When "shopping" around for someone to handle your financial present and future, there are many questions you should ask. That said, everyone's goals, needs and expectations are different, which will result in a wide spectrum of questions needing to be asked. We've "distilled" a general list of questions you should ask, no matter what.
Here are 10 interview questions you should ask a potential financial advisor.
1. What are your credentials/certifications/licenses?
The financial advisory industry has a laundry list of certifications available for practitioners to use (check out this list from FINRA to see for yourself). The ones you may see the most often is the CFP®.
2. Are you a fiduciary (and other similar regulatory questions)?
As a fiduciary, the financial advisor is required to always work with your best interests in mind. Hard stop.
3. How are you different from other financial advisors?
This is your potential advisor's chance to explain how they stand out from the industry. You want to look for strong signs of client retention and satisfaction. Maybe they won awards for their planning process. Perhaps they have a high referral rate. Perhaps they're very (positively) known in their community. Perhaps they're so good at what they do that they coach other financial advisors. If they check any of these boxes, it's probably a good sign. They'll also explain what their "client philosophy" is at this point and that will give you an indication of how you'll be treated.
4. What kind of clients do you specialize in?
Some financial advisors will specialize in investments. Others will have a thorough planning process that meets a variety of needs. Others still may have a strong focus in retirement. If you're looking for a one-stop-shop advisor, you want to look for someone who offers a comprehensive planning process that checks all the boxes. If you're looking for help only with your retirement planning and nothing else, then you might need a different type of advisor (though an important note that comprehensive advisors can offer retirement planning a-la-cart sometimes - that's why you have to ask!). Ultimately, it's important to ask this question to make sure you're a good fit.
5. Can I see a sample of the financial planning process you use?
An expert advisor has workflows and processes in place to handle your finances and they should be able to explain that process to you very simply. In fact, the best pieces of "advisor literature" will illustrate what that process is in a brochure or on their website! That way, you know, going in, what to expect and you can ask detailed questions in your initial meeting if there's anything that's unclear. At Custom Wealth Management, you can see our process right before you give us a call (on our website!).
6. What is your fee structure?
Financial planners need to be completely transparent when explaining their fee structure to you. It's very important for you to understand how they get paid, if there are commissions involved, if there will be other costs you'll take on other than the fee you're paying them, if it's a tiered rate system, etc. The answer should be clear and simple. If you hear the words "fee-only", then that means they don't get paid for selling products (eg: commissions).
7. Speaking of fees, do you get paid by anyone other than your clients?
Again, related to transparency in fee structure, you want to know if the advisor is being paid by investment or mutual fund companies for products they sell.
8. Am I working just with you or with your team?
If you're looking at a smaller practice, chances are you'll be working with the primary financial advisor who's running it. However, depending on the agreement you set up, other individuals may work with you from their team. This should be well explained to you so you can voice your wishes, either way. It also matters in terms of succession if something should happen to your advisor. You want to know if their team is able to manage your money or if there is another plan in place.
9. What's your investment ideology/approach?
This is important to ask because you'll get a clear view at the advisors process and how strong it is (or isn't). A great advisor should have a repeatable yet customized-to-you process and workflow that is simple to follow and easy to explain. The best philosophy is generally diversified, meaning you don't want someone who's going to dump all of your money into one thing. A good investment strategy includes small, mid, large-cap, domestic and international stocks..
10.How long have you been an advisor?
With the markets being what they are right now, having an advisor who has "weathered the previous storms" in the markets is an important quality to look for. Someone who's comfortable and not-swayed by market volatility is like having a steady captain at the helm. Ask detailed questions about how they helped their clients through previous bear markets.
If you're looking for a financial advisor to help you weather this current storm, give our office a call and we'll be happy to answer all of these questions (and more) clearly and confidently!