Newbie questions about FA work

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May 4, 2006 5:15 pm

Hi, all - newbie here.  Just spent the last 3 hours scouring through this site for info on financial advising and want to thank the folks who have helped provide much info. 


A couple of q's:


1.  Doesn't seem like there's been a real straight answer on starting salaries for FA's - why is this?  Most answers suggest somewhere between $35-40k, and yet I've seen others that said between $55-60 and one that said $90k.  That's a pretty wide range.  From my friends at the big-dog shops, I hear that training programs generally range between $70-80k for the first couple of years.  Is this realistic or were they really lucky?  (I am a lawyer with a baby on the way so am wanting to figure out what lifestyle changes, if any, will be necessary.)


2.  Am generally outgoing and know tons of folks, but have never tapped my sources for business.  What skills/circumstances does it take to really succeed in the field?  


3.  Sent resumes to Smith Barney, ML, UBS and Wachovia and have been called in for interviews.  Have read that these generally start with phone interviews, but I've only had requests for in-office meetings.  Is it great that I've been called in, or is this generally a formality?  Should I expect to be taking these tests I'm hearing about during my first meeting?  Finally, any chance I'll be given an offer during the first interview date, or is this always a multi-day process?


Many thanks in advance.   

May 4, 2006 5:19 pm

why do you want to make the big change? from lawyer to FA?

May 4, 2006 6:11 pm

I guess a primary reason is that I'd like to get out of an inherently adversarial position and yet remain in a business setting.  I like the emphasis on client relations that being an FA requires, though am a bit squeamish about the sales aspect of it.  If I feel the service being provided is worthwhile, I don't think I'll have any problems.  (My only sales experience to date was a gig I had in high school.  I did fairly well but the higher-ups were really shady, I couldn't get used to manipulating people into buying higher-priced packages than they needed, and so I quit.)


Selfishly, I'd also like to learn a lot more about financial management.  Part of that is because I feel it can only benefit me; another part is because I'm a semi-math geek.   

May 5, 2006 9:16 am

The salary ranges are accurate, but it will vary from location to location and sometimes, firm to firm.  I would say that a good low-end number would be $40k.

May 8, 2006 10:56 am
aquavit:

Hi, all - newbie here.  Just spent the last 3 hours scouring through this site for info on financial advising and want to thank the folks who have helped provide much info. 


A couple of q's:


1.  Doesn't seem like there's been a real straight answer on starting salaries for FA's - why is this?  Most answers suggest somewhere between $35-40k, and yet I've seen others that said between $55-60 and one that said $90k.  That's a pretty wide range.  From my friends at the big-dog shops, I hear that training programs generally range between $70-80k for the first couple of years.  Is this realistic or were they really lucky?  (I am a lawyer with a baby on the way so am wanting to figure out what lifestyle changes, if any, will be necessary.)


The compensation package you're offered will depend upon several factors, location, and the firm's desire to entice you among them. They will take stock of you and your situation in crafting an offer. Stay at home moms reentering the work force command less than primary bread winner professionals looking to make a career change. As a lawyer, I'm sure you recognise the lawsuit generating probability of this type of hiring practice. Yet, that's the way it is. As a professional you could expect an offer at the upper end of the range. Still, it could be considerably less than you're current compensation.


2.  Am generally outgoing and know tons of folks, but have never tapped my sources for business.  What skills/circumstances does it take to really succeed in the field?  


To manage money you need to have money to mange. The biggest part of your day, at least in the beginning years, will be to find the money. Easier said than done. Finding the money and bringing it through the door is a sales task. Unlike your previous sales experience you don't have to manipulate people into buying things they don't need. However, you don't get paid unless somebody buys something from you, a product or management for a fee service. You will be competing against the very best. Landing clients in this environment is as difficult as it gets in sales. To top off the challenge, you will be selling an intangible. Are you sure you want to do this?


Nothing wrong with tapping business sources , it won't make you a success in this business. To succeed in this field you need to have the ability to meet strangers, engage them, and build a bond of trust with them. Only then, when they trust you, will they give you their money to invest or manage.


Did I mention find the money? How are you going to do that? Think about it, it will come up in the interviews.


3.  Sent resumes to Smith Barney, ML, UBS and Wachovia and have been called in for interviews.  Have read that these generally start with phone interviews, but I've only had requests for in-office meetings.  Is it great that I've been called in, or is this generally a formality?  Should I expect to be taking these tests I'm hearing about during my first meeting?  Finally, any chance I'll be given an offer during the first interview date, or is this always a multi-day process?


In office first meetings are the norm. There will be a battery of tests, though not usually at the first meeeting. They want to determine if you're worth the money to train. The trainee drop out rate is very high. My wife's trainee class had 72 trainees. Three years in only 20 remained. Likewise with my own training class 20 plus years ago. My 100 plus training class was cut in half in one year.


The interview process varies from firm to firm. Expect to have several interviews over a several week period.


Working as a professional may help get you through the door however, unless you can show the firms you're interseted in joining that you've got what it takes to bring in clients you won't get an offer. After investing as much time as you have in an education to become a lawyer a manager may question your committment to any profession. You should be prepared to strongly articulate the reasoning for pursuing a career change at this critical time in your life, baby on the way. Maybe it won't come up, but...


