Financial advisers must seek their own advice

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    To steal a line from the medical world, counselors should consider listening more to their own advice in setting personal and professional goals and dealing with burnout.

    That could at least be concluded from the results of a recent survey of the consultancy market by New York Life Investment Management. For example, almost all consultants make some type of goal setting a central element of planning for their clients, but only 42% write down their personal and professional goals and often refer to them as the survey found. Only one in four firmly adheres to their goals and believes they will contribute to success.

    However, this type of planning is more important than ever as both consultants and their clients continue to grapple with the aftermath of the coronavirus. Burnout is an overused word, but a more common problem even as the economy is slowly opening up again. The survey suggests that counselors are better able to cope with the stress of their work. Many struggle to find the time to stay fresh, motivated, and develop their skills. Nonetheless, only 34% of counselors place their own physical health a daily priority.

    While there is an increasing trend towards a team-based approach to client account management, 30% of consultants surveyed still choose to keep their goals to themselves rather than sharing them with a trusted group of people, and nearly half ( 45%) often choose to go it alone managing customer issues. This reluctance to connect with colleagues can discourage counselors from having good new ideas and viewpoints, and adding to personal stress, even if a global health crisis like the one we are currently experiencing does not occur.

    Core qualities

    Resilience, connectedness, goal setting, boldness and intrinsic motivation are among the core qualities that are required for success as a financial advisor. This is a difficult skill to assemble in the best of times, and as we all know it wasn’t. The lack of face-to-face meetings in a high-touch business was a particular challenge. But there are ways to handle this. We have identified a five-step process that can help consultants develop many of the traits shared by industry leaders, a group we refer to as “Top Consultants.”

    1. vision. What is your vision for you and your practice? It should be clear, focused, and easy to articulate. Write it down. Research has shown that if you put it down in writing, you are 40% more likely to achieve a goal.
    2. Believe. The best way to start realizing your vision is to pretend you are already there. Success leads to more success.
    3. self talk. Stay positive, stay aware of the dialogue you are creating, and don’t get stuck in a mental rut. Don’t let these voices in your head stop you from doing what you need to do to make your practice work.
    4. Enter the zone. Clean up the mental clutter and focus on where you want to be.
    5. Deliver. Don’t leave projects unfinished. Set deadlines and meet them. Finish tasks.

    Pandemic or not, there is always an opportunity to learn and do better. Consultants recognize this, with one in three believe they have “some” skills but need to learn more to get better results, according to the survey. One area that could use some improvement: listening. Only 27% of the consultants we surveyed considered themselves “great listeners”, which we would consider another core competency for success in the industry and a quality that is often found among the top companies.

    Another is persistence. For example, clients do not always agree on a recommended strategy or investment idea the first time. But if the idea or strategy is highly persuasive, it pays to stick with it. However, our research has shown that only 20% of consultants continue to present an idea after a customer rejects it.

    Thinking off the balance sheet

    The best advisors take a holistic approach to a client’s wealth – identifying ways to advance family, career, philanthropy, and life and legacy goals. Many advisors were challenged by clients on these off-balance sheet fronts during the pandemic, helping individuals and families deal with stress and isolation, and also providing financial advice. This is a role many would never have expected, and the need to reinforce yourself in this way is almost certainly contributing to the consultants’ burnout.

    This is the bad news. The good news: for many consultants, help is very close: their own advice.

    Jennifer Tarsney is the head of Adviser to funding institute at New York Life Investments.

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