Self-Assessment: Financial Advisor Red Flags

Checkups are a good thing. It’s wise to see the doctor for a physical exam from time to time. And it never hurts to let an auto mechanic peek under your car’s hood, either.

The same holds with your career as a financial advisor. And the good news is, you don’t need the help of anyone else to do it. This is one assessment you can conduct entirely by yourself. A good, honest self-examination of your professional skills can help you identify, and then build on, your existing strengths; it can also identify red flags and steer you away from problems.

The keyword here is honest. Dr. Sigmund Freud, who was no stranger to examining people, put it best: “Being entirely honest with oneself is a good exercise.” So, with that reminder, let’s jump in.

Four areas deserve some self-scrutiny from time to me. 

The first is Focus.

Let’s face it: We’re pulled in many different directions, often at the same time. A barrage of things competes for our attention. And as financial advisors, we must stay on top of them all. There’s breaking and developing news to follow, client emails to answer, and client phone calls to return … the list goes on and on. There is so much to do, in fact, it’s easy to get lost in a hectic day. When that happens, you become like the man who jumped on the horse and rode off in all directions without going anywhere.

Focus is the tool that prevents that from happening. And you gain focus by developing a routine and making sure you stay on top of the many things that matter. You do that with structure. Establishing a routine makes sure the essentials are covered.

I prepare my daily calendar the night before each day. I lay out what meetings I will have, and then follow that up with what deliverables I need to execute. On Sundays. I study my calendar for the coming two weeks and see if there is any planning I need to do, and then I fit it into my routine. That clears the decks for me to focus on accomplishing my many tasks.

Next comes Communication. I’ve shared this before, and it’s worth repeating. You must stay on top of your communication with clients. That is the linchpin that holds everything together.  When communication breaks down, problems usually follow. You can avoid them by staying on top of your communication by making sure the client clearly understands what you’re saying. Read over things multiple times and try to view them from the client’s perspective. It also develops empathy with the people you serve.

Service is next. Focus and communication are essential, but their benefits are lost if you don’t follow up on them. Which is where service comes in.

Your daily schedule should factor in time for quick responses to your clients. You can expect the unexpected every day. There will be emails and phone calls you didn’t anticipate. And each one of the senders is awaiting your response. I try to reply to each one within 24 hours. And I accomplish that by setting aside two blocks of time every day to review and get through all my incoming communications. I’m a big believer in Inbox Zero. It helps me make sure I stay on top of my client’s requests in a timely manner that keeps them satisfied.

Finally, there’s Technology. It’s impossible to overstate its importance. When you have a powerful tool to create more time for you every day by eliminating repetition and streamlining mundane petty chores is available, doesn’t it make good sense to take advantage of it? But putting it to work on your behalf alone isn’t enough. We also must be constantly analyzing our technology to measure both how much we are utilizing it and the ROI it is providing. 

Ask yourself this question: Does the technology I’m using free up time for me while also providing a unique and differentiated service to my clients? If the answer is no, it’s probably time to shop for new software.

So, make sure to do a professional assessment from time to time. And when you spot areas where you can do better, don’t beat yourself up over it. Identifying a problem is the first step in correcting it.

Remember Mark Twain’s advice: “Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.”