Five qualities to consider when hiring staff

Advisors who are looking for skilled and professional assistants have to be willing to invest in these individuals by providing them with strong compensation, educational opportunities and legal protection, according to Ellen Bessner, partner with Babin Bessner Spry LLP, who spoke at the 2016 Assistants’ Conference in Toronto on Monday.

“You have to pay your assistant properly,” said Bessner during a keynote speech at the first annual event designed to provide assistants with additional resources in areas such as compliance and client communications. “If you want to attract good talent, don’t try and nickel and dime [them].”

Investing in training and continuing education (CE) credits for assistants is also an important part of securing the right people for the job, she added. Thus, advisors should be willing to pay for their assistants to attend educational events that will supplement their knowledge. This doesn’t necessarily mean sending assistants to the cheapest CE course.

“The least expensive [courses] are not always the most effective,” Bessner told the audience of assistants, “and if all advisors are doing is sticking you into the least expensive course … that may not be what’s really going to teach you.”

In determining the best CE courses to pursue, both advisors and assistants may want to think about the areas of their business in which they can use some additional help and then identify the courses that will strengthen those areas, Bessner suggested.

Assistants must also ensure that they are legally protected and be aware of whether they are covered by an advisor’s errors and omissions (E&O) insurance, said Bessner, who believes that advisors should pay for their assistants to have E&O coverage.

“If the clients are speaking to you about anything, they can sue you,” said Bessner. “I haven’t seen [this situation] a lot, but I have seen it.”

Having advisors invest in their assistants is only one part of the equation, she said. That’s because there are steps assistants themselves should take in order to protect themselves.

For example, assistants should become familiar with their firm’s internal policies, Bessner recommended. They should read the table of contents in the firm’s policy documents, highlight the areas that are most pertinent to the assistant’s role and absorb that information.

Assistants should also make efforts to understand the securities laws under which they and their advisors operate, Bessner said. Although keeping up with the ever-evolving regulatory environment is difficult, making that effort is nonetheless important.

For more on the crucial role assistants can play in an advisor’s business, read Ellen Bessner’s latest Inside Track column: Assistants can be crucial to an advisor’s business.

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