Earlier this month, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne introduced a strict new dress code for her Queen’s Park staff. While her rules provide many details, her overriding message is simple: “Be casual rather than sloppy.”
As a financial advisor, you should be especially cautious about going “summer casual,” says Carey McBeth, a business professionalism and etiquette specialist based in Vancouver.
“[Advisors] have to be really careful with what they are wearing because they have the expectation of being professional all the time,” McBeth says. “Summer is a time when you can be a little more casual, but there is a fine line that you shouldn’t cross.”
McBeth offers the following tips on how to stay on the right side of the boundary of sartorial acceptability:
> Dress the part
Always bear in mind that your clients regard you as a strong influence on their financial future. With that in mind, you should dress in a way that corresponds with an image of professionalism and reliability.
For example, female advisors should avoid items such as tank tops with spaghetti straps. Men should avoid sandals or loafers without socks.
“The more skin you show,” McBeth says, “the less influence you have.”
> Err on the side of coverage
U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama has become known for wearing sleeveless tops that expose her enviable, toned arms. But even if your biceps are Obama-esque, you should probably cover up.
Although it is within your right to “bear arms” during the sticky summer months, carefully consider the message that such casual dress could send to your clients.
Men and women advisors: if you decide to wear short sleeves in the office — or no sleeves — have a blazer or cardigan handy that you can wear during meetings.
It’s also a good idea to consult your firm’s dress code to confirm its sleeve policy.
“The more professionally you can dress,” McBeth says, “the less doubt clients will have about you being the right person to manage their finances. Leave the runway look at home.”
> Dress for your client
When deciding on your summer business wardrobe, the best approach, McBeth says, is to see yourself through your client’s eyes. What would he or she like to see in a financial advisor?
For example, if you have a meeting with an older, conservative-minded client, consider wearing a jacket and tie rather than a polo shirt and khakis — even if it is 30 degrees outside. (For women, that would mean something like means a conservative skirt suit.)
Dressing appropriately shows respect for your client and demonstrates that you possess the level of professionalism he or she expects from you.
Even when meeting casual-dressing clients, your attire should be a notch more formal than the client’s.
“People are apt to judge you on the tiniest of details,” McBeth says. “It’s a small sacrifice to put on a tie or something formal for an hour or two and then change later.”