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The Technical & Soft Skills Needed to Be a Financial Advisor

If you’re looking for a career that is both financially rewarding and personally fulfilling, becoming a financial advisor may be the right path for you.

This job is more than just managing money – as a financial advisor, you’ll be instrumental in helping your clients achieve their dreams, whether it’s buying a home, sending their kids to college, or retiring comfortably. You’ll have the privilege of knowing their deepest hopes and fears. Then, you need to guide them through an often-complex financial landscape, advising them on how to make smart decisions with their money.

In other words, being a financial advisor goes beyond making a commission. It’s about making a difference in people’s lives, and doing that requires a complex skillset.

This article will walk you through everything you need to know about becoming a financial advisor, from the technical and soft skills you’ll need to succeed in this role to upskilling advice and more.

day in a life of a financial advisor

Finding Your “Why” as a Financial Advisor

Your “why” will be the most powerful force during your career as a financial advisor. It’s what will keep you going when your prospective clients walk away, when the markets crash, or when you’re feeling burned out. It’s also what will inspire you to cultivate the skills we’ll talk about later in the article.

Finding your why, aka your purpose, as a financial advisor takes some soul searching. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What is it about working with people and their money that gets you excited?
  • What kind of difference do you want to make in your clients’ lives?
  • What personal values guide your work?

For some people, the answer to these questions is simple. They have always been good with money and they want to help others achieve financial security. Others have experienced money struggles themselves and they want to help others avoid the same fate.

Some people are drawn to the challenge of the financial markets, while others enjoy the one-on-one interaction with clients.

Think about your strengths, weaknesses, and what you’re passionate about. All of these factors will help you define why you want to become a financial advisor.

soft skills and mentoring

The Financial Advisor Job Description: What Does a Financial Advisor Do?

It’s hard to develop the skills financial advisors need without first understanding what the job entails. So, let’s start there. As a financial advisor, your tasks will include but are not limited to:

  • Helping clients assess their financial needs and goals
  • Comprehensive financial planning and wealth management for clients
  • Providing investment advice and investment management
  • Monitoring clients’ progress
  • Adjusting clients’ financial strategies as needed
  • Providing advice on a variety of financial topics, including retirement planning, estate planning, tax strategy, and risk management
  • Keeping tabs on the market, economic trends, and changes in the financial industry
  • Generating financial reports for clients about the state of their portfolios
  • Acting as a liaison between clients and other professionals, such as estate attorneys and tax specialists
  • Maintaining relationships with new and existing clients

Furthermore, the job description changes depending on where you work. For example, if you’re employed by a bank, you’ll likely spend more time cross-selling products like loans and credit cards. If you work for investment firms or for fee-only financial advisory firms, you’ll have more time to focus on developing financial plans and investment strategies.

Want to operate a solo financial advisor practice? Self-employed financial planners wear many hats, from marketing and business development to administrative tasks like bookkeeping.

skills needed to be a financial advisor

The Technical Skills You Need to Be a Financial Advisor

To succeed as a financial advisor, you need to have a firm grasp of financial concepts and the know-how to apply them to real-world situations. Here are some essential technical skills you’ll need:

Financial analysis

As a financial advisor, you’ll need to be able to read and analyze financial statements. You should also be comfortable using spreadsheet software like Microsoft Excel to run calculations and simulations.

Investment analysis

You’ll need to understand different types of investments, how they work, and how they fit into a diversified portfolio. This includes stocks, bonds, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and alternative investments like real estate and hedge funds.

Financial planning

This is the process of helping clients set and achieve financial goals. It includes creating a budget, projecting cash flow, and developing a retirement plan.

Insurance planning

You’ll need to know how different types of insurance work, including life insurance, disability insurance, and long-term care insurance. You should also be familiar with annuities and how they can be used to generate retirement income.

Tax planning

You should have a solid understanding of the tax code and how it affects individuals and businesses. This includes knowledge of different types of tax-advantaged accounts, such as IRAs and 401(k)s.

Estate planning

This involves helping clients develop a plan for distributing their assets after they die. It includes understanding topics like wills, trusts, and probate.

Computer skills

You should be proficient in using common business software, such as Microsoft Office, e-mail, Google Docs, mobile apps, and social media. You may also need to use customer relationship management (CRM) software, financial planning software, and portfolio management software. You should be comfortable using all of these programs because your clients will likely be using them too.


High-Net-Worth Individuals require a different set of soft and technical skills. Capital preservation, tax and estate planning, and capital appreciation are some goals they focus on. They will require a different (and highly customized) financial strategy.


financial advisor reviewing documents

The Soft Skills You Need to Be a Financial Advisor

In addition to technical skills, you’ll need to have certain soft skills to succeed as a financial advisor. These are personal attributes that will help you build relationships with clients and work effectively as part of a team.

Some essential soft skills for financial advisors include:

Communication

You should be able to clearly and concisely communicate with clients, both in person and in writing. This includes being able to explain complex financial concepts in plain English.

