Top 5 Wells Fargo Wealth Management Interview Questions
On this site I've primary covered the kinds of wealth management shops I'm most familiar with, which are those tied to large investment banks that deal almost exclusively with those of quite high net worths.
However, for many people (in fact, most people!) looking to get into the industry, these kinds of wealth management shops may not hold much appeal. Many are believers in the fact that it's best to start in smaller locations (than say New York or Houston) and deal with folks who are more in the $1-5mm range.
While firms like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have been trying to branch out their wealth management practices, when it comes to so-called Tier 2 or Tier 3 cities in the United States you'll find the larger retail banks like J.P. Morgan and Wells Fargo have a much stronger foothold.
The reason why, of course, is that those who become wealthy over several decades have to start somewhere and most often they'll start with savings accounts, mortgages, lines of credit, etc. from retail banks. Then they'll feel quite tied to that bank and won't be terribly interested in moving their money out to a third-party; if at all possible, they'd like things to all be kept under one brand name.
By headcount, Wells Fargo has one of the largest wealth management teams in the United States with over 14,000 members and is wildly geographically diverse. While in recent years Wells Fargo has got into some regulatory trouble on the commercial banking side, it's still a well respected and growing wealth management practice.
Wells Fargo Wealth Management Interview Questions
Below are some examples of the kinds of wealth management interview questions you can expect to come up at Wells Fargo. You can see even more here.
One of the things that you need to do in any interview is make sure that you get across your understanding of the critical building blocks that make up wealth management. One of these building blocks is, of course, mutual funds.
When thinking about mutual funds for your client you should think of a few different things:
- How the funds underlying investments align with your client's preferences (for example, are they ESG stocks)
- Whether the funds fees are commensurate with the amount of work that they do
- Whether there are alternative funds that give similar exposure, with either less underlying risk or a better fee structure
- Whether or not the fund's management is well regarded and experienced (while mutual fund failures are rare, they do happen!)
In an interview context, there's no need to get into any more depth than this. All your interviewer is really looking for is that you understand the nature of mutual funds and what to be careful of.
Client's (somewhat ironically) are always more interested in inflation than money managers are -- partly because they feel inflation in a much more tangible way in terms of their purchasing power.
This is a good interview question because inflation is one of the building blocks of economics in much the same way as mutual funds are one of the building blocks of wealth management.
From the perspective of a wealth manager, these are the things that need to be worried about in regards to inflation:
- What it does to a client's debt servicing (as interest rates rise, the floating aspects of a client's debt will also increase, meaning the amount they're paying in interest will rise)
- What it does to assets they hold that are risk sensitive (for example, high growth stocks are liable to decline in value when rates rise)
- What it does to bond prices (as rates rise, in response to inflation, that pushes up yields, which in turn pushes down prices)
For reference, here are the current inflation expectations as determined by Fed Fund futures.
High growth companies have had a record run in 2020 and 2021, so how are they sensitive to inflation?
This would be the typical kind of follow up question to your discussion of inflation above. What the question is trying to do is get you to do is demonstrate to your interviewer that you understand the basic theory behind equity valuation.
Now, it should be said, that your job as a wealth manager isn't to be an expert stock picker (you should work at a hedge fund if you are!). Rather the job of a wealth manager is to have a sufficiently wide breadth of knowledge as to be able to talk to your clients, understand their needs and goals, and put them in the best risk adjusted position to meet their needs and goals.
What this question is getting at is your understanding of the cycle between inflation, interest rates, and equity value for growth companies (these days, primarily tech companies).
So you should know that the Fed's mandate is two-fold: price stability and maximum employment. Price stability has classically been defined as being 2% inflation, but this has now been expanded to include being slightly higher than 2% due to the events of 2020 (the Fed is purposefully ambiguous as to how much higher than 2% they'll let inflation run).
As inflation picks up, eventually the Fed will set a higher overnight interest rate, which result in the yield curve being elevated across all maturities.
For high growth companies - like most tech companies - they have little to no free cash flows today, but the anticipation (because of their high growth) is that they'll have lots in the future.
When we value companies like this, we can use a discounted cash flow model whereby we discount future cash flows at a higher rate than those we are getting now.
So as rates rise, the discount rate you're utilizing will also rise, which in turn leads to future free cash flows being less valuable than they are under a lower rates environment.
This is why companies that are earning lots of money today (like industrials companies) are less rates sensitive than high growth companies where they have all their hypothetical future free cash flows many years into the future.
There's hardly anything more important for an aspiring wealth manager than to be an effective communicator. Of course, this comes across in your interview, but a very common question is to be asked how you think about communication.
I think it's always best to start by noting that effective communication begins by listening attentively to what your client is saying and then trying to re-frame what they've said in a more practical light.
For example, if your client says that they're looking to quickly growth their wealth and retire by a relatively young age, you can say that what you're hearing is that they are looking to take on more risk over the next decade and then as they approach their wealth goals begin to pare back their risk and to create a more predictable return profile.
In other words, what you're doing is trying to translate what their aims, goals, and aspirations are in a framework that can be implemented by a wealth manager.
Beyond this, wealth managers should always be honest and direct when needed, while understanding that an individual's net worth is an incredibly sensitive topic.
Of course, being asked about your weaknesses is an incredibly common interview question no matter what you're interviewing for. However, note that at the end of this interview question I appended "as a wealth manager".
This question isn't concerned with your generalized weaknesses, but rather what one you believe is most applicable to a career in wealth management. This allows your interviewer to see whether or not you really understand what relevant weaknesses are in wealth management.
In the wealth management guide I go over a number of good example answers to this question. Of course, it's impossible for me to give a truly accurate one for you (as everyone is different), but here's an example.
If you're quite reserved by nature, you can say that while you deeply enjoy interacting and helping people in a one-on-one setting, you find it more difficult to do in a crowd or at a social gathering.
You should then address how you are seeking to remedy this weakness. An example of how you could do that is by trying to get people into more one-on-one meetings where you are able to more fully and comfortably show your personality.
Everyone has their own weaknesses and some of them are guide engrained in our personalities. You shouldn't claim that you want to entirely get rid of your weakness, if that's not possible, but rather show that you've proactively thought about how to navigate around it.
Wells Fargo offers one of the strongest wealth management platforms in the United States to join. In particular if you're interesting in practicing in an area of the country outside the major centers (where other firms, like Goldman and Morgan Stanley, concentrate their efforts).
If you're gearing up for interviews, be sure to look at the other wealth management interview questions I've put together. I also spent a few months putting together every question I've ever been asked (or asked myself) with ideal real-world answers in the wealth management guide.
While there's no doubt that getting into wealth management can be daunting, it's one of the best learning experiences out there. Especially if you love speaking with interesting people who come from all walks of life. Be sure to let me know if you have any questions.