had to take a 3hr. assesment test that included math and personality.  I don't mind the personality test, but I thought the math portion was only there to determine one's ability to pass the series 7.  I already have those licenses.  Would it be out of the question to tell her that taking the math portion probably isn't necessary since I already have a series 7? 
I know there's more questions I might have, but can't think of any.  Thanks for everyone's input!

troll's picture
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Joined: 2004-11-29

Look, I think you're over-analyzing for this position.
You need to mean BUSINESS during your interview.  You need to know and showcase your strengths.  You need to know and have plans for your weaknesses.
You need to have a business PLAN.
You need to be able to answer questions in a way that show that YOU ARE NOT DEPENDENT UPON YOUR FIRM TO MAKE YOU SUCCESSFUL.  However, there are areas that you would like your next firm to ASSIST you with better than your last firm.
The truth that you need to face is that the SAME problems you have with your CURRENT firm will CONTINUE to your NEXT firm.
The grass isn't greener on the other side.  It just doesn't reek of your manure yet.

FreeLunch's picture
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Joined: 2007-06-16

You've got to go in there with guns blazing.
The biggest sale you'll ever have to make is getting a branch manager of an investment firm to hire you.
In this business, there are no excuses - So don't make any.  Tell him when you get there, you are going to prospect and cold call like a mad man.  You are going to set appointments.  Tell him you are passionate about this.  Convince him - sell him.  He'll hire you on emotions.
 
good luck

xbanker's picture
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Joined: 2007-01-21

I've heard two people in addition to myself say their entire interivew at SB (different branches) centered around their age. I'm just under 30 but look a little older on a resume based on receiving my degrees early. I get the impression this is a company policy that's "off the book" to stop hiring young FAs. This was the only interview that I terminated beforehand on my own. Not for this reason, but because I'd just received an offer from ML. After seeing the SB grid, I was a bit disappointed with the relatively lower payouts but would have considered coming on board due to location of the specific branch if the right environment. As soon as this line of questioning started I ended the interview myself. While this line of questioning (specifically directly asking one's age) is not necessarily legal, you should expect it to occur as an obvious company mandate and prepare to respond. You may also expect the manager to offer (if younger) a spot in one of the cobranded SB/Citi banking center locations. Depending on your are the wire branch manager may work with the bank staffing also.

Dust Bunny's picture
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Joined: 2007-05-07

Xbanker is correct in that they will ask about your age and how you think that might impact your ability to do business with older clients.
In my interview with my previous broker dealer the question asked was what what do I think will be my biggest asset and my biggest liability,  In my case I answered (without any hesitation ) for both: Being a female and then explained why it was both good and bad.
 

young_gun's picture
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Joined: 2006-08-21

 
Thanks all of your for your posts.  They're all very helpful.  I'll respond to you all accordingly.
First, I'll respond to Skippy and FreeLunch simulataneously b/c I feel that the message was pretty similar: Be confident, prepared, and speak with conviction.  All good stuff.
The only caution I would probably have about the interview would not to be borderline cocky.  If not, I don't want to come out like a superstar and have the expectations raised too high where anything less than that would dissapoint.
Next, I understand that I should sell myself about my discipline, work ethics, yada yada yada.  I do have those traits no doubt, but one flaw I can honestly say about my business now is my networking.  I have little to none.  90% of my book has come from 10-12 hours a day off of cold calling and the other 10% were from referrals. 
I understand some people have built their books different ways.  I've had a large group of guys at my current firm build good size books soley from cold calling.  Im assuming this wouldn't be looked too positively by a Smith Barney hiring manager would it?  I'm sure they'd want to see me diversify my marketing habits beyond a phone call.  So in that case, whats another good way to sell myself?  I mean, I know if I really wanted the job badly I could straight up lie and say Im a board member for city counsel, president of the county golf club, and my father is vice president of the city chamber of commerce in order to stretch my connections.  But Im not going to do that.  What would be realistic for a younger guy? 
 