Go for it, good luck!


Many thanks in advance.   

May 8, 2006 1:23 pm

If a manager were to ask you why you are leaving the legal profession, just be honest, and tell him, being a lawyer sucks.  I have many lawyer friends and they all want out. 

May 8, 2006 3:11 pm

Thanks for the insights, folks.  I really appreciate it.  Have started the interviewing process and am amazed at how quickly it's moving.  Toughest part so far is trying to convey what I liked/didn't like about the legal profession in a way that won't make the potential employers think I'm not suited for the FA job (although I guess if the two careers have enough disadvantages in common that I shouldn't be entering into this field to begin with). 


Thoughts on whether there are alot of office politics involved in the FA world?


(RecordGuy, lol, thanks for the tip.  Have any of your lawyer friends transitioned into this?) 

May 8, 2006 5:00 pm

No, they grind it out in the legal profession, almost as bad as my line of work, accounting.  I say almost, because I've never seen an accountant as miserable as a lawyer.  My theory is that lawyering is a lot like accounting, except maybe more mundane and boring.  Most law students go in thinking they will be doing what they see on Law and Order, so when they hit the real world, they aren't ready for the boredom.  Accountants on the other hand, like myself, knew it would be boring, but like working with numbers.  Enough of my rant.  Your decision to become an FA is a great one, in my view.  I'm doing the same thing you are doing.

May 9, 2006 9:17 am
RecordGuy:

  Most law students go in thinking they will be doing what they see on Law and Order, so when they hit the real world, they aren't ready for the boredom.  Accountants on the other hand, like myself, knew it would be boring,


One thing this profession isn't is boring. Hey it's not riding a GSXR at 150mph either, but it's not boring.

May 9, 2006 1:00 pm

Keep in mind that the higher your salary, the more you will be "on the
radar" of management.  Sometimes a lower salary can be a good
thing.

May 9, 2006 4:23 pm

What do you mean by that, Scorpio?  That the expectations will be higher?  Would they ask that I hit higher minimums? 

May 9, 2006 4:33 pm

No not higher minimums; you would have the same goals/hurdles as
everyone else.  But when you are off-goal they will pull the plug
on you a lot faster than someone making 30k. 




May 15, 2006 11:45 am

"Working as a professional may help get you through the door however, unless you can show the firms you're interseted in joining that you've got what it takes to bring in clients you won't get an offer. After investing as much time as you have in an education to become a lawyer a manager may question your committment to any profession. You should be prepared to strongly articulate the reasoning for pursuing a career change at this critical time in your life, baby on the way. Maybe it won't come up, but..."


This really depends on the specific office youre interviewing at.  In my old office, it simply wasnt that hard to get hired.  Yes, there were a LOT of people intereviewing but the competition was low.  I got in w/ fairly minimal professional experience.  This isnt a slight against MS, I had offers at other places too.  Im sure other parts of the country have much more difficult processes.  However, my point is that dont think that getting an offer is some golden ticket.  Many retail offices are dying to hire lawyers and people w/ existing professional networks so dont assume that getting the job makes it the right thing for you.  If you dont like sales, question it further.  You will be an asset gatherer/salesmen, not an asset manager (at least for a few years).   You are judged by how much you make the register ring, not by how well you invest people's money.

May 15, 2006 11:55 am

"You are judged by how much you make the register ring, not by how well you invest people's money."


Well said and very true in my experience.  It's all about gathering assets and generating revenue.  Of course, to a degree, you'll be more successful if you are good at managing money, but right out of the box, most firms can do a decent job of helping you with that part...they just want to see results in AUM and revenue...a bit sad, but very true.

May 16, 2006 5:08 pm
RecordGuy:

No, they grind it out in the legal profession, almost as bad as my line of work, accounting.  I say almost, because I've never seen an accountant as miserable as a lawyer.  My theory is that lawyering is a lot like accounting, except maybe more mundane and boring.  Most law students go in thinking they will be doing what they see on Law and Order, so when they hit the real world, they aren't ready for the boredom.  Accountants on the other hand, like myself, knew it would be boring, but like working with numbers.  Enough of my rant.  Your decision to become an FA is a great one, in my view.  I'm doing the same thing you are doing.


thats a truly horrible comparison


May 16, 2006 6:28 pm
RecordGuy:

No, they grind it out in the legal profession, almost as bad as my line of work, accounting.  I say almost, because I've never seen an accountant as miserable as a lawyer.  My theory is that lawyering is a lot like accounting, except maybe more mundane and boring.  Most law students go in thinking they will be doing what they see on Law and Order, so when they hit the real world, they aren't ready for the boredom.  Accountants on the other hand, like myself, knew it would be boring, but like working with numbers.  Enough of my rant.  Your decision to become an FA is a great one, in my view.  I'm doing the same thing you are doing.


i hate to break it to you and your bean counting companions, but lawyers make a LOT more than accountants.  yes, there are some third tier toilet lawyers are struggling to get people out of traffic tickets, but those who work for good firms or do well on their own get paid. whereas accountants who are endentured servants for good firms get the shaft both from pleasure and pay.  no comparison.