Are There Too Many Financial Advisors?

Beverly Flaxington

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

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Dear Bev,

Is our industry struggling under the weight of too many advisors? How can my firm continue to grow and bring on successors when it is so hard to find new clients? When I started 26 years ago I could have a conversation with a guy at my country club and he would become a client. Now, everyone is a financial advisor.

Dick P., Los Angeles

Dear Dick:

Your note strikes me as a bit of venting, or perhaps disillusionment with the business development activities you are using. Perhaps you are frustrated because you have not had as much success as you believe you deserve.

You don’t have a question so I will make one up for you – I think you are asking, “Is it really possible to stand out in a crowded market with so many people claiming they are financial advisors or wealth managers? How can the average investor even know the difference?”

The question is really about differentiation. It’s about the importance of having a story that clearly defines what you do, versus what the myriad of other people using the moniker “financial advisor” do. Bankers, insurance reps, brokers, wealth managers, financial advisors, CFPs, retirement specialists, etc. are all essentially advising clients on financially-related matters.

So, the moniker can fit all of them! You have to be sure that you have a unique story to tell that clearly shows an investor why you are different, what you offer and how you could solve their problems or meet their needs. It isn’t necessary to have a silver bullet or magical statement that is so unique and compelling that everyone has to listen to you.

It’s about taking the time to tell a story, consistently and regularly, to a targeted group of people. Many firms and individual financial advisors are growing exponentially these days. There are opportunities for both new and moving from existing advisors. You have to be able to catch the attention of those who need your services, and hold that attention longer than others in your competitive universe.

Dear Bev,

I run a nine-person advisory firm made up mostly of women. We have one man in the client service area and everyone else is female. We have developed a really good niche working almost exclusively with women. How do we stay true to our target market without offending a man who might be married to one of our clients? Some women bring their husbands in for planning and we need to work with them, too.

Sarah G., Washington

Dear Sarah,

Most of the time I hear from advisors wanting to market to women and looking for an angle there. But you are asking about alienating men in your marketing efforts. This is the first time I have encountered that as a concern!

It means you are doing an excellent job talking to your market – the women who need financial help. I assume you already have many widows, divorcees or never-married women in your client base. You apparently want to also serve those women who are married, and would bring their male spouse along.

It will be hard to make a man feel entirely comfortable if all of your marketing material speaks only to the needs of women, or uses language that is geared exclusively to a female investor. Start by looking at your website to see how you are positioned.

How do you present yourself to the market? Are you using pink and purple as corporate colors? More seriously, you want to look at what your website and materials say to see whether your language and marketing approach alienates men. It could be that you are so female-oriented that a male would not feel accepted working with your firm.

Second, think about the reverse of what we might normally teach an advisor when we say, “Don’t just talk to the husband; make sure the wife is involved.” Make sure your process is taking the needs and the concerns of the man into consideration and that he is fully involved and engaged in all meetings and follow-ups. If the man wants to take the lead, let him. Don’t force your primary relationship to be with the woman, even though she is usually your target. You need to let the couple dictate how they want to work with you and respect their choices.

Ultimately, a confident man doesn’t really care how he is treated as long as his wife is happy!

Beverly Flaxington co-founded The Collaborative, a consulting firm devoted to business building for the financial services industry in 1995; in 2008 she co-founded Advisors Trusted Advisor to offer dedicated practice management resources to advisors, planners and wealth managers. She is currently an adjunct professor at Suffolk University teaching undergraduate students Leadership & Social Responsibility. Beverly is a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA) and Certified Professional Values Analyst (CPVA).

She has spent over 25 years in the investment industry and has been featured in Selling Power Magazine and quoted in hundreds of media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal,, Investment News and Solutions Magazine for the FPA. She speaks frequently at investment industry conferences and is a speaker for the CFA Institute.

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