New financial advisors usually wear all of the hats in their business, from sales to paperwork. However, as a practice grows, advisors just can’t do it all, says George Hartman, managing partner with Elite Advisors Canada Inc. in Toronto.
“Having an assistant frees you up to let you practise your craft,” Hartman says, “which is educating clients and providing financial and investment planning services.”
When paperwork and other administrative demands are keeping you from serving your clients properly, it’s time to consider taking on staff. Below are some things to consider when hiring an assistant:
– Define the job
Before you can hire an assistant, you must clearly define what his or her role will be, as well as the responsibilities and required level of experience.
An assistant’s responsibilities can vary from firm to firm. Some have “administrative assistants,” who are responsible for duties such as answering the phone and scheduling appointments. Others use an “associate advisor,” who is authorized to participate in the sales process.
Advisors now have the additional challenge of building a social-media presence. If you want an assistant to help in this area, Hartman says, the role description should include specific social-media duties.
Depending upon the size of your book of business, an assistant’s time sometimes can be shared among three or four other advisors. However, if your business needs are more demanding – for example, if you are an investment advisor who frequently places trade orders – you may want to bring in a licensed assistant.
“A licensed assistant can add a lot more value to an advisor’s business,” says Randy Ambrosie, president of MacDougall MacDougall & MacTier Inc. in Toronto. “He or she can discuss the markets as well as take on market orders and execute trades.”
In an ideal world, Hartman says, every assistant would be licensed and have some industry qualifications, such as the Canadian Securities Course or the Investment Funds in Canada course, both of which are provided by CSI Global Education Inc. in Toronto.
“If the sales assistant is truly going to assist in the sales process,” Hartman says, “he or she must be properly licensed to take trading instructions and implement according to the firm’s and advisor’s protocol.”
If you are looking to hire an associate advisor, he or she should have a discretionary licence, such as the charted investment manager designation, offered by CSI, or the charted financial analyst designation, offered by the CFA Institute in New York.
In addition to a licence, your assistant must have strong social skills, because he or she is going to be the first and last person your clients interact with in your office.
“An assistant’s personality can make or break client relationships,” says Ambrosie. “When a client can virtually hear an assistant’s smile over the phone, that can significantly add to the value of the relationship.”
To figure out if a potential candidate will be able to handle the demands of day-to-day client relations, Ambroise suggests asking the following questions: What was the best part of a former position? What was the worst part? What experiences are you proud of and disappointed about?
“If a candidate starts talking about how much they love helping people in a former role,” Ambrosie says, “you know that person is a client-service person.”
During the interview process, you also should ensure that the candidate has an eye for detail. Ted Rechtshaffen, president and CEO of TriDelta Financial Partners Inc. in Toronto, has given past candidates tests during the interview process involving Excel spreadsheets and text documents to see how many errors the candidate can spot.
“Neither test will give the full picture,” Rechtshaffen says, “but it does help give you a handle on how meticulous a candidate is in a high-pressure situation.”
– Salary and benefits
For advisors with independent practices, the decision to hire a full-time or part-time assistant will mean ensuring that person is on your payroll and given benefits.
“Not every independent firm can afford or has the activity levels to take on an additional staff member,” Rechtshaffen says. “This is where you really need to assess your business needs, and ensure he or she will be fully utilized.”
For unlicensed assistants, Hartman estimates, wages begin in the $25,000-$30,000 range. Fully licensed assistants’ salaries can range upward to $100,000. Websites such as www.jobbank.gc.ca and www.payscale.com can act as resources for national salary averages.
The safest bet, Hartman adds, is to check with your dealer firm for guidance.
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