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Behavioral Intelligence

How to Choose a Financial Advisor


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“How do I choose the right financial advisor?”

This is the most frequently asked question that I have received over the past thirty years of being in the Financial Services Business.

It is becoming an even more important question as the choices for types of advisors are increasing. Terms like RIA, independent, fee-based, broker -dealer, robo advisor, and fiduciary standard make frequent appearances in the press and it can feel like you need a PhD to decipher and conclude what it means for the client-advisor relationship.

However, what is really important to prospective clients can be summarized in five key areas.

1. Recommendations

2. Experience

3. Services Offered

4. Personality and Communication Style

5. Trust

Each individual is unique in their personal preferences, so I have included some thought-provoking questions that you can use with advisors and/or your research to get your own best answers.


  • Who do you know and trust that is already successfully partnered with a financial advisor?
  • What has their experience been with this advisor?
  • Does the advisory firm work in a team approach?

A prospective client can get a lot of information on an advisor from their own trusted sources and then follow-up with research on an advisor’s website.


  • How long has the financial advisor been working with clients?
  • Do they have enough experience to prove that they can successfully navigate clients through the up and down markets?
  • What certifications does the advisor have and why are these important to you as a client?
  • What is their philosophy for investing?

Money underpins much of life so you will need an advisor who can balance their knowledge of the industry with the ability to understand people.

Services Offered

  • Does the advisor offer both investing and comprehensive financial planning?
  • What is included in the plan and do they have a sample you can view? Do they offer insurance?
  • What is the fee associated with investing, insurance purchase and the comprehensive financial plan?
  • How often will you meet with the advisor to review the plan?
  • Does the advisor have a succession plan in place?

You will now have answers to help you understand the concrete deliverables in the financial planning process.

Personality and Communication Style

  • Does the advisor seem to be truly concerned with you as a person?
  • Can the advisor successfully navigate the behavioral differences between you and your spouse?
  • What assessment tool does the advisor use to uncover your financial personality, investment and financial risks?

This area is very subjective so most clients want to know if an advisor has more than just discussion questions or a form to “check off” your answers. You can get a “feel” or “think” you know but the fact is that the way we see one another can be irrational, incomplete and inflexible—and largely automatic. Objective profiles used to uncover unique behaviors and communication styles are the key to beginning and building a long-term trusting relationship. And, knowing this behavioral information will help an advisor prevent you from sabotaging your financial plan.


All the information you have received up to this point about the financial advisor builds the case to answer this critical question:

  • Can you trust this advisor to manage your hard-earned money to achieve your goals?

This is the number one most important factor when working with a financial advisor. Investments and financial planning can be automated but the ability to show empathy, to give clients confidence to stay invested, and to make good decisions, that’s more of an art than a science. Choosing the right financial advisor can seem daunting, but remember, the power is in asking the right questions. Be sure to create your own list so you can truly listen to the answers. In doing so, you will have a relationship that is both personally and professionally rewarding.


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