10 Things to Look for When Interviewing Financial Advisors

Even the best advisors need to be a good fit for your specific situation and personality. Here's how to do research and ask the right questions to find a person you want to trust and work with for such an important part of your life and future planning.

When you dive into financial planning more deeply and decide to bring in a professional for guidance, it’s time to search for a financial advisor. It’s an important search to get right. There is a spectrum of good, great, and questionable financial advisors and firms, so getting a recommendation from a friend or hitting the first page of Google and calling it a day isn’t enough.

Some professional sites are good places to start, but even the best advisors will still need to be a good fit for your specific situation and personality. That means you need to do research and ask the right questions before settling on the person you want to trust and work with for such an important part of your life and future planning.

One of the most important resources is check to see if they’re banned or have other complaints or regulatory issues, using the SEC data or FINRA BrokerCheck. Then you want to see how they line up with your needs and wishes.

10 things to consider when interviewing financial advisors:

Transparent and Clear Results

1) Clarity of fees - Can you tell what they are and how much they will be? Are you able to access them and track them on your own?

2) Access to results - Being able to access summarized performance in some way is non-negotiable. You should be able to check in on how your accounts are doing when you want and easily understand what you see.

3) Use of digital tools - The best way to get easy access to the information you need for taking action is if your financial advisor embraces digital tools. They’re essential already, and that will only be more true as the years pass. You’d be amazed how many financial advisors and firms who have made money off of the world’s technology boom still don’t make good use of it to serve their clients better!

Besides great customer service platforms, some tools you could look for would be the Social Security Analyzer, College Aid Pro, and Willowfinch.

Willowfinch Note:

The data-driven insights that Willowfinch gives you and your financial advisor are the perfect example of how financial advisors who are up-to-date on technology resources can make your decisions thousands of dollars better, year after year.

Whether you’re looking at moving in the 3 months or next 5-15 years, ask potential financial advisors if they use tools like Willowfinch to help you make the most informed real estate choice possible when you do!

Contact us or have them get in touch with us to get started.

Process and Communication

4) Email responsiveness and other communication - Do they get back to you in a reasonable amount of time and in a way that works with how you like to keep in touch with people about big and small financial questions?

5) Their process - How does intake work? When and how will you meet as time goes on? How much time, input, and communication do they need from you? What can you expect from them? Do you like the expected amount of hands-on support and communication?

6) What sets them apart - Ask them how they do their best work and who they work best for in their client base. How they answer this question, both in tone and substance, will tell you a lot.

Professional Outlook and Focuses

7) Fiduciary status - Are they fully and literally committed to acting in your best interest over their own? (Read more about fiduciary advisors and what that means in this US News article. )

8) Their investment theory - What’s their investment outlook or core belief? Do they specialize in things you need to focus on? Do you agree with their strategies and ethics?

9) Rate and fee structure alignment - Different structures suit different people. What makes sense for your situation and investment level? From traditional fees to a la carte, will it work with your current budget and facilitate solid growth?

10) They are committed to doing what you ask - What is the process for asking for funds to be moved, adjusted, or other requests you may have? While they should communicate their professional insight and advice well and often, will they do what you ask in the end, even if you decide differently?

Finally, Always Research a Variety of Offices

This may seem counter-intuitive, but don’t skip the big brokerages. Even though many won’t make the cut, you’ll have a chance to meet them and learn more about the industry and how it works.

You get an idea of what the standard of customer service and base offerings there typically are at your financial stage and AUM (Assets Under Management).

It’s also worth searching for Financial Advisors who specialize in something specific to you, such as divorce, widows, small business, ex-pat lifestyles, student loans debt, life stage or generational needs like Gen X or Millennials, medical needs, and other needs or goals.

Financial advisors looking to bring you on as a client will often work with you to do an audit on your current portfolio setup to give you a second opinion or advice on what could be your next move. It’s worth asking since it will be helpful information and a great way to test out some of the answers to our questions above.

When you’re talking to potential financial planners, make sure to cover these topics!

It keeps things much simpler. You know right away if someone didn’t make the cut, plus you’re able to compare clear and consistent answers when you do find a handful who fit your criteria and needs.

So go ahead and print this list and have a great meeting! And don’t forget to email us or have your financial advisor reach out to get you started on using Willowfinch.

A Few More Resources Before You Go…

- Here are some professional organizations for financial advisors to help your search:

  1. Association of African American Financial Advisors
  2. Financial Planners Association of various states such as the Financial Planning Association of Puget Sound
  3. The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (This one is noted by Kitces as often underrated. It’s definitely worth a look!)
  4. CFP Board | Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc.
  5. Home - Alliance of Comprehensive Planners Main Site

- There are industry sites like Purse Strings, which vet advisors around specific topics.

- Various corporations have lists and directories:

  1. LPL Financial
  2. XY Planning Network’s portal of advisers
  3. Fee-Only Network
  4. Zoe Financial
  5. Garrett Planning Network

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DISCLAIMER: This is all based on the WillowFinch team’s personal experience and opinions and is not financial advice. Please make sure to talk with financial professionals. We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences as well!