AMA: 1st year CSA/Financial Advisor for boutique PWM

Hey everyone, I'm new to WSO and was asked to do an AMA on here. I'm a first year Client Service Associate/Financial Advisor for an independent RIA based in Dallas.

I'm happy to answer any questions on prospecting, recruitment, investing, or general wealth management.



Comments (17)

Oct 30, 2019

Thanks for taking the time. I'll get you started:

  • What was the largest misconception (if any) you had about the job before your start date?
  • Do you see yourself in this specific department/career path long term? If so, what makes you enjoy it enough to dedicate your time to it?
Oct 31, 2019

Largest Misconception: Thinking prospecting and converting clients would be easy! Not to say I wasn't planning on working hard, but being at a boutique shop requires a lot more initiative on behalf of the advisor. With the large BBs such as JPM, BAML, Citi, you can derive leads from name recognition and customers who hold savings in the commercial arm. We don't do commercial banking and we're regional so that puts us at a disadvantage relative to our competitors. It's a lot of time spent outside of the office networking and building relationships among other professionals.

Do I see myself in this career long term?: Yes. The pay at first is cheerios compared to what others make in IB/PE/Consulting but imo the work/life balance is eons ahead of those careers. Additionally, the bulk of your work is client-facing so unless you have really shitty clients it's actually really fun and stimulating to work with people.

    • 4
Oct 30, 2019

I really appreciate the time, Could you break down the schools that your Boutique recruits from? are they mostly in Texas?

    • 1
Oct 31, 2019

We don't actively recruit, unfortunately. We're pretty agnostic to where we search for new employees.

    • 1
Oct 30, 2019

how are you both a CSA and an advisor? that makes no sense to me

also, why a boutique RIA and not a wirehouse? not judging, just curious

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Oct 30, 2019

At my firm I am a "registered associate" but also have the dual title internally of "associate advisor." This means I can be client facing if need be (like my boss is double booked, happens sometimes when there is an emergency) but primarily am on reserve until become an actual wealth advisor. Don't know if OP is talking about a similar role or not.

    • 2
Oct 31, 2019

At the wirehouse I was at we also had people with the title of registered associate who handled exactly what you described. Where my job was 20% administrative 80% business development/portfolio management, their job is 80% administrative and 20% business development/portfolio management, basically handling anything the advisor didn't have the bandwidth for/care to manage.

    • 1
Oct 31, 2019

Yeah you pretty much nailed it on the head. I'm nearly brand new so most of my work is client service but in the meantime I'm working towards building my book and becoming a full time advisor.

    • 1
Oct 31, 2019

Why Boutique RIA:: Two reasons: 1) It was the best opportunity I had and 2) because I felt I could use our independence as a sales angle. Some people still remember 2008 and find big wirehouses sketchy.

Oct 31, 2019

I'm taking my 66 in two weeks and assuming I pass I believe I'll be forced into a similar role. My question is about your comp structure. Are you solely salary or salary + commission or % revenue.


Nov 1, 2019

Salary + Commish. My salary diminishes over time assuming I take on more clients and have a big enough book to be commish only

Most Helpful
Nov 1, 2019

Been an independent advisor for approx 30 yrs so perhaps I can add some perspective. Know many people at the wires, at regionals, and indpendents who own their own shop like me.

I started out and have maintained an independent practice (had been in corporate sales and wanted a break from the office environment) . However, when I meet young people considering the business, I generally recommend they join a wirehouse or insurance based career shop (AXA, NWM) or bank for three primary reasons;

  1. Training
  2. Supoort (beyond training - infrastructure like office, computers, conference rooms,e tc.)
  3. Lead generation

The banks are ideal for this compared to the others. Some are more siloed than others but in general there is a desire for cross selling. Also an opportunity to work with business bankers and network with small buisness owners who are great sources of revenue.

An anvantage the "advisor in training" has at a large organization is generally structured training and salary for a few yrs. Very difficult to go straight to commissions (although that's what I did- haven't had a salary since I was 25). The "success rate" at the banks and wires could be considered greater than regionals and independents because people stick around longer (because of the salary and lack of immediate pressure to sell). However success measured by indusrty standards (250k income plus) is hard to achieve in your earlier yrs anywhere. It takes a while to build a book, learn how to handle clients, learn financial planning. This is not a technical industry like IB or even institutional asset management (think fund manager or even fund of fund manager) although you do need to know the market, understand risk tolerance, diversification, leverage, etc. I would describe it as a combination of industry knowledge and relationship management, leaning heavy on the relationship side.

In reality (sorry technical experts) the consumer from retail to UHNW doesn't care about alpha, beta, standard deviation, 200 hundred day moving average, PE ratios or any of that. They want you to know that, or your team, but as long as their needs are met, they don't care. This is a highly client centric business. From day one, you have client interaction and affect the relationship even if you are just in a service role. If you like dealing with people and solving their problens, this can be a lot of fun.

Many on WSO think in terms of exit ops. This isn't that. This is a career. Although advisors jump around from shop to shop at times, they're still doing the same thing, not leaving for a different role. A criticism, on WSO, of PWM is lack of skill development to do other things. Again, this isn't about spending a few yrs at JPM WM and leaving for a PE shop. That's not going to happen. It's about building a sustainable client base.

Early years are lean. Work life balance is what you make it to be. The hustlers are always on. Fast forward and your long term clients become your friends, and sometimes the other way around (many of my close friends are clients- sometimes we'll go to a dinner party and I think about it and more than half the room are clients - friends first but still clients).

If you can build the book by whatever means, it ultimately becomes a great career where you make a considerable living and don't have to kill yourself. I know many many 7 figure advisors. In fact way more than in any other field. It's hard to make 7 figures. Essentially you have to be at the top of your field in any field. Full disclosure, I'm not a 7 figure advisor. I've done quite well for many yrs (say either side of half way there) but have made lifestyle decisions along the way that have kept me where I'm at. That's OK because that was my choice. I decided I like my freedom and the ability to do basically anything I want, so for many yrs I've been enjoying that freedom while mixing work and play so to speak. I only mention this because it's important to understand that you can do that in PWM and still make a great living. Can't say that about too many careers.

Oh yeah, forgot to mention - to be successful you have to be able to get checks, period! Some will be salesy, others consultative, others technical. None of that matters. You do you but YOU have to be able to get checks. If you can't, you'll starve (and be miserable).

Good selling!

    • 8
Nov 1, 2019

Thank you for the insight rickle this is really helpful.

Do you actively seek to grow your business? Or, are you established and satisfied enough with the magnitude of your book where most of your work is simply client service/management?

Nov 1, 2019

Great question. It depends what you consider "actively". Most of my new clients are referrals from either existing clients, friends, or centers of influence (CPAs, Attorneys, etc). Just got one from a trust company I've been speaking to for close to 3 yrs. I also get alot of new money from existing clients (401k rollovers, bonuses, inheritances, etc.)

I'm definitely not out there "working it" like I used to many yrs ago. No cold calls ever. No ongoing marketing campaigns. Just staying in touch with my existing folks and keeping up with professional colleagues (again the CPAs, Attorneys, etc). If I wanted to, I could get involved in seminar marketing, bringing in speakers for client appreciation events and such but I choose not to. The folks I know that make 7 figures are machines and have systems in place to bring in new clients all the time. I get that and could easily replicate it, but I'm just not that interested in doing it as it's a lot of work and would require additional staff (that I don't really want to deal with - used to have several employees and would prefer not to go down that path anymore.) I guess that's the point of this. Once the business is built, you can maintain it or grow it. based on personal desires. I have really good relationships with my clients. Very little attrition.

    • 3
Nov 7, 2019