Career Overview: What I Do As a Financial Advisor
From time to time, we can all take advantage of some money tips, whether or not you have a personal budget that works for you trying to collect your ducks in a row to start your business. That is why we turn to experienced financial advisors who will advise us and help us manage our money.
To learn a little about what it means to be a financial advisor, we spoke with Raquel Oden, head of advisory strategy and development at Merrill Lynch. Raquel is actually developing training programs for new consultants. Interestingly, many of her students come from outside the financial industry.
First of all, tell us a little about your current job and how long you have been doing it.
I have been in the financial services industry for over 20 years. I started as a Wall Street trader right after graduating from graduate school and have worked in various positions throughout my career. Prior to joining Merrill Lynch in (2011), I spent over 10 years at UBS in a variety of leadership roles, including as Chief of Staff to the President.
Although it was difficult to give up this role, I took a chance and joined Merrill Lynch. It was the best move I have ever made. I am currently the Head of Consultant Development and Training at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management. We have 14,500 financial advisors and monitor customer account balances of $ 2 trillion. I am focused on building the “next generation” of consultants in the firm and have developed several new collaboration, learning and recruiting opportunities.
What prompted you to choose your career path?
I wanted to pursue a career in which I could chart my own course and influence others. The financial industry is an industry of rapid change, it is very dynamic and closely related to real world events. And you can really change people’s lives.
What kind of education and experience are usually required for financial advisors?
I would say that the most important thing is the desire to study hard, work hard and be able to listen. I have a BA in Political Science and an MBA, but we employ people with a wide range of backgrounds. Our 3,000 students in our curriculum are male and female in both first and second careers, including former accountants, lawyers, military personnel and entrepreneurs. We are also hiring people who have just graduated from college and are particularly interested in hiring those who have a degree in Certified Financial Planning.
This may sound obvious, but what do financial advisors actually do? What people or companies are hiring them and what recommendations do they offer?
Merrill Lynch financial advisors work with individuals, families and companies to find a balance between day-to-day financial needs and long-term life goals. Financial advisors are trained in the discipline of goal-based capital management, an approach that focuses on developing financial portfolios based on client-stated priorities. Research by Merrill Lynch has shown that customer priorities typically focus on one or more of seven life priorities: home, health, family, leisure, charity, work, and finance. An Investor Identity Assessment is done when a client joins Merrill Lynch to help the consultant and client analyze their priorities together and develop a financial plan.
What misconceptions do people often have about their work?
People can focus on the financial markets – we train our consultants to focus on the client’s goals. Our platform is called Goal Based Money Management, and our consultants build their practices by helping clients understand the financial picture on both sides of the balance sheet and in the context of what they are trying to achieve with their money.
[Also] people think that in order to become a financial consultant it is necessary to have experience only in the financial field, but this is not so. We are looking for people with successful experience and can teach you the financial side of the business.
What’s your average uptime? Typical 9-5 or not?
Not! This is a 24/7 business, which is why we focus on teams in our consulting practice. For those of us in leadership positions, I’ll just say that we do what it takes. We have laptops and phones!
What personal tips and shortcuts have made your job easier?
The most important thing in my career has been building relationships and finding good mentors. My mentor once told me to “feel comfortable uncomfortable.” She encouraged me to step outside of my comfort zone to take on new roles, face new challenges, and continue my career. This advice is critical.
What is the most enjoyable part of the job?
An opportunity to prepare the next generation of consultants for Merrill Lynch to help clients achieve their life goals. It’s a really cool legacy.
Is there a way to “advance” in your field?
Yes, absolutely. Consultants shape their own practices by building relationships with clients. For those interested in leadership positions, I would say, “Take the risk.” If we take risks instead of hiding from them, we are more likely to stay more interested, learn more, and continue to deliver results.
What advice would you give to those who want to become your profession?
This is a great time to enter the financial services industry, especially for women and minorities. There is a growing need for financial consultants due to the aging of the current sales consultant and the need for more diversity in sales to better represent a diverse client base. My advice is to work hard, listen carefully to clients and potential clients, and make a valuable contribution to your relationship.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.