Like many advisors, Tami Romanchuk launched her career by pursuing her certified financial planner (CFP) designation and developing relationships with experienced mentors. However, she also pursued a form of training that few would associate with the financial services business: she joined a local Toastmasters club.
“I needed it because I knew I would have to do public speaking in my role,” says the owner of Innovative Financial Management in Edmonton. “That’s just a skill everyone needs to work on.”
Romanchuk is a financial advisor who understands that continuing education (CE) is not necessarily limited to renewing your licenses or designations. In addition to Toastmasters, she has attended social-media courses, which helped her develop her online profile and two websites.
Joanne Ferguson, president of Toronto-based Advisor Pathways Inc., says serious advisors will consider pursuing some sort of study beyond the mandatory CE credits that they’re required to earn.
“They want to advance their skill. They want to learn something new,” she says.
Just like professional designations, there are many types of courses and skills that can contribute to your advisory practice.
Toastmasters is often recommended to advisors by April-Lynn Levitt, a Toronto-based coach at The Personal Coach. She says that the organization does more than just develop public speaking skills.
“It also helps with being able to answer questions on the spot and formulate an answer in an organized manner,” she explains.
In other words, something like Toastmasters can help you think on your feet when clients are rapidly firing questions at you.
Social media is another area in which advisors can benefit from training. Ferguson recommends it to any advisor wanting to develop and maintain an online presence.
It is not enough to know your firm’s compliance policy on social media. To be effective, you need to know how to use various sites properly, she says.
For example, do you have a stagnant Twitter account? Twitter is about quick and frequent hits of information; you will lose followers if you are not regularly updating it. On LinkedIn, meanwhile, if your profile photo is a grainy vacation shot, you are probably not making a great impression through this business-oriented social-media site, which is specifically intended to promote you as a professional.
Next: Sales and marketing courses
Sales and marketing courses
Sales and marketing courses can be another effective way to boost your business. If you are strapped for time, consider self-study by picking up some books on the subject or doing an online course. Levitt suggests Dale Carnegie Training, which provides online courses on topics such as sales and customer service. You can also find reputable courses through your local university or college. For example, University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies offers online courses in website development and marketing.
This type of continual learning is not just for the newer advisor. Levitt suggests senior advisors pursue leadership courses (which can also be found through Dale Carnegie Training).
Learning leadership skills such as how to motivate your employees, conducting effective performance reviews and setting smart goals can produce a more positive environment, which will push your practice forward.
Keep in mind that even though you are pursuing a “non-financial” course of study, if its purpose is to benefit your practice, you have to be able to measure its success in doing so.
“You want to make sure that you capture back that cost plus you have a gain because of it,” says Ferguson.
If you attended something like Toastmasters, did you find yourself more comfortable meeting new prospects or giving speeches at public events? Did that translate into follow-up coffee dates with those prospects or positive feedback from your clients?
In Romanchuk’s case, she says the public speaking skills that she’s developed have been “priceless.” Although she has been a long-time volunteer for different causes in her community, Romanchuk says her confidence has allowed her to be more “front and center” in those roles, as opposed to working in the background. On one occasion, for instance, she acted as emcee at a fundraiser attended by 700 people.
In addition to the personal fulfilment Romanchuk derives from these activities, her active community profile has allowed her to build her network.
“I don’t find that immediately gets me a lot of business,” she says, “but you sure do meet a lot of people that will eventually need your services.”