young_gun's picture
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Joined: 2006-08-21

Xbanker, that's a very interesting comment.  I can only assume that the Smith Barney managers would be prepared that I am younger based on my resume showing what years I graduated highschool and college.  But perhaps, they were too oblivious to that portion.
Can you tell me what type of questioning did they say to you regarding your age?  And what was your response to these questions?  Furthermore, just so I can get a reasonable idea of what to expect, what were some of the tougher questions do you remember?  All of this info is extremely valuable to me.  Thanks.
On another note, prior coming into the biz I did an extensive research on this website and a major consensus was that if you're young you're basically going to evaporate within the year during production.  I have about 16 clients now, all of which, are over 65.  I have not had one problem at all regarding my age WHATSOEVER.  I think the number is favorable towards people over 65 is b/c our products are more attractive to those who are at the age or near retirement. 
But to be quite honest, all my clients who are north of 70 assume that I am at least 35-40 years old which they still think is very young.  Im in my mid twenties.  I build very good rappor with the elderly.  I think it's easy b/c almost everyone one of them likes to talk about their life story and I simply let them by asking questions and listening. Once the conversation is stale, we talk about business.
 

young_gun's picture
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Joined: 2006-08-21

Dust Bunny, thanks for bringing up that question.  I think you answered it quite well.  I think I need to ponder my response a little more.
Actually, I could just say that my age could be for both as well.  Obviously, age is a liablility for reasons why I don't need to explain.  But as an asset, I've had about 2 or 3 times where my clients and prospects have told me that they'd rather deal with someone younger because they like the fact that I have more energy, I am aggressive, and that I have less on my plate which means I will pay attention to their account more.  They like the fact that I make myself available to them.  Sure, as time goes on and as my business grows I know my availablity to drive to their homes will diminish more.
Lastly, I am interviewing at Smith first and my next stop is Morgan.  Both hiring managers are women.  Since you are a woman yourself, do you think that there is something that I would need to pay attention to more than usual in my interview?  For example, perhaps coming off to aggressive will turn them off...who knows.  Im trying my best not to step on toes.  Maybe I need to come off as a better listener.  I dont' know.  I think I am overanalyzing this.

FreeLunch's picture
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Joined: 2007-06-16

I'd like to make a comment regarding age.  But first of all, I'd like to mention that I am 25 years old.
Have you ever noticed that you will see a really pretty girl who you can't tell is 14 years old or 24 years old.  I swear, I can barely tell the difference anymore.  I think older people can't tell if we're 25 or 35 too.  You mentioned that you do a lot of cold calling - that is great.  Do not worry about networking if you are building a good business from cold calling.  After all, you are in the business of helping people manage their investments better.  You are in the business or managing people, managing relationships.
Regarding networking, I'd like to make a recommendation for a book to read.  It's called, "Winning With People" by John Maxwell.  This will be as or more effective than any other sales/investment book you've ever read.  The point here is this:
2 hours a week of great networking is more effective than 10 hours of pointless networking.  My hint?  Whenever or wherever you are, (after you've read this book) ask people what interests them.  Show a genuine interest.  Not necessarily in their money - in them.
Where are you from?  do you have kids?  What's your wife's name?  what are your hobbies?
Networking IS NOT networking if you spend all of your time talking about yourself and what you do.
Good Luck
 
 
 

FreeLunch's picture
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Joined: 2007-06-16

One more comment younggun.
You are overanalyzing this.  AGE is only an issue if you think it is an issue.  Focus on the key points.  What are the branch managers of SB and MK looking for?  Are they looking for hard workers, dedication, great money managers....maybe.  What they are looking for is TWO things and two things only.  Someone who will gather A TON of assets and PRODUCE.
If you are wanting to sell yourself, focus on those two points.  How can I convince her that I will gather assets and be a big producer:
1. I will prospect all day long.
2. I will focus on qualified accounts.
3. I will persist until I succeed
4. Network? Seminars? cold-calling? Whatever works.  If you think your time is best spent cold calling, tell her that is what you will primarily do. 
Remember, guns blazing.  Don't worry about the cockiness thing.  Be Confident.  Tell her that rejection is your fuel. 
It's all about production my friend.  convince her you can produce.