Active listening

To listen actively means to not only hear what the other person is saying but to also understand and interpret the message. This is important for financial advisors to build rapport with their clients and getting to the heart of their financial goals.

Empathy

As a financial advisor, you’ll be dealing with clients who are going through a wide range of emotions, from excitement to anxiety to sadness. They may not be completely sold on financial literacy yet. Financial advisors needs to be able to empathize with them and understand how they’re feeling.

Patience

Financial planning is a long-term process, and it can take years to achieve results. This means you need to have patience, both with clients and the markets. Personal advisors also need to be patient with the emotional challenges that their clients face, which may lead to cancelled contracts or constantly changing plans.

Creativity

To be successful as a financial advisor, you need to be able to think outside the box. This means coming up with innovative solutions to problems and coming up with new ways to market your business. As an example, you might use social media to connect with potential clients.

Flexibility

The financial world is constantly changing, and you need to be able to adapt to new situations. This includes what’s happening in the markets, changes in laws and regulations, and changes in clients’ financial goals.

Organization

Financial advisors deal with a lot of data. This includes client information, financial reports, and market research. It’s important that you’re able to organize this information in a way that’s easy to access and understand.

Time management

Finally, financial advisors often work with clients who are on a tight schedule. They typically juggle several clients at once, as well as their own personal and professional commitments. This means you need to be able to manage your time effectively and prioritize your tasks.

Don’t worry if you’re not confident in all of these soft skills yet. Many of them can be learned with time and practice. And, if you’re not sure where to start, there are plenty of books, articles, classes, and online courses that can help you develop these skills.

financial advisor seminar

Upskilling as a Financial Advisor

The competition between financial advisors is fierce, and it’s only going to get more intense in the years ahead. This means that you need to continuously upskill if you want to stay ahead of the curve. Fortunately, there are a number of ways you can do this. Here are a few suggestions:

Pursue higher education.

While you can work as a financial advisor without a degree and be successful at it, pursuing higher education can give you a competitive edge.

Don’t have a high school diploma? Consider taking some college courses or getting your GED. It doesn’t even have to be in the financial field. Any courses you take that improve your writing, communication, and critical thinking skills will be helpful. Some great options include English, economics, and psychology.

Have a college degree already? Consider pursuing a higher degree, such as a master’s in business administration (MBA) or a master’s in financial planning. These programs will give you the advanced knowledge and skills you need to stand out from the competition.

Get certified.

There are a number of certifications that financial advisors can pursue, such as the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation from the Certified Financial Planner Board. These certifications show clients that you’re serious about your career and that you’re ready to meet the standards of any financial industry regulatory authority.

Some certifications require you to have a certain amount of experience or education before you can sit for the exam. Others, like the CFP designation, have no prerequisites.

If you’re not sure which certification is right for you, consider talking to your boss or another financial advisor you admire. They can give you some guidance on which certification will help you advance in your career.

Complete training programs.

You can never have too much training, and there are a number of programs out there that can help you sharpen your skills as a financial advisor. Many of these programs are offered by financial services firms, but you can also find them at community colleges and online.

Some training programs are specific to financial advising, while others are more general. For example, you might take a course on investment strategies or risk management. There are also programs that focus on topics like sales, customer service, and leadership.

Join networking events.

Expanding and building your network is also a way to skill up as a financial advisor. Attend industry events, such as conferences and seminars. You can also join professional organizations, such as the Financial Planning Association or the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors.

These organizations offer a number of benefits, such as access to exclusive networking events, online resources, and discounts on certifications and training programs.

Take advantage of free online resources.

There are also a number of online resources you can use to upskill as a financial advisor. These include webinars, podcasts, online courses, and e-books. Many of these are free, too.

For example, the CFP Board offers a number of free webinars on topics like financial planning for retirement and investing in volatile markets. The Motley Fool also offers a number of free courses on topics like stock investing and saving for retirement.

Find a mentor.

One of the best ways to accelerate your career is to find a mentor, aka a veteran financial advisor who can help you navigate the industry and avoid making mistakes.

Your mentor can introduce you to new concepts, offer advice on challenging situations, and provide guidance on your career path. They can also introduce you to other professionals in the industry, which can help you expand your network.

Look for someone who has been in the industry for a while and who you admire professionally. You can find mentors through your professional network, online communities, or financial services firms.

financial advisor reviewing portfolio using apps

We Put the Spotlight on Financial Advisors

Finally, if you really want to take your career to the next level, consider partnering with Peregrine Consulting Group. We are a full-service marketing agency that specializes in working with personal financial advisors, broker-dealers, registered investment advisors, and more.

Our industry-specific approach is data-driven and customized for your unique goals and clientele. Whether you need help with SEO, social media, or website development, we can create a comprehensive marketing strategy that will help you attract more clients and grow your business.

Aside from our digital market solutions for the financial services industry, we also offer technological solutions for advisors that can automate your marketing efforts and help you work more efficiently.

We invite you to contact us today to learn more about what we can do for you. Let’s talk strategy!

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