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RPT-YOUR PRACTICE: How to succeed in advising without the schmoozing
September 17, 2012 / 9:13 PM / 5 years ago

RPT-YOUR PRACTICE: How to succeed in advising without the schmoozing

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* Jobs for advisers who don’t want to be rainmakers

* Work from home as clients come to you virtually

* You won’t get rich, but no more schmoozing

By Jennifer Hoyt Cummings

Sept 17 (Reuters) - Traditionally there hasn’t been much room for w ork-life balance in financial advising.

Time not spent meeting with clients is devoted to the non-stop effort of adding new business. And advisers who aren’t rainmakers, reeling in high-net worth clients, might find themselves without a job. But several companies do offer ways for advisers to do business with a steady paycheck, flexible hours and the opportunity to work from home.

You probably won’t get rich from these jobs, and you may take a pay cut if you are giving up a big book of clients. But if you are an adviser who hates the selling and schmoozing aspect of your job, there are options.

VIRTUAL ADVISING

Ellen Derrick was comfortable with her job as a financial planner at a local bank in Waco, Texas, until she heard about a job opportunity at the financial advice website LearnVest.

Instead of driving hundreds of miles nearly every week to visit clients, she could work from home. Business would be funneled to her and she could match her schedule with her husband‘s, who as a realtor, works weekends.

“I’ve spent more time with him in last few weeks than I have in long time,” said Derrick, who became one of LearnVest’s nearly 50 certified financial planners in July. She would not say whether she took a pay cut, but said she hasn’t had to change her lifestyle.

New York-based LearnVest launched in 2009 as a platform for women to learn the basics of money management, and began offering customized financial plans earlier this year. Clients have three plan options. The most expensive is $599 for the first year and includes a five-year financial plan and investment advice from a dedicated planner.

LearnVest planners sacrifice the sales and commission structure of a typical advising job. The company pays planners a base salary, bonuses tied to customer satisfaction and grants of equity in the firm. Chief executive Alexa von Tobel called the planners’ pay competitive, but declined to offer specifics.

LearnVest is backed by $25 million in venture capital, but the firm has been tight lipped about its financial metrics - like its expenses, revenue and how many clients it has. Michael Kitces, publisher of the financial planning industry blog Nerd’s Eye View, suggests advisers get those details before signing on.

PLANNING AHEAD

To be sure, one of the easiest ways to get a flexible schedule is to find clients who want to pay you an hourly rate. But this is only a good option for advisers who are extremely efficient with their time, cautioned Sheryl Garrett, founder of the Garrett Planning Network, which has an online directory of advisers who work by the hour.

But another option is a firm like Financial Finesse, whose certified financial planners spend up to 50 percent of their time traveling the country visiting employers that hire the El Segundo, California-based company to educate their staffs on personal finance.

When they are not on the road, the planners, who get a salary and bonuses, work from home manning the company’s financial help line, doing live webcasts and working on training projects.

St. Louis-based planner Diane Winland said she took a pay cut when she moved to 13-year-old Financial Finesse from the trust division of a regional bank four years ago. But it only took her about two years to get back to a “competitive” income.

Vanguard, which is adding to its staff of about 200 salaried certified financial planners, is a more established option for advisers looking for a work-life balance. The fund giant’s advisers can work full-time or part-time from one of three Vanguard locations. So me field phone calls from Vanguard clients looking for financial advice, while others have an established list of clients who rely on them for investment management and other financial planning advice.

For advisers who don’t mind the uncertainty of not having a set salary, traditional fee-only planning with a technological twist is an option. Personal Capital, for example, attracts investors to its website with free personal finance tools, and the company’s advisers use that pool of promising leads to find clients willing to pay a fee for customized advice.

THINK TWICE

This type of work is not for everyone. You may start to miss face-to-face client meetings, b anter with colleagues in an office or the excitement of chasing a new account. Changing your mind about the switch - that is, going back to a traditional firm - will mean building a book of clients from scratch.

Also, keep in mind you will likely be dealing with less sophisticated clients than you are used to. Of course, for some, like Financial Finesse’s Winland, who prefers advising to selling, that’s a big perk.

“My focus before was on generating business,” she said. “My focus here is on helping people.” (Reporting By Jennifer Hoyt Cummings; Twitter @jenhoytcummings; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

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