Advisory firms using creative job titles to attract clients, staff

Inventive labels, such as director of first impressions, can better describe roles and help a company stand out from the competition

Jun 28, 2016 @ 11:39 am

By Liz Skinner

Financial advisory firms are starting to embrace the trend of using job titles that reflect the spirit of the position.

Think Google's "chief happiness officer."

But advisory firm executives aren't just implementing creative titles for the C-suite. They're assigning inventive labels at many levels, hoping to attract clients and employees who are looking for a firm that stands out.

“When a consumer stumbles onto my website, I want them to see something a little bit different,” said Taylor Schulte, founder of DefineFinancial.

He employs an "operations ambassador" to run the back office and a "compliance connoisseur" to keep the firm in line with securities regulations. Mr. Schulte said he wants the people in these roles to feel like a valued part of the team, not just an employee.

This less-stodgy approach to corporate labeling resonates especially well with the younger crowd, but it doesn't only attract millennials, he said. Most of his clients are retirees or preparing for retirement.

“I think some of us are starting to take some pages out of the Silicon Valley startup book and having some fun with this stuff,” Mr. Schulte said. “It helps attract the right people to come work with you, whether they are young or old.”

The most common creative title at advisory firms appears to be "director of first impressions," a designation most are using for a traditional receptionist who greets clients and answers the main phone number at the firm.

Ted Jenkin, co-chief executive of Oxygen Financial, has a director of first impressions at each of his two Atlanta-area offices.

“I want our people to take pride in what they do,” he said. “This says you matter, because the first impression they have of you is the one they're going to have of the company.”

Carson Wealth, which has a long history of using the director of first impressions post, also employs a "director of transformations," who heads the team that works with advisers when they join the business.

“The title really describes what they do,” said Ron Carson, founder of Carson Wealth. “When we bring someone into the firm, we're not just transitioning their accounts, we change their brand, their digital hub, their business cards — it's a complete refresh.”

At Oxygen Financial, the firm also has a "social media ninja" to help get its name out there, and even employs an original title for its financial advisers: "private CFOs." The name was chosen after a trademark search revealed that personal CFO had numerous claims already, Mr. Jenkin said.

Advisory firm owners should make sure that compliance professionals sign off on all out-of-the-box job titles to make sure they don't insinuate some type of special skill or official designation that the person may not have attained, he said.

“If titles are promissory, they are going to be a problem,” said Robert Sofia, an adviser marketing specialist.

Positions with the title “expert” are going to have difficulties getting through compliance, as well as something like “dreams fulfiller,” which Mr. Sofia saw once at an insurance company.

A good creative title is clear on what the job is, is memorable, has a positive impact on the way the client sees the firm, gives employees confidence in doing their jobs and fits the firm's brand, Mr. Sofia said.

“If it's done right, it can be good,” he said. “The downside is they can get weird, or confuse clients and job seekers.”

But that doesn't mean advisers can't have fun with them.

Greenwich Bay Wealth Management took the title director of first impressions in an unusual direction, assigning it to a yellow lab puppy, Lucy Grace Joly, who surely puts her own spin on the job's duties.

She's not the only canine with a creative title at an advisory firm.

Mr. Carson employs his own black lab, Nelly Carson, as "chief comfort officer," offering emotional support to everyone in the office.

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