Dust Bunny's picture
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Joined: 2007-05-07

Since you are a woman yourself, do you think that there is something that I would need to pay attention to more than usual in my interview?  For example, perhaps coming off to aggressive will turn them off...who knows.  Im trying my best not to step on toes.  Maybe I need to come off as a better listener.  I dont' know.  I think I am overanalyzing this.
LOL ...you may be asking the wrong person on this since I find most women (not my clients of course) to be tedious beyond belief.  I would imagine that these are serious professional women who have been through the meat grinder and would not appreciate a machismo approach nor anything wimpy and evasive either.  Having never been interviewed where you are going, I can only give you the information from the firm that I worked for.(A firm whose name we dare not mention for fear of extending this thread for pages)
Speaking only for myself, I would be insulted if a young guy were to try to butter up my female/feminist side instead of my professional side.
I think you are overthinking it a bit.  The best thing is to be confident, friendly and prepared.  Be yourself. Think of all the possible questions they can ask and have some general idea of how you would answer it.  Being younger CAN be an advantage in allowing you to network and break into markets that are dominated by young professionals like yourself. Stress the positive aspects while also admitting that there ARE negatives.  They want to see that you are realistic about your chances.
Other dumb questions that were asked: 
What are you most proud of in your life?  Wrong answer is your hot new Corvette and how it's a babe magnet.  Possible correct answer is something to do with family or success in your education or some big accomplishment that you can point to with pride.
Think of a time you failed and why do you think it happened?
My favorite dumb question:  If you saw a young child crying in the Mall all alone, what would you do? (Thought to myself, WTF kind of question is this? Hmmm I wonder what they want to hear?)
Basically, they want to see what kind of person you are.  They already know that you can pass the Series 7 and know how to add and subtract, but can you be friendly, quick on your toes in thinking and flexible to be able to make sales.

troll's picture
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Joined: 2004-11-29

Dust Bunny wrote:
Since you are a woman yourself, do you think that there is something that I would need to pay attention to more than usual in my interview?  For example, perhaps coming off to aggressive will turn them off...who knows.  Im trying my best not to step on toes.  Maybe I need to come off as a better listener.  I dont' know.  I think I am overanalyzing this.
LOL ...you may be asking the wrong person on this since I find most women (not my clients of course) to be tedious beyond belief.  I would imagine that these are serious professional women who have been through the meat grinder and would not appreciate a machismo approach nor anything wimpy and evasive either.  Having never been interviewed where you are going, I can only give you the information from the firm that I worked for.(A firm whose name we dare not mention for fear of extending this thread for pages)
Speaking only for myself, I would be insulted if a young guy were to try to butter up my female/feminist side instead of my professional side.
I think you are overthinking it a bit.  The best thing is to be confident, friendly and prepared.  Be yourself. Think of all the possible questions they can ask and have some general idea of how you would answer it.  Being younger CAN be an advantage in allowing you to network and break into markets that are dominated by young professionals like yourself. Stress the positive aspects while also admitting that there ARE negatives.  They want to see that you are realistic about your chances.
Other dumb questions that were asked: 
What are you most proud of in your life?  Wrong answer is your hot new Corvette and how it's a babe magnet.  Possible correct answer is something to do with family or success in your education or some big accomplishment that you can point to with pride.
Think of a time you failed and why do you think it happened?
My favorite dumb question:  If you saw a young child crying in the Mall all alone, what would you do? (Thought to myself, WTF kind of question is this? Hmmm I wonder what they want to hear?)
Basically, they want to see what kind of person you are.  They already know that you can pass the Series 7 and know how to add and subtract, but can you be friendly, quick on your toes in thinking and flexible to be able to make sales.

