The increasing importance that the advisor-assistant relationship plays in the loyalty of today's affluent client prompted the Oechsli Institute to conduct a study on advisors and assistants. Among numerous findings, we were able to uncover seven key attributes advisors want to see in their assistants.
Attention to Detail - Most advisors know that just one small mistake can cost them a lot of money, if not their entire career. Attention to detail is a must and sits prominently at the top of all of these key attributes. This involves everything from scheduling appointments, keeping up with client and prospect follow-up correspondence, coordinating the calendar for vacation coverage, and virtually every aspect of practice management.
And it should also be stated that many advisors desperately need an assistant who is able to pay attention to all these details, because the advisor either will not or is incapable. They want someone looking after both them and their affluent clients.
Positive Attitude - Considering the attitudes of many advisors throughout this crisis, this might seem like the pot calling the kettle black. “I'm a basket case, stressed out and being spun in all directions, but I expect my assistant to maintain a positive attitude at all times.” Yet the attitude of an advisor has a direct impact on the attitude of an assistant. A stressed-out advisor breeds a stressed-out assistant.
That said, elite advisors recognize the important role attitude plays in all relationships. Because attitude is contagious, an assistant with a positive attitude will naturally assist in strengthening affluent client relationships.
High-Level Professionalism - An advisor's brand is determined by a composite of all the moving parts (personnel) involved in the practice. Since assistants tend to be the first line of communication with the outside world, their level of professionalism plays a large role in the “first impression” of your practice. Because first impressions are lasting, elite advisors recognize the importance of their assistants displaying the highest level of professionalism at all times.
Solves Problems Effectively - An assistant who can proactively handle this critical area is essential to any advisor working with higher-end clients. On the other hand, whenever an affluent client experiences ongoing problems in their dealings with his advisor, it's like a neon sign blinding him with the message, “Incompetent Advisor.” Our affluent research is clear on this point; problem resolution can make or break a relationship.
Good Communication Skills - Whether it's communicating with an affluent client, prospect, center-of-influence, referral alliance partner, other team members, or the compliance department, elite advisors recognize the value of an assistant who is able to communicate in a clear, concise, and timely manner.
These good communication skills don't include email or texting. At times these mediums are essential in correspondence, but good communication from an assistant is usually verbal, either face-to-face or on the telephone.
Team Player - This is a blinding glimpse of the obvious. Meeting the needs of today's affluent investor requires that everybody in a practice or on a team be working together. The fact that most teams are a loose confederation of advisors highlights the importance, at the very minimum, of an advisor's assistant being willing and able to do whatever is necessary to get the job done.
Goes Above and Beyond in Client Service - Advisors are always asking us how they can differentiate themselves. They never seem to fully appreciate our answer: going above and beyond in client service. I guess it lacks the “sizzle” that they imagine is required. However, today's affluent are not after sizzle; they demand good service.
Advisors who are serious about targeting today's affluent investor need to take these seven attributes seriously. Although assistants are sometimes seen as not measuring up to advisor expectations, these attributes are advisor-driven. Assistants of elite advisors embody these qualities.
Matt Oechsli is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent Clients. oechsli.com.