5 Critical Traits for an Adviser

Having these five characteristics can protect certain advisers from the threat of having their jobs eaten by technology.

After decades of experience working with and getting to know thousands of people whose job it is to give advice around insurance, investments and real estate, I’ve observed a few traits that I personally believe are critical to long-term relevance. Frankly, I also believe they will make certain advisers immune to the threat of their job being eaten by technology.

There is quite a bit of concern over robo advice threatening these livelihoods. We must consider that the underlying reason is a trust problem with those who make their living giving advice while at the same time selling products for a commission. But the underlying cause of mistrust may actually be the absence of one or more of the following five characteristics of advisers that matter more in the trust equation: 1. They seek to help their community first, then benefit from it later. There’s a not-so-subtle distinction between people who join a community group because they want to network for business purposes and people who join because they are interested in helping advance the mission of that group. While oftentimes both motivations can exist at the same time, the real test would be to ask those people if they would have either joined or stayed with that group even if their prospecting need were not there. While those inside the business may not see the distinction, others can see it a mile away. Trust erodes when intentions are not clear. See also: 3 Major Areas of Opportunity   2. They see work and life as inextricably intertwined and are in love with both. Advisers who will stay relevant, who are "nondisruptable," are people who always seems to be there for what’s most important, whether the market is crashing, an individual lost his/her job or someone’s kid or grandkid is in a little league game. From the outside, it may look like those advisers are either always working or never working. And the answer would be: yes, they are. 3. They keep score based on outcome versus income. While earnings and sales numbers are important for a successful practice, putting numbers on the board is not what makes nondisruptable advisers sleep well at night. Rather, they create metrics of their own, consciously or unconsciously, counting things like how many people they have advised, how many thank you letters they receive, how many people they’ve helped employ or even how many hugs they have ever received from their clients. Counting these means they never need to count sheep. 4. They are described similarly by families, friends, clients and communities. Nondisruptable advisers show one face to everyone. While they may have many interests, they bring their best to every situation and see the role of adviser as a calling and not just a career. Anyone can give advice from his/her own point of view. However, it takes care, skill and emotional intelligence to deliver advice that’s in someone else’s best interests. The question remains as to whether these traits can be taught. Sure, someone could write a book or perhaps create a coaching program around them, but I’m not sure either would help. I suspect that people are either raised in such a way that these traits develop or they experience something dramatic that shifts their perspective quickly and forever changes their attitude. 5. They leave a mark that lives past them. While this trait certainly isn’t realized until the adviser passes away or can no longer do his/her job, that individual’s ability to make an impact is unmistakable and therefore nondisruptable. You just know it when you see it. See also: Insurance Coverage Porn   This article was inspired by and is dedicated to my long-time friend Jane Lopp from Kalispell, Montana. Jane and I met at Prudential, where she built an impressive practice with an outstanding team, a supportive family and a community that felt her presence in countless ways. Nothing stopped Jane, including being confined to a wheelchair due to a muscle disease. Jane’s life was taken after a car accident on April 21 of this year, and, as her husband, Bob, noted, she was full of life and at the peak of her career. If you know someone like Jane who embodies these five traits, please give them a hug. They deserve it.

Maria Ferrante-Schepis

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Maria Ferrante-Schepis

Maria Ferrante-Schepis is the managing principal of insurance and financial services innovation at Maddock Douglas.


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