Smart women, like you, are sexy. And rare.

xbanker's picture
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Joined: 2007-01-21

Young gun: I'll give you the brief situation on my interview. While mulling over a couple offers (ML still in progress) I cold called the person listed as branch manager at the nearest SB location to me. After a couple failed attempts to get through in person and with the clock running on the other offers, I left a message which was surprisingly returned the same day. Basic info: licenses held and previous banking experience, how I found the contact info.
I was brought in the fist time to do their personality test because the interviewer was out of town. I was told to call afterward to set up number 2. (They presumed a 2nd interview before the test.) I came in person a couple days later. By this time I got the ML offer.
At the second interview I had a good conversation with the person I'd spoken with on the phone. After a couple hours of chit chat, most of which had little to do with the position, I was introduced to the branch manager. (Or perhaps regional manager? I'm leaning toward the latter since he dealt with the banking positions as well.)
The interviewer glanced very briefly at my resume and then began asking several age related questions. Again, this didn't surprise me because I'd heard from two other people at different branches (although ones in the same geographic region) that they'd gotten the same thing. Eventually I was given the opportunity to ask questions of my own and brought up the fact that the payout grid was less impressive than what's being offered currently in the POA program at ML. I ased in general, "Why should I consider SB at all given this offer?"
He basically stumbled around for an answer, eventually stating, "well, this isn't the place for trainees in general. I mean, we have the program, but it's not a priority and almost everyone leaves or gets fired, which means their book goes to vets already here. That's the only reason we even have it. What I'd really recommend for you is one of the SB positions in a Citibank branch.  Are you interested in being considered for one of these roles?"  I said I wasn't interested in working in a bank environment and thanked him for his time.  I don't think either person was "jerking me around" since this was just when the Citi branches began getting cobranded SB employees. The person I cold called was no longer in a management role and seemed kind of unaware of the process when we talked, just facilitating it for me. He'd probably just then gotten a mandate to fill a few of the bank gigs.  I'd informally assume going in that Wire branch SB gigs go only to people bringing over a book or older in age. The trainee comp plan is unimpressive. Look into ML instead if this is what you want. Although if you wouldn't mind being in a Citi branch, prepare yourself for how you'd handle this option.  Could go either way. Personally I think this destroys a great "white shoe" brand by associating the name with opening checking accounts and giving toaster ovens... just my 2 cents... I'd go for the wire or nothing, unless a good branch in your area. But at least be prepared for that line of questioning as well as the age inquisition. 

AllREIT's picture
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Joined: 2006-12-16

young_gun wrote:Alright, I've given this some thought and it seems
that I must move on.  I am at a small firm where there is no
evidence that any "new" advisors have survived.

Always ask yourself what is the customer paying me to do?

SB/MS/MER etc are all paying you to do two things:

1) Generate GDC
2) Gather assets than can generate GDC.

So you need to show how you can do that, they don't really care how you do it (within limits).

The downside to working in a wirehouse enviroment is that if you stop
doing 1 & 2, you get canned. You also tend to have very little to
show for it. Hence if you are good, you eventually go indy, since that
is where the real money is.

If you look at various "winners circle" type programs, you see that
most sucessful advisors at wirehouse tend to have about 100 or so
clients with north of $1M in assets. So you want to say that doing that
is your goal.

malcom's picture
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Joined: 2007-05-22

i had a similar experience with SB as exbanker. the BM told me he would rather run a convenience store than get into this business.... after a few calls that he didnt return I decided I didn;t need to work for him or his rundown tired branch. considering the 3 other bulge bracket guys that were eager to meet with me i interview some more and got a great offer elsewhere. i think morale is just low on that side, and as suggested in prior posts - they are not interested in spending some money to get someone started in the business.

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