Successful Financial Advisors Have a Process

The financial services industry is a challenging entrepreneurial undertaking whose failure rate is exceptionally high.

Some studies estimate that over 70% of financial advisors (FAs) leave the industry by their third year. What is the difference between those who fail and those who are wildly successful? Delving deeper, what is the difference between the wildly successful and the mildly successful?

A veteran of the industry once told me that the job of a financial advisor was the most miserable $75,000 per year job but the best $1 million per year job you could dream of. I have come to find after working more than 20 years with advisors, their insight is spot-on.


Over the years I have found that the strata of success in the financial advisory world looks a lot like a pyramid, with a small group occupying the top tier of success. There is also a great divide between the wildly and mildly successful. I will now give you the secret of the wildly successful.

Simply put, they have a PROCESS.

You will find that the most successful people are those fiercely dedicated to very well-defined processes that they have worked to perfect over time. We are not just talking about their investment process. In fact, a lot that is now outsourced to specialists and the advisor’s role has morphed into more of a due diligence analyst, finding and vetting professional asset managers.

Importantly, these very successful individuals and teams have a process for everything, including what they read in the morning, how they conduct meetings, and how they organize their daily activities.  They have client acquisition goals and employ strategies and processes for achieving them. They also have monthly and, in some cases, daily contact goals and processes for accomplishing those.

Taking it a step further, many of these folks have a very well defined client experience process and a contact management system to keep the experience consistent. Additionally, almost every one of these “Top-Advisors” has a very well defined investment management and client acquisition process.

The experience of these successful advisors instills a sense of confidence far beyond the typical advisor. I am not sure why would anyone conduct their business in a different way. If you think about it, can you really name anyone who was wildly successful coming into work every day and just winging it?

As I considered this, it made me think about other really successful people in other careers and endeavors where their success relied on processes and routines that contributed to and, in some cases, seemingly ensured success.

In a recent episode of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee”, there was a conversation between Jim Gaffigan and Jerry Seinfeld discussing the process involved in creating a great standup act. These two wildly successful comedians diligently prepare for every show and expressed their confusion with talented people who show up with the intention of just making it up.  Jim said he was a “comedian who does his homework,” to which Jerry commented, “Me too!”

Everyone at the top of their game, regardless of profession, follows a process

Looking at one of the most admired companies in the world, and my favorite airline, Southwest, you find a great example of a company whose dedication to process has bred fierce loyalty and, dare I say, love (LUV) from its customer base despite the perception that the airline industry as a whole has an awful reputation.