4 Things to Consider When Hiring a Financial Adviser

Evaluating the wide array of financial advisers can be like perusing the offerings in an ice cream shop. There’s a flavor, scoop size and cone or container for everyone. But how do you know which flavor is right for you? And is this the best shop?

From outside the shop, the containers behind the glass look about like any other. The name of the store could be a national brand franchise or a boutique creamery. Step inside and take a closer view and you will see the differences, even before you decide.

The same holds true for financial advisers. From outside, we may look the same and all call ourselves wealth managers. You have to look a little closer to see how we differ.

This article is intended to provide you the framework to do just that. While my list is not exhaustive, it’s a place to start, based on my many interactions over the years with individuals and families setting out to make this important choice.

1. Ask yourself why you are looking.

Many times we see financial lives becoming too complex to handle independently. Or perhaps you are outgrowing your current adviser’s capabilities, selling a business, retiring or simply don’t have the time or desire to do it yourself any more.  Each adviser has an ideal client – ask them to describe that person. Don’t settle for an answer related only to account size. Ask if they handle folks with your background, profession or situation. This is key to finding the right long-term match. The right person will have worked with people whose lifecycle is similar to yours and understand what needs to be done before you even realize it.

Key takeaway:  Match your need with an adviser’s expertise. Be forward-thinking.

2. Look for consistency.

Successful advisers consistently improve themselves and those around them.  They are well-read, follow current events and can speak on a variety of topics – but get most excited talking about planning, investing and serving others. They should bring this curiosity and love of learning to your interactions.  These types of advisers cover your blind spots – they bring you options and expand your knowledge.  They are measured and methodical, keeping you on pace for your financial goals. There is no get-rich-quick scheme.  They hold themselves to high standards and are highly credentialed.

Key takeaway: Find an adviser who consistently brings you thoughtful ideas at a measured pace toward your financial goals. Service matters.

3. Seek stability.

Dig into the adviser’s background before deciding. Do they hold themselves to a fiduciary standard? You are evaluating a long-term relationship, so make sure the adviser and their firm is stable and working in your best interests first. You don’t want to find out the firm is at risk of being sold or the adviser is likely to switch firms. Great advisers get courted by other firms all the time. Temptation for them to move is always present.

Key takeaway:  Stable employment and firm history is a plus.

4. Make sure they have a history of stepping forward at critical times.

When markets are in distress, look for an adviser with a history of active communication in the best interests of their clients – preferably personal, one-to-one communication. A successful adviser stands apart during periods of uncertainty. They are visible to their clients and guide them to weather the storm. Ask about their experience during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic or the 2008-09 financial crisis.

Make sure they don’t handle too many clients, which translates to a generic client experience.  Ask if they will be your primary contact. Who else would be covering your relationship? Ask to meet that person too.

Key takeaway:  Select an adviser who will be proactive when you need them most.

Whether searching for a financial adviser or prepping for an ice-cream outing, take your time to review the type of store, the available flavors and amount of product you wish to consume. Find one that suits you and your family best.

For additional information on selecting an adviser, click the link to view the SEC’s top tips:


The material shown is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as accounting, legal, or tax advice.  Altair Advisers LLC is a registered investment adviser with the Securities and Exchange Commission; registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training.  While efforts are made to ensure information contained herein is accurate, Altair Advisers cannot guarantee the accuracy of all such information presented.