Mentoring a Junior Adviser: Beyond the CFP Program

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The CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ program is a great way to orient new advisers, providing a solid framework for handling clients’ finances. As applicants move through the coursework, they learn how to work with clients to establish financial goals; gather and analyze relevant data; and develop, implement and monitor a plan for achieving those goals. But, as valuable as it is, the CFP program doesn’t cover a key aspect of the financial planning process: how to connect personally with a client or potential client, discovering both spoken and unspoken needs.

Through experience, a senior adviser has likely become adept at applying the soft skills needed to form strong client relationships. Without that expertise, an adviser has little chance of winning the trust required to proceed through the steps outlined by the CFP program.

That’s why it’s essential for mentors to help junior advisers develop and hone their relationship-building skills, including:

  • Establishing commonality with the client
  • Asking powerful questions
  • Demonstrating active listening
  • Appropriately using storytelling or analogies to make complex information easy to understand

Beyond the Numbers
Let’s say that, in your office, a one-hour client meeting is the norm. A new adviser may spend 10 minutes of that time focusing on forming a relationship and perhaps another 10 minutes understanding the client’s needs. Then, the junior adviser proceeds to advocate a solution for the remaining 40 minutes.

For a successful experienced adviser, just the opposite is typical. A senior adviser will typically spend 40-plus minutes forming a solid connection with the client—including uncovering both spoken and unspoken needs—and 10 minutes or less proposing a solution.

In short, when working with clients, it’s all about the relationship, about knowing the client beyond the numbers.

If you’re a mentor to junior advisers, ask yourself: Which is easier to teach someone—how to analyze a portfolio for holes, or how to get a client to trust you?

Now we know why training a junior adviser doesn’t happen overnight!

Editor’s Note: FPA is dedicated to supporting the continued professional development needs of our members. The FPA MentorMatch program is designed to help members around the country find and connect with one another to establish mutually beneficial mentoring relationships. The next six-month program starts July 30, 2013. Learn more at

Joni YoungwirthJoni Youngwirth
Managing Principal of Practice Management
Commonwealth Financial Network
Waltham, Mass.

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