6 common traits of successful financial planners

It’s a given that clients want their financial adviser to be an expert – wisdom, knowledge and industry experience is par for the course.

But what about the other personality traits and ‘soft’ skills of a great financial adviser?

Former AMP Horizons director Tim Steele once described the attributes needed to succeed in a financial planning role as a love of dealing with people, a competitive drive, self discipline and a love of finance.

And with talk of robots being the face of financial and professional advice in the future, personal skills and emotional intelligence are as important as ever.

Here’s some traits that many successful financial planners share:

1. Trustworthy

According to a study conducted by US-based Advisor Websites, one of the top traits of a successful financial planner is being someone your clients can trust.

There’s no real secret to the fact that a foundation of respect and trust is important for a solid client/advisor relationship. Your client is entrusting you with huge and sometimes risky financial and life decisions so earning their trust is paramount.

Natural charisma and personality is an added bonus but sticking to your word and keeping your promises were named as the most important traits by surveyed people.

Tip: Develop client trust through open, honest and transparent marketing strategies. Communicate with them frequently and consistently so they know they can depend on you.

2. Star networker

As reported by Financial Planning magazine, top-performing financial advisors spend half or more of their time with people who can help grow their business.

They understand that deepening key relationships through communication and interaction (think clients, prospects and influencers) builds the pathways for new business to find them.”

Furthermore, partnering with other successful or influential professionals is more than a tool to build your referral pipeline. It also helps you develop a strong, supportive network of key contacts so that you can deliver on your promises of wealth management and provide your clients with a trusted suite of complimentary services.

Recognise the value that other professionals create for the benefit of your clients, love people just as much as you love figures and nurture the relationships that matter the most.

Tip: Connect with influencers on LinkedIn, attend networking events on a regular basis and create memorable content so that other high-profile and successful professionals contact you to form strategic alliances.

3. Strong action-taker

Like most successful businesspeople and entrepreneurs, impressive financial planners don’t just walk the walk, they talk the talk.

Firstly, they run their calendar – it doesn’t run them. Top advisers take time to schedule appointments with a clear purpose and agenda and manage their time effectively. They understand the unique skill sets of their team and delegate specific tasks efficiently.

Finally, a skilled, high performing financial planner not only has innovative ideas – he or she is a master at implementing those ideas and executing their strategies.

Tip: Make sure you get the ball rolling on key projects and avoid procrastination. Use time blocks in your calendar for different types of activities (client meetings, networking, staff consultation, content creation, exercise, family time). If your energy levels peak in the mornings, block out time to make calls to prospective clients when you’re feeling pumped and ready to go.

4. Forward thinker

Constantly on the lookout for new opportunities and ways to improve the business, successful financial planners cherish the ability to learn and grow and always look to the future when it comes to their business. They understand and appreciate where they are and where they want to take their business in the next decade.

Vanguard global Chief Economic and Investment Strategy Group Head, Joseph Davis, has been reported as saying that financial advisers should look beyond short term economic and geopolitical events to long term global trends.

Having a clear picture of your ideal client (and what that might look like in 5 or 10 years’ time) allows you to map out a solid plan for growing your database (filled with the right kind of clients) and ‘future-proof your advisory business.

Tip: Be a future-oriented adviser by moving out of the ‘week to week’ zone and developing innovative strategies to stay relevant in the coming decade of disruption.

5. Excellent listener

Skilled financial advisers are keyed into their clients wants, needs, fears and desires. The reason they can tap into their clients’ hearts and minds is because they are brilliant listeners.

Being a genuine listener means you can guide your clients with your expertise and wisdom and you achieve a deep understanding of what they want and need.

Deloitte’s Advice-Based World report has recognised the importance of ‘softer’ business skills and suggests that firms and planners offer ‘psychology-infused advice’. The report recommends that advisers consider training staff in positive psychology and increasing one’s own self-awareness can increase empathy and understanding of customers strengths and weaknesses.

Your clients need to know that you ‘just get it’ and you ‘get them’ too.

Tip: Don’t just crunch the numbers. Listen and empathise, ask thoughtful questions, express genuine concern for their wellbeing, stay focused in meetings and try to tune everything else out when you’re with your clients.

6. Vulnerable

According to a 2014 study by the Financial Planning Association’s Research and Practice Institute, almost 90% of clients want their financial planner to be a strong but vulnerable leader.

So what does this mean? Being comfortable with vulnerability involves self-reflection and the ability to admit when you’ve screwed up.

Tip: Create a culture of openness, be authentic and approachable and admit when you’re wrong. Clients and staff will respect and trust you a whole lot more if can show strength and vulnerability in equal measure.


In a competitive market, it is easy to stay focused on being an expert in your field without regard for some of the softer skills required to really make it as a successful adviser. One of the best ways to stand out in the ‘robo-advice’ era is to develop relationships of trust, grow your professional network and always keep an eye on the future.

Chris Wrightson. Founder and CEO at Centurion Market Makers, the industry experts in the sale, acquisition and management of financial planning firms. If you’re planning on selling your firm in 2017, we’d love you to call us for a confidential discussion, or continue browsing our website for more tips, tools and info on the steps to take when buying or selling your financial planning firm.

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