financial advisor interview questions

Financial Advisor Interview Questions

When choosing a financial advisor, the public faces a challenge many are simply unaware they are facing.  There is no standard solution to any investment need!

To help people in this process, I have come up with four very simple questions that will give the interviewer a window into understanding advisor biases. These questions will help you get a feel for the advisors’ interests and competencies lie. Now naturally you could do this one by telephone you could do this by Zoom or some  of other type of video set up but I’m going to recommend you again do it face-to-face. There is no deadline on this. It’s not urgent, but it’s incredibly important! Making bad choices here can cost you thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars, so take your time, ask the questions, write down the answers and compare them.

What are the last few continuing education courses you have taken?

  • There are dozens if not hundreds of different continuing education courses for financial advisors.
  • From the answer to this question you will learn two things, first, What are they are certified, or licensed to do and second, where their interests lie. And from those two things, based upon your needs, you can make an objective informed decision on whether they are equipped to do what you are trying to accomplished.
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The next thing you want to ask is, do they have investments minimums.

Different firms have different investment minimums. One reason is obvious. If you’re working with a big bank, pretty office buildings and nice parts of town there’s overhead with that expense. It is ultimately paid for by the customer.

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The other reason is because different firms have different target markets. So, if what you have to invest is lower than their minimums, recognize that’s not a good match for you. Now with this one I’m going to suggest one caveat: this is the time where you may want to–at least for a period of a few years– use the same advisors as your parents or your aunts or uncles. This is because the advisor wants to retain the relationships once those people are passed and you are most likely an heir, so they want to work with you even if you are below the minimums. And second,  they may be able to shed insight frankly to what you are going to have when the time comes. So they are going to want to work with you and they’re not going to really care about the minimums.

But if that’s not your situation, if you don’t have parents or aunts and uncles with substantial assets make sure you are above someone’s minimums.

What is the normal contact cycle or routine and what do we discuss in those meetings?

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The first thing that is going to drive that contact routine is the most likely the complexity of your situation. If you have a one hundred-thousand-dollar IRA and you only talk once a quarter, that is fine. But now going to “what do we discuss” portion of the question, you ought to be discussing maybe a little about markets and your accounts, but you ought to be discussing tax issues, estate issues and to leverage their network of experts in other areas.

If you have a complex base of assets: Trust accounts, individual accounts, IRA’s retirement plans, even rentals and a side business–that should increase the frequency of your discussions, because there is a whole range of things to be talking about and the discussion ought to be relative to your entire set of financial circumstances.


There are a few other things that are going to dictate how often they are willing to talk, the first one is their staffing, This is a paperwork intense industry so if they have minimal assistance, means they must do the paperwork and they don’t have much time to talk to clients.

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Another contributing factor to the advisors contact routine is how many client relationships they have. Its common knowledge in the industry that any adviser can have fifty, sixty, seventy, eighty and maybe even ninety relationships especially if they have good staffing.  They can talk to that many people in a regular interval and maintain good relationships. I have seen situations, though, where an individual adviser has two hundred and three hundred different relationships. An advisor can’t help that many people! They just don’t have the time. If someone tells you they have two hundred different clients, be very cautious.

How many clients do you have, and what are your assets under management (AUM).

Now, when you ask this question–preferably face-to- face–if you get a blank stare or they say “I don’t even know,” be very cautious. Either A) they really don’t know if so they are very disorganized and I would question the relationship or B) they know but they don’t want to tell you, why don’t they want to tell you because if you get a sense of their assets and their number of clients and you just simply divide one number into  the other you are going to discover their average client size. If you have $2 million and their average client is $250,000 it is not a good relationship for you, they are not spending nearly enough time dealing with the situations that you’re in the middle of or that will come to you. By the same token if their average assets per clients is $5 million and you have $500,000, they’re not going to spend much time with you and you need to think about that.

About Michael Ross

Michael Ross, is 30+ year veteran as a financial advisor. After 30 years with Morgan Stanley, he is now an independent financial advisor who excels in helping business owners exit their businesses and move to the next phase of their lives.

Advisory services are offered through Integrated Advisors Network LLC, a registered investment advisor.

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