Financial advice serves up a rewarding second career

Nov 11, 2012 @ 12:01 am

By Liz Skinner

Dan Goldie
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Dan Goldie (Thomas Broening)

Not all new financial advisers are spring chickens. Many professionals join the profession after having spent years in other financial careers and sometimes after totally unrelated vocations.

In fact, a recent InvestmentNews survey found that 52% of advisers made a career switch into the financial advice business. And 70% of female advisers said that acting as an adviser wasn't their first profession.

Dan Goldie, principal of Dan Goldie Financial Services LLC of Menlo Park, Calif., was an elite tennis player, ranked No. 27 in the world, before injuries sidelined him.

“When I became a professional tennis player, I knew it was going to be a short-term career,” said Mr. Goldie, who studied finance at Stanford University and completed an internship with a financial planning firm during college.

The traits required to be a successful professional athlete, such as discipline, hard work, being goal-oriented and the ability to perform under pressure, all helped him transition into the financial planning world 21 years ago.

“Being a financial adviser is much easier than being a professional athlete, where your whole life is surrounded by results and things are very up and down emotionally,” Mr. Goldie said. “In the business world, things are much more steady and stable.”

Although the industry has plenty of former athletes such as the 49-year-old Mr. Goldie, it is more common for advisers to join the industry after careers in service industries, especially accounting, bank trust departments, consulting firms and the law, recruiters said.

"NATURAL NETWORK'

Men and women with a deep Rolodex and a mature de-meanor make good candidates, especially for adviser positions at large brokerage firms, which have training programs that teach the technical aspects of the advice business, said Mindy Diamond, president of the recruiting firm Diamond Consultants LLC.

“Second-career folks tend to have that natural network either from their first career or it could be through family connections,” she said. “Financial advice careers these days are all about relationships.”

One woman, who was an equity trader and left after 15 years to become an adviser, successfully tapped her former connections as clients and referral sources, Ms. Diamond said.

Officials from wirehouses think that career-changers are best-positioned to build a business using their existing relationships and industry knowledge.

It is better to start at that point than cold calling a stack of Dun & Bradstreet cards or working a reverse phone directory, said Mark Elzweig, who heads an eponymous national executive search firm focused on the asset management community.

“But unless rookie advisers have the requisite sales instincts and are willing to apply them in a disciplined, focused manner, all their efforts will be for naught,” he said. “You can help develop someone's sales skills, but you can't give them the raw sales talent that they don't have.”

Thirty years ago, firms typically recruited copier or computer salesmen with proven sales talent for their training programs, Mr. Elzweig said.

New brokers who were willing to work long hours cold calling prospects could often be successful.

But today, investors don't respond to cold calls, Mr. Elzweig said.

“People find most professionals and service people these days via referrals, so having a network is important,” he said.

ACCOUNTANT-TURNED-ADVISER

With the economic challenges that many industries face, Mr. Elzweig said there are likely many good, resourceful businesspeople who could move into financial advice as a second career.

Frank Fantozzi started the advisory firm Planned Financial Services LLC in Cleveland in 1994 after about six years in the accounting industry, including a stint with the international firm Arthur Andersen LLP.

He said that his entrepreneurial yearnings fit better with the financial advice business, and clients appreciate his tax experience.

“Having the tax background allows me to see financial information differently and gives me credibility with clients,” Mr. Fantozzi said.

Advisers must be able to listen and empathize with clients so that they have faith in the adviser's recommendations, he said.

Determination also is key.

“You have to be able to persevere and be willing to work long, crappy hours at first,” Mr. Fantozzi said.

It took about eight years before clients started regularly coming into his offices to meet instead of requiring that he come to their homes for financial sessions.

People such as teachers and social workers, who are good communicators and “have a background in some of the softer skills, do very well in advising,” said Deena Katz, associate professor in Texas Tech University's Division of Personal Financial Planning and chairman of Evensky & Katz LLC.

Adviser surveys show that firms are confident they can teach someone what a 401(k) is and other technical information that planners need to know, she said.

“But someone with good communication skills who can sympathize with clients and motivate people to take action, that's a real find,” Ms. Katz said. “Financial planning is a wonderful blend of finance and psychology.”

lskinner@investmentnews.com Twitter: @skinnerliz

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