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A Guide to Financial Advisor Development Programs

A financial advisor explaining the requirements for a development program at his firm.

Embarking on a career as a financial advisor requires the proper education and certification to ensure that you’re qualified to offer advice to clients. Many firms offer development programs that are designed to prepare you for your entry into the financial services industry. Joining a financial advisor development program could help you build a solid foundation for success, but it’s important to understand what’s involved.

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What Is a Financial Advisor Development Program?

Financial advisor development programs are specialized training programs that are intended to equip those entering the advisory field with the skills, expertise and knowledge they need to launch their careers. These programs may also be referred to as associate programs or training programs, depending on the terminology that an advisory firm prefers to use.

The primary goal of development programs for financial advisors is to provide those who may be new to the field with the tools they’ll need to succeed. Enrollees can include freshly minted college graduates, experienced professionals who may be transitioning to financial services from another career field and individuals who are returning to the workforce after an extended break.

How Do Financial Advisor Development Programs Work?

The exact structure of development programs for advisors can vary from one firm to the next. For example, some programs require less than one year to complete while others extend training up to 36 months. Firms may employ a rotation method, with training segmented to focus on different areas.

For example, those interested in the Chase Financial Advisor Development Program go through three phases:

  • Phase 1: You’ll complete banker training that is required for industry exams and licenses. You’ll also work hands-on as a relationship banker and private client banker during this phase, which is intended to offer a better understanding of Chase’s wealth management business.
  • Phase 2: You’re expected to complete required exams, including the Securities Industry Essential Exam, Series 7 exam and Series 66 exam. You’re also expected to complete life and health insurance licensing exams. This phase positions you to participate in leadership training and networking opportunities. Once the training is complete, you should be prepared to become a certified financial planner.
  • Phase 3: You’ll primarily work in a private client banker position. At this stage, the emphasis or focus is on deepening your understanding of financial advisor concepts. You’ll also work on developing your soft skills as you interact with clients.

During this time, you’ll be paid for your work which distinguishes this type of training program from an internship. In addition to base pay and compensation, your firm may pay for study programs to help you prepare for necessary exams as well as the exam fees. For instance, you may be reimbursed for any and all costs associated with obtaining a CFP certification.

Who Is Eligible for a Financial Advisor Development Program?

A man researching the requirements for a financial advisor development program.

Firms can establish their own requirements for entry into a development program. Most firms look for a minimum level of education and work experience, along with a mix of hard and soft skills.

Using Chase’s program as an example once again, here’s what’s required to apply:

  • A bachelor’s degree
  • 3+ years of experience in delivering exceptional customer service, with a demonstrated aptitude for client relationship management

Chase doesn’t accept applicants who already hold a Series 6, 7, 63, 65 or 66 license. They also prefer candidates who come from diverse backgrounds, are eager to learn and are comfortable working in a fast-paced environment.

Competition for these programs can be stiff, as there may be a limited number of spots available. Advisory firms may recruit new candidates to their programs year-round or accept applications only during certain times of the year.

Benefits of Joining a Development Program for Financial Advisors

Financial advisor development programs are intended to provide you with everything you need to start your career off on the right foot. While some learning may take place in a classroom or through online courses, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to gain firsthand experience by working alongside other advisors.

Development programs can help you to build your network, which is important for any advisor. You’ll also receive mentorship and training from senior advisors, benefiting from their years of knowledge and experience. That in itself can be an invaluable benefit.

Completing an advisor development program means that you don’t have to master cold calling either as you’ll have access to the firm’s existing client base. That can help you to get more comfortable with advisor-client interactions and cultivate your personal approach to offering advice.

Upon completion of a development program, you should be equipped to help clients identify their financial needs and goals and offer advice that’s designed to help them achieve those goals. You’ll also have the licenses necessary to work with clients in an advisory capacity.

How to Apply for a Financial Advisor Development Program

Firms can accept applications online or require them to be submitted by mail. Getting into a development program is often a multi-step process. For instance, it may look something like this:

  • Step 1: Complete the employment application and submit your resume.
  • Step 2: Complete one or more online assessments, answering questions about your work experience, education and career goals.
  • Step 3: Complete a phone screening with the hiring manager or talent acquisition team.
  • Step 4: Meet for a face-to-face interview, during which time you may be required to submit a detailed business plan.
  • Step 5: Complete the final evaluation phase, which may require a background check.

You should be prepared for this process—and the training that follows if accepted—to be rigorous. You may need to spend some time weighing the pros against the potential cons, including the time commitment, before applying for a program.

It helps to research different programs before making a final choice. When comparing programs, consider the time frame that’s involved, how the program is structured and how you’ll be compensated in terms of salary and any training expenses the firm covers. Also, review the entry requirements closely to determine whether you meet the guidelines to apply.

Bottom Line

A woman applying for a financial advisor development program.

Joining a financial advisor development program could give you a competitive advantage and set you up for a thriving career. It’s worthwhile to spend some time looking for a program that best aligns with your experience, goals and what you hope to accomplish.

Tips for Growing Your Advisory Business

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  • If you’re considering going solo as an advisor, you’ll need a plan for building your brand online. That plan can include creating social media content, setting up a professional website and leveraging email marketing. You may also consider a more unconventional approach and try out direct mail marketing to reach current or prospective clients. While it might seem old-fashioned, direct mail can be a powerful marketing tool to help you expand your book of business.

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