Wealth Management Networking QuestionsLast Updated:
Fundamentally, wealth management boils down to sales and as such the kinds of question you ask while networking will determine whether or not the person you're networking with will be inclined toward pushing your resume within their firm.
You may surprised to know that most people either don't come prepared with any questions to ask or ask questions surrounding start dates, compensation, or other more human resource type questions while networking.
This is all wrong. All those HR-type questions can be answered by HR themselves. When you're networking with a wealth manager you should treat this as part of the evaluation process. Your networker will be looking for the way you ask your questions - and what the content of those questions are - as a measure of how you will do on the job and whether they should put their reputation behind you.
I have no doubt that many promising candidates have lost their spot in top wealth management firms - especially those like UBS, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, etc. - because they aren't asking the right questions while networking.
The kinds of questions you should be asking while networking are no different than the questions you should be asking at the end of each interview (when you're given a few minutes to ask your interviewer questions). After all, when your networking you should always view this as being like a soft, non-confrontational interview.
Wealth Management Networking Questions
The following are some of my favorite networking questions to ask. What all of these questions have in common is that they aren't shallow and try to get the person you're networking with to open up.
That latter point is of great importance. Wealth managers all - almost by definition - love to talk so if you are asking thoughtful, open-ended questions than you can quickly have them begin talking for four or five minutes. As a general rule of thumb, when networking you should ensure the person you're networking with is doing at least 75% of the talking. After all, they probably have many more interesting experiences than you do!
Question 1: What was the industry like when you joined? How has it changed?
Question 2: I know the first few years of being a wealth manager is always tough. How did you personally manage through it?
Question 3: I know you've heard the arguments around how wealth management will be automated in the future. I'm sure you don't believe it, but what do you say when people assert this?
Question 4: What mistakes do you consistently see young wealth managers making? Why do you think they keeping repeating these mistakes?
Question 5: How aggressive were you in courting new business when you started out? How did you get over the feeling of not being "qualified" enough being so inexperienced?
Question 6: What is a challenge this career has presented you that you didn't anticipate when you began?
What was the industry like when you joined? How has it changed?
This is a great question to ask for a few reasons.
First, it gets them to think back to their younger days as a wealth manager just beginning (which everyone likes doing).
Second, it gets them to tell their story, which can begin a natural flowing conversation.
Third, asking people to tell you their story is half of what wealth managers are doing when they first meet prospective clients, so it's good to start off your conversation with a wealth management this way!
I know the first few years of being a wealth manager is always tough. How did you personally manage through it?
This is a great question to ask because the first part of it demonstrates that you recognize that wealth management isn't a bed of roses. Quite the opposite -- the first few years are incredible difficult and will be filled with lots of ups and downs.
Everyone loves to tell their own story of how they persevered and overcame obstacles in front of them. This is particularly true when it comes to one's career as it is so central to one's identity.
Chances are this is one of those networking questions you'll ask and then get a rather long answer to. Not only that, but chances are you'll take away a few lessons from hearing a wealth managers answer to this!
I know you've heard the arguments around how wealth management will be automated in the future. I'm sure you don't believe it, but what do you say when people assert this?
Chances are you've heard about all the Silicon Valley start-ups that are trying to disrupt the wealth management industry.
Personally, I put almost no stoke into this line of thinking as it fundamentally misses what a wealth manager really does. What these start-ups are mostly doing is disrupting the old broker model that took heavy spreads on retail trades in equities, which is all fine and good.
But what a wealth management does is something entirely different. They figure out what the aims and priorities of a client are, devise a way for them to preserve and grow wealth, help connect them to the proper tax and legal representatives, help with estate planning, and so much more.
A wealth manager needs to be a human because humans are on the other line. These clients are entrusting their wealth manager with the responsibility of everything they're working for, in order to create a better future for them and their families.
Wealth managers are, as a general principle, great lovers of technology. They leverage technology and wealth management clients get incredibly low execution fees (comparable to any online broker). Wealth managers offer something greater than just tossing money into whatever low fee index fund best aligns with what a client believes their values are and, for the record, most clients have zero interest in sitting down and thinking about their real priorities and how to best align them with a wealth management strategy. They want to hire someone to do that for them.
Anyway, that's a bit of a rant. But if you don't believe me, just look at the huge investment banks like Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, and UBS that have pivoted their businesses over the past decade to focus even more on wealth management. If these folks believe in the future of the business, perhaps others should take note.
What mistakes do you consistently see young wealth managers making? Why do you think they keeping repeating these mistakes?
Everyone who has experience in an industry likes to try to pass on their lessons learned to the younger generation. However, often it seems like the younger generation keeps repeating the same mistakes even if they have been forewarned of them (this was certainly true of me!).
This is another networking question that will probably make the person you're networking with pause and think for a moment. This is always a good thing. If the person you're networking with is giving you answers back as soon as the question leaves your mouth it's probably a sign of them not finding your questions to be overly novel or difficult!
How aggressive were you in courting new business when you started out? How did you get over the feeling of not being "qualified" enough being so inexperienced?
A mistake many aspiring wealth managers make is not wanting to come across as being vulnerable or asking questions that don't inspire confidence.
The reality is whenever you're starting out in a new career - but especially one that is based so heavily on what you produce, like any career in sales is - you're going to feel a heavy dose of imposter syndrome.
Wealth managers almost always love hearing questions that show a bit of vulnerability. Everyone has been in the same position as you currently are in and so you should never feel afraid to open up and seek advice on these kinds of questions.
What is a challenge this career has presented you that you didn't anticipate when you began?
This networking question is a bit more general and is one you should keep in your back pocket in case you need an extra question to ask. However, I'd ask the questions listed above before this one as they are more impressive (in my view).
With all that being said, this is still a good question, but is just one that the wealth manager (if they do a lot of networking with aspiring wealth managers) will have gotten before. When you ask it don't be surprised if you get an immediate response.
If you want, you can add something like, "I've heard from other wealth managers that they didn't expect their first few years to feel so overwhelmed by having to manage existing clients and deal with prospecting for new clients".
By adding this to the end of your question you demonstrate that you've been talking to other wealth managers and so have been proactive in your outreach. One of the most impressive things anyone networking can do is demonstrate that they've been trying
Whenever you're networking it's natural to feel a bit nervous or intimated. This is always a result of you recognizing the asymmetric nature of the conversation; they're an expert, you're a novice.
As hopefully the networking questions above make clear, the best way to stand out and make your life easier is to ask questions that get the person you're networking with to open up.
As a general rule, you should aim for the person you're talking with to do at least 75% of the talking. This means you shouldn't be asking questions that have clear and obvious answers, but rather questions that make your counter-party think for a minute and talk at length.
Also keep in mind the obvious: all networking is simply a soft interview. If the person you're speaking with likes you, then that will translate into them keeping you in mind if not for their own firm, then for other firms they know may be hiring.
Since wealth management always starts with sales, be prepared to sell yourself. Often the best way to do this is by making the person you're speaking with open up and share their story with you.
If you're looking for even more networking questions, I have a whole section in the wealth management guide going over questions to ask at the end of your interview (which nicely double as networking questions). You can also read some of the top wealth management interview questions I put together in another post.
Good luck in your networking efforts!