Advisor at Risk

Ellen Bessner

Ellen Bessner is a well known, leading litigator with commercial litigation firm Babin Bessner Spry LLP. Her more than 20 years of experience includes defending investment and insurance industry participants, including dealers and individuals at all levels of courts.

Having an assistant who is smart, knowledgeable and hard working can help keep advisors focused on their clients and on growing their businesses

By Ellen Bessner |

There's no question that a competent assistant can be invaluable to any professional, especially to a financial advisor's business.

Let's consider the case of Kim, who's an advisor's assistant and extremely competent. She has taken the courses necessary to understand the financial services sector but has no interest in becoming an advisor. She understands know your client, know your product, identifying conflicts and the paper trail required to prove that Shanna, the advisor she works with, fulfils her obligations.

Kim also happens to know the systems in place at the dealer firm and follows these diligently. She has read the policy manual and asked the branch manager questions to ensure she understood and followed these dealer's systems, even though she's not the one who's being regulated.

When Shanna doesn't fulfil her obligations, Kim installs systems to ensure Shanna changes her habits — and this serves as a reminder to Shanna to meet these stringent obligations. Shanna would like to ignore Kim's processes but she has respect for Kim and knows that what's being installed will save her own bacon (read: licence).

Because Kim's continued understanding of regulations or dealer policies as they change is crucial to keeping Shanna compliant, Shanna makes sure she takes Kim with her to continued education seminars and web casts offered by her dealer.

  1. Note-taking: Shanna used to be terrible at inputting her notes into the software system after calls or meetings with clients. Shanna has improved since Kim put a process in place in which she would look at the electronic file for each client she knew Shanna met or spoke with that day and send an email with Shanna's homework, listing each client for whom the notes did not appear in the system. Shanna really didn't want to spend her time each evening inputting these notes and also had trouble remembering precisely what she talked about with her clients after a long day that she ended up becoming better at inputting her notes as the day progressed.
     
  2. Scheduling: Shanna has a very busy schedule, which Kim manages on Shanna's behalf. Kim recommended to Shanna that five minutes after every call or meeting with a client, Shanna should insert notes into the software system. In addition, Kim reserved a half hour in Shanna's calendar every day for inputting notes.
     
  3. Regular client meetings: Kim kept a list of clients and how often Shanna met with these clients. Kim would schedule meetings with all of Shanna's clients at least once a year so that none of Shanna' s clients were neglected. Of course, it was Shanna's obligation to serve her clients properly and meet with them regularly, but with an assistant like Kim, Shanna could review her client list and be satisfied that indeed she was fulfilling her obligations instead of being kept up at night worrying about what or who might have fallen between the cracks.
     
  4. Fielding client calls: A knowledgeable assistant such as Kim knows where the line is drawn between what she's permitted to do for clients and what she's not permitted to do, as she is not a licensed advisor. Kim is so professional and knowledgeable that many clients believe that if Shanna is not available, then Kim can fill in nicely to complete the task in question. However, as an unlicensed assistant, Kim knows that she can carry out certain tasks for clients (such as send documents, answer questions about the timing of paperwork, etc.) but cannot advise in respect of trades.


Shanna is lucky because she has an assistant who is smart, knowledgeable, hard working and has her back. With the processes Kim has put in place, Shanna can keep her attention focused on what she needs to do for her clients and on growing her business.
 

 

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