What Skills Do You Need for Wealth Management?
When you're interviewing for typical jobs, what employers care about first is competency and what they care about second is fit. In an ideal world, an interviewee will have both and then they'll easily get the job.
However, often as an interviewer you'll run into a situation where someone is clearly competent at the job - they have a great education, relevant experience, etc. - but aren't quite a cultural fit. If the job market is tight the interviewer may very well hire the person because their skills are needed regardless of whether or not they'll be a joy to be around.
When it comes to wealth management, this dynamic is entirely different. The reason is that very few people can show they're competent at the job of wealth management in an interview setting. Sure, you can answer the wealth management interview questions correctly. But that's a minimum standard you need to meet. Just because you answer the questions correctly and seem to know quite a bit about what the job entails doesn't mean you'll be good at it.
Further, the compensation structure within wealth management - whether you're at a small shop or at a place like Goldman Sachs or Credit Suisse - is going to have a lot of variable compensation based on your performance. As you get more experienced in the industry, you aren't so much working for your colleagues as working quite independently from them.
So when you're interviewing what the interviewer is really asking themselves is not "Can this person do the tasks or assignments I give them?" but rather "Can this person be successful in a reasonably independent fashion?"
Skills You Need To Show
So this leads to the obvious question about what skills you need to show in a wealth management interview. These skills will (obviously!) be those that are also relevant to succeeding on the job, which most wealth managers regrettably don't.
This is my subjective opinion on what skills you need to posses and highlight, but I've seen enough wealth managers to know generally what is required.
- Thriving under autonomy
- Being proactive
- Mood stability
- Attention to detail
- Pursuit of further education
As you can see these are not what you would call hard skills, but are rather soft skills. This is because it's not required for you to be a tax expert, estate planning expert, or financial analysis expert to do well as a wealth manager. If you happen to have a passion for any of those things, then that's fantastic! But many fundamentally don't understand that wealth managers are, as a general rule, doing most of the nitty gritty work themselves. Instead, they are connecting their clients to the resources (often within their own firm) that are necessary to do these things. That's why very few wealth managers have both a CPA and CFA destination -- you don't need to be a master of all trades.
Thriving Under Autonomy
Even if you begin your career as a private wealth manager - right out of undergraduate or graduate school - at a large firm like Goldman Sachs, you still are going to have a much more autonomous work life than those in traditional finance roles.
Depending on your firm, you may not be doing cold calls endlessly, but you will be needing to try to meet with clients, talk to someone's clients on their behalf, do proactive analysis on your own, etc.
No matter where you start in wealth management, eventually most or all of your compensation will move towards being "eat what you kill". For some people, having such variable income can be very emotionally draining. For others, it can feel liberating.
In an interview you need to keep in mind the fact that your interviewer needs to hear from you that you understand how autonomous the role of wealth manager is and that you view that as a positive, not negative, attribute of the job.
There's a fine line between being proactive and being hyperactive. When dealing with wealth management clients, you are per se dealing with an older group of people who are probably more conservative in their mannerisms.
They don't want someone nagging them endlessly or giving off the vibe of a motivational speaker. Remember: this is their wealth and they take the management of it very seriously.
So, you never want to come across as being hyperactive and pestering. However, as I mentioned in the last answer, you do need to be proactive in reaching out to old and new clients alike. You always need to be willing to reach out understanding that most of the time your outreach won't be successful.
This may sound like a bit of an odd one and admittedly, it kind of is! But probably the one skill that I've tried hardest to develop over the years is the ability to take both positive and negative things in stride.
For many - especially if they take criticism harshly - being able to keep a stable mood is incredibly difficult. However, as a wealth manager you're going to be facing criticism, disgruntled clients, and generally unhappy people. This isn't unique to wealth management, of course. In just about any jobs where you're very client-facing you're going to run into people who are having bad days and want to take it out on you (whether you deserve it or not).
I've always found it very interesting when I hear interviewees give examples of how they've stayed calm under pressure or while dealing with angry clients in some former role they've held. It's needed in wealth management (trust me).
Attention to Detail
Once again, the clients you deal with in wealth management are per se unique. They are going to expect from you what they'd expect from their equally high-powered colleagues: attention to detail.
This means you should spend a significant amount of time crafting well-written e-mails (even if you get one word responses from current or prospective clients). It also means you should dress well (whatever is appropriate for your location) and generally have thought carefully about what you're going to try to say whenever you interact with a client.
Like in any sales job what seems spontaneous is often very well rehearsed. Part of the reason why I created the wealth management interview guide is because I wanted to help people be able to rehearse their answers to the most common interview questions. This will make your interviewer think you've thought hard about taking a job in wealth management and have clearly done your homework (which is a way of circuitously showing attention to detail).
Pursuit of Further Education
To be clear, I'm talking about going back to college here. Rather great wealth managers are always learning. This could be reading interesting macro-economic or equity research reports from the investment bank you're working at (JPM, MS, etc.) Or it could be picking up a popular non-fiction book that you know a client of yours is reading.
The point is simply that as a wealth manager there's not going to be anything static about your life. You'll always need to be learning and evolving. While some firms have done a reasonably good job over the last decade building up programs meant to help current wealth managers learn more about new and exciting areas of wealth management, for the most part you'll be on your own to explore different ways to grow.
Of course, this isn't an exhaustive list, but I hope it's been helpful in some way. The main thing I want to get across is that in wealth management hard skills are far less important (because they're far less applicable) than soft skills.
Soft skills, like the ones above, are critical to demonstrate in wealth management interviews and on the job to clients.
At the very least, I hope this little post has helped prod your thinking in a different direction. Don't slack on the soft skills, they're undeniably important in wealth management! If you're gearing up for interviews, be sure to check out the wealth management interview questions I've done up for you (or get the guide, which has 180+ answered for you).