Before technology and resurgence in small business greatly changed the job search for financial advisers, these workers had little choice about the kind of firm that they opt to work with. The variety of companies to work with was still present, but these were very similar and offered little apart from each other—environments, employment opportunities, benefits, and even logos were extremely similar. Now, the formerly dominating large brand-name firms share the market with smaller, independent companies that provide an attractive level of familiarity and friendliness both to consumers and in job searches for financial advisers. As a potential adviser, you should know the differences between the two kinds of company before beginning your search.
Some of the benefits working with a larger, household name company include a higher level of support and help from your superiors than from independent advisory firms. For larger firms, they view job searches for financial advisers as small additions to the big picture and put the employee through a comprehensive program to associate you with the firm’s inner workings, the study of licensing, as well as insurance and security exam and instruction for certain technical and administration-based tasks. In addition, you can expect a good deal of marketing support materials, like business cards, letterhead paper, and the invaluable asset of having a recognizable brandname affiliated with your own name. You’ll also see greater opportunities in your job search for financial advisers for bonds and public stock offerings, generally used to draw the attention of new investors. All of these benefits come with increased expectation: you will have fairly steep quotas to meet during your early days at the firm.
The largest downside to working with a large company after your job search for financial advisers is that the compensation given to larger firms is in general lower than that paid to independent firms, regardless of the similarity of the work. In addition, working for one of these companies entails a much greater amount of corporate red tape, strict regulations, and increased work flow in your daily duties. Through all of this, you will see a reduced amount of time spent interacting directly with your clients, which may undo some of your initial desires causing a job search for financial advisers.
Smaller firms (sometimes called boutique firms) hold a primary appeal of being more personal and more comprehensive with their clients. Naturally, these smaller firms attract clients affiliated with smaller businesses. At one of these firms, already experienced arrivals are seen more often than financial greenhorns because of the greatly lowered need for training. In addition, these services offer more specialized services than the larger firms like income or gift tax aid, estate tax solutions, mortgages or alternative investments, and improved retirement programs. When working in a boutique firm, advisers are granted a generally higher level of freedom, as well as the opportunity to help with less regular service like income tax preparation and other tasks beyond asset management. This way, the adviser has the opportunity to take a higher commission fee, and in general less is taken by the firm. However, this transition of freedom may be bewildering for some less experienced advisers.
Unlike larger firms, independent companies offer much lower levels of financial support. You’ll likely need your own stationery and business cards, which are critical for this type of work. In addition, these positions require more refined people skills than working at a slightly more distanced position within a larger firm. However, the decision is almost always case-by-case and depends on your own skills and experiences.
Your Own Decision
As boutique firms grow and large firms split, the gap between the companies is certainly shrinking. However, the division is still clear and the decision will greatly affect your job search for financial advisers. It all depends on how well you fit the specific work mold—think about this:
- How do you feel about working through corporate politicking?
- Can you tolerate direct, mandatory orders form higher-ups regardless of how they affect your personal business?
- Would you sacrifice time with your clients if it meant you would meet or exceed your quota?
Think carefully about how much the situations in any of these questions would affect you personally in your new possible workplace. As with many jobs, financial advising is one where the environment of your workplace will affect you more greatly than the nature of the work itself (which is fairly one size fits all).
If you have past advising experience, consider if a change in your workplace (larger or smaller) would improve or hinder your productivity and development as an advisor. Knowing the differences brought about by the size of a financial advisory firm is critical in your job search for financial advisers, and should be a significant part of your decision of workplace. As always, picking the right workplace will not make up for your own financial advisory ability—learn your craft completely before you practice!