What makes a good advisor?

Robert Ramos |

What makes a good financial advisor?

There are all kinds of articles on the internet about how to find a financial advisor. Asking people you trust for a referral is one of the best. Emailing a questionnaire you found online to a dozen advisors is probably the worst.

However, once you set an appointment to meet with a prospective advisor, what should you look for? Here are some thoughts based on our decades of experience:

Good advisers have a strong base of knowledge. They understand that financial planning involves more than just investing. A good advisor will understand taxes, estate planning, insurance, economics, and investing.

Good advisors know the limits of their expertise. They may have knowledge and experience about taxes or estate planning, but they generally aren’t tax preparers or lawyers. A good advisor will be able to refer you to other experienced and knowledgeable professionals.

Good advisors act in the interest of their clients.

Good advisors listen. They take the time to have a conversation with clients about their recent life events, priorities, goals, or objectives. They tailor solutions to help meet their client’s goals. They build relationships with clients over time.

Good advisors ask questions; they don’t assume, they don’t pre-judge and they never have an application at the ready on a first appointment.

Good advisers educate and explain not dictate. They explain the options and the rationale for any recommendations in terms that the client understands.

Good advisers move at the pace of their clients. The client should never feel pressured to make a decision.

Good advisers are continually learning. This is a rapidly changing profession that covers an extremely broad array of subjects. Every good advisor spends a significant amount of time each year in class room sessions, in online sessions or on conference calls keeping up with the changes and refreshing their knowledge base. 

Good advisers give the best advice they can. It may be boring and it may not be want you want to hear.

Good advisors run a good business. They treat their staff well, they return client calls and email promptly and they show up on time for appointments.

Good advisors are human. Mistakes are part of being human. When a mistake is made, they own up to it, apologize and do their best to fix the error. It is important for clients to understand that good advisors are human.

Good advisors practice what they preach. A good advisor has a will, has a professional do their taxes and uses the same products/strategies and companies that they recommend to their clients.

Good advisors maintain an ongoing relationship with their clients. The best strive to be a financial coach for their clients. They provide advice and guidance on a wide range of money related questions well beyond investment management.

Good advisors participate in community outreach events because they want to not because its good for business.