It's amazing how things around us change, and yet so many people keep doing the same-ole-same-ole and end up wondering what happened. For instance, our research shows that elite financial advisors are the most trusted source of accurate information about money and wealth management. Although it should not come as a surprise, politicians, radio and television talk shows are at the bottom of today's affluent trust ladder.

That's right. Affluent investors trust elite financial advisors with money matters more than nearly anyone else, according to our research. This creates a real window of opportunity for those advisors who are paying attention. That's because, along with an elevated level of trust, comes a serious responsibility. To earn — and keep — this trust, every financial advisor must make a personal commitment to being a true knowledge worker.

In one of the last books written toward the end of a very distinguished career, Management Challenges for the 21st Century (1999, Harper Business), Peter Drucker coined the phrase “knowledge worker” to describe someone who constantly gathers information, filters out the noise and transforms it into knowledge that can be applied by others or used in the workplace. In order to become a productive knowledge worker, Drucker suggests one start by asking oneself the following questions:

  • What is your task? This is a very difficult question to answer, and most financial advisors take it for granted. Indeed, many financial advisors still think their sole task is to “make money” for their clients. But elite financial advisors understand that a big part of their task is to develop an expanding vision of the markets, the economy, the product marketplace and their clients' needs.

  • What should your task be? Unless you are already overseeing the totality of your affluent clients' financial affairs, I'd recommend you take some time to study the relationships today's elite advisors have developed with their affluent clients. Here's a hint: They're much different from those of yesterday's big producer.

  • What hampers you in completing your task? This requires a high degree of self-awareness — the kind of self-awareness that is exhibited by elite performers in all fields. They recognize their personal speed bumps — what's preventing them from raising their game. So, what's getting in your way?

  • What should be eliminated? Once an elite performer determines what is holding him back, he then makes the necessary adjustments. For financial advisors, this usually requires delegation and client segmentation. But you should never offer a knee-jerk response to this question. So, what should be eliminated from your practice, team, or daily routine?

According to Drucker, simply by answering these questions and taking the relevant action steps, an individual's productivity can either double or triple. That alone should be incentive enough for every financial advisor to become a true knowledge worker. Yet few financial advisors seem to make this a priority.

If you want to be an elite advisor, you must continually work to expand your knowledge in all areas that are even tangentially related to comprehensive wealth management — this goes beyond Roth conversions and tax law changes. In fact, one subject about which financial advisors absolutely must accumulate as much knowledge as possible is the affluent investor, their clients.

There is no getting around how important it is for financial advisors to become lifelong students of the affluent. This is where the money is! Yet the affluent are a very idiosyncratic species — full of biases, rarely in doubt about what they they want. And remember that 93 percent of today's affluent are self-made and don't perceive themselves as affluent — they have middle class values.

Becoming a knowledge worker requires, guess what? — work! From the perspective of today's affluent investor, there is no place for the ‘average’ advisor. The year is young, make a commitment to becoming a true knowledge worker and an elite financial advisor.

Writer' BIO:

Matt Oechsli
is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent Clients.oechsli.com