New York City:  “Would you please, please take this a step further and address the ‘business casual attire,’ as well as proper attire for an advisor?  Business casual, last weekend at a regional meeting, included faded golf shorts, no belts, ill-fitting clothing, and flip flops.  And professional attire – does the world really need to see the trendy (or not so trendy) collection of purple, lime green, red, and my personal favorite – gangsta black – dress shirts?  If you’re going to wear a suit, a lace up cap toe or wingtip is the proper shoe, NOT a driving moccasin?  Call me old school, but men (and women) are not learning how to dress properly to attract affluent clients.  Ladies, save the flowered jackets for Sunday church.  And if your assistant is dressing the same or better than you, you are not pulling it off as an advisor.  Will you please take this further?  Thanking you in advance.”  – A Frustrated Advisor

This was in response to my last piece entitled Manners.  Rather than paraphrase this frustrated advisor, I decided to include the entire post.  It truly hit a nerve with me.  In my travels around the country delivering lectures and workshops to advisors, I encounter advisors in all forms of business casual and professional attire.  Most are dressed appropriately and a few are exceptionally attired, however, there appears to be a growing element of advisors who are embracing what I refer to as “too cool for school” dress. 

Everyone can spot a burnt-out plateaued advisor, sloppy in every aspect of personal appearance.  Sadly, that’s the image they project and quite frankly, their career is behind them and these advisors aren’t going to change.  On the other hand, there appears to be an increasingly large segment of advisors, whose careers are still ahead of them who need coaching on the importance of image and the impact that it will have on their career. 

In responses to our Frustrated Advisor’s request, I’m going to outline basic men’s guidelines for business casual and professional attire (sorry women, I can’t provide your guidelines off the top of my head).  Please, take all of this with a grain of salt – if the shoe fits, shine it, and wear it.  My intention is twofold; 1) Stress the importance of image for working with today’s affluent.  2) Provide basic guidelines that will help you develop an image that helps you, rather than holds you back.

Business Casual– With the affluent investor telling us that they want to know us on a personal level as trust is so fragile, advisors should start socializing with their affluent clients in a non-business environment.  How an advisor dresses in these venues is critical.  The following are some basic tips:

  • Blue Blazer (summer sport coat)– a garment made of good wool, that is well constructed and properly tailored is essential.  Unless it’s a tropical / pool, or sporting event, you should always wear a sport coat.  You can take it off, but you will never make a bad impression with it on.  This includes your firm’s “business casual” meeting.
     
  • Dress Shirt– you can take a cotton dress shirt, forget the tie and open the collar.  However, your shirt should be pressed, tucked in, and clean.  You can use a button down collar, French cuffs, and be more adventurous in colors, patterns, and design than when you’re wearing a suit and tie. 
     
  • Golf Shirts / Polo Shirts– good quality short sleeve shirts should be a staple in every advisor’s closet for warmer weather.  But they need to be pressed, tucked-in, and clean.  They work well with a sport coat or without.
     
  • Mock Turtlenecks– best colors are black and navy as they go with nearly everything.  These are long sleeve shirts for cooler weather and can also be worn with or without a sport coat.
     
  • Shoes– suede, leather, slip-on, buckle, or laces all will work.  Make certain they are shined or cleaned.  You can get more casual but do avoid the driving moccasins when wearing a sport coat. Sneakers, sandals, and pool shoes are appropriate for certain outdoor casual events.
     
  • Belts– always wear a belt.  These should be brown, black, or cordovan leather, woven and cloth belts also work.  Make certain the belt is of good quality.
     

Professional Attire– Since you are the product and providing advice on a serious topic -family finances- your professional attire is critically important.  Our latest research tells us that the affluent take personal appearance and dress very seriously when selecting an advisor.  The good news is that the professional look for men is timeless, just watch a James Bond movie, old and new.  Think in terms of conservative suits, shirts, ties, and shoes.

  • Suits-- good quality well-tailored wool suits, navy and charcoal grey (winter and summer) should be a staple in every advisor’s closet.  Pinstripe and solids both work.  Once you have the basics, you can branch out with different shades and patterns – but keep the suits conservative!  Always keep your suits cleaned and pressed.
     
  • Dress Shirts– all cotton, conservative, French cuff or normal button cuff should be standard.  Make certain that they fit (coming un-tucked or ballooning at the waste is a no-no), and are clean, and pressed (non-iron cottons are great).  Avoid the trendy colors, think James Bond.
     
  • Shoes– top quality leather, lace-up or business loafer (black, cordovan, brown) that are always shined, with no holes in soles or cracks in the leather.
     
  • Belts– top leather, woven or solid – always wear unless using suspenders that button (don’t use clip on suspenders).

 

In addition to watching a couple of James Bond movies, observe people who dress well in both social circles and professionally.  There is no substitute for class, it’s timeless and so is good style.

Think in terms of “dress code” for your business.  As our Frustrated Advisor was so keenly aware, image is everything in theaffluentworld of intangibles. 

 

The Oechsli Institute does ongoing research and coaching for nearly every major financial services firm in the US. To take the first step towards coaching with The Oechsli Institute, complete the pre-coaching business profile for a