Training new advisers by osmosis

Attending 1,000 client meetings is how one firm teaches its next generation advisers

Sep 13, 2013 @ 2:51 pm

By Liz Skinner

AdviceOne LLC takes a unique approach to adviser training that does not include instruction on stocks, bonds or even the markets themselves. Its president also won't hire anyone who has more than six months' experience in the financial industry.

The firm, which manages about $600 million in client assets, relies on "osmosis training," AdviceOne president Michael Grossman said at the Financial Services Institute Advisor Summit in Washington this week.

Individuals at the firm train in a series of roles over several years, typically taking part in about 1,000 clients meetings with the firm's advisers before being given the green light to meet with clients alone.

Associate wealth managers at AdviceOne begin by taking all the notes in client meetings and later move to conducting fact-finding interviews with prospects. Later, they begin meeting with clients before their formal adviser reviews to update any important client information.

"No one fails in this industry for a lack of product knowledge; we focus on relationship building," Mr. Grossman said. "Watching an adviser at work is the best training."

AdviceOne tapes its associate wealth advisers during some client interactions and has peers critique one another on what they could have done better, he said. The firm pays $45,000 a year at the onset, doubling that salary over the first three years.

The “worst way” that advisory firms can develop its professionals is to turn over small clients to budding advisers because that just makes them good at talking to lower-level clients, Mr. Grossman said. He focuses his firm's training efforts on making sure all AdviceOne advisers and other staff are comfortable talking with and serve large clients.

Mr. Grossman said he doesn't hire people with industry experience because he believes that someone with traditional financial sales training won't be able to embrace his firm's culture, which is focused on customer service. For example, AdviceOne requires all incoming voice mails be answered in 15 minutes.

“Today's adviser is a service beast, not a selling beast,” he said.

Mr. Grossman said he expects 100% from all his employees and fires those who give the business 90%. The Glastonbury, Conn.-based firm has 32 people on staff, including seven advisers.

"We're slow at hiring and fast at firing,” he said.

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