Working with a financial advisor can be helpful if you need advice about how to build or manage your portfolio and grow wealth for retirement. What you may not realize is that your financial advisor (or advisors) may have their own team of individuals who help them run their business from day to day. That team may include client service associates who play a supporting role. If you’re unfamiliar with what a client service associate is or what they do, here are some of the most important things to know.
What Is a Client Service Associate?
A client service associate acts an assistant to one or more financial advisors or other wealth management professionals. This person helps financial advisors with specific tasks that may or may not require them to interact with clients. However, they don’t offer financial advice themselves. The kinds of activities a client service associate can engage in include both clerical and administrative work.
Client service associates can work for banks, investment firms and financial advisory firms. As a result, they need to be well-versed in both financial regulatory rules as well as the ins and outs of different types of securities, such as stocks, mutual funds and bonds. The scope of what a client service associate does as part of their daily routine is typically dictated by the needs of the firm or financial institution they work for.
What Does a Client Service Associate Do?
Client service associates can carry out a number of different tasks. But all of them generally serve the same purpose, which is to strengthen advisor-client relationships to ensure that clients are satisfied.
With that in mind, here’s a list of things that might be expected of a client service associate:
- Responding to client inquiries for information about products and services.
- Scheduling advisor-client meetings.
- Drafting written or electronic communications on behalf of advisors.
- Logging and tracking customer calls or emails.
- Maintaining databases of client information for advisors.
- Recording and resolving customer complaints.
- Filing and organizing client paperwork.
- Managing advisors’ social media accounts.
- Helping with client requests, such as transferring funds.
- Notifying clients about new products or services.
- Ensuring that regulatory rules are being followed.
In a nutshell, a client service associate provides something akin to concierge service in that these individuals are focused on keeping clients happy and meeting their needs. This is an important function for two reasons.
First, it’s easier for financial advisors to retain their client base when their investors are satisfied with the level and quality of service they’re receiving. Happy clients are less likely to take their money elsewhere. And as a bonus, they may be more likely to recommend their financial advisor to friends and family.
Second, having a client service associate on board frees financial advisors to focus on things that are most important to the growth of their business. For example, by handing off administrative or clerical duties related to filing paperwork to a client service associate, the advisor has more time to nurture existing client relationships or focus on outreach to increase their client base. Those kinds of activities can be central to boosting an advisor or advisory firm’s bottom line.
What’s Required to Become a Client Service Associate?
Becoming a client service associate typically starts with earning a college degree, although there are some firms that will hire you with just a high school diploma. Whether an associate’s degree is sufficient or you need a bachelor’s degree may depend on the hiring practices of the firm you hope to work for. In terms of what area you should study, anything finance-related is typically going to be helpful.
Additionally, skills that are helpful to have in this role include:
- Time management skills
- Mathematical ability
- An understanding of investment concepts
- Basic tech skills (i.e. using email, working with spreadsheets)
- Ability to work independently with minimal supervision
One thing to pay attention to when researching jobs in this field is whether you’re required to be a registered client service associate. That involves obtaining professional certification through the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or FINRA. For example, you might need to hold a Series 6 or Series 7 license.
You may have to pass the Security Industry Essentials Exam (SIE) and meet additional registration requirements at the state level. It also doesn’t hurt to hold other certifications as well, such as a certified financial planner (CFP) designation. The more skills and experience you bring to the table, the better the odds might be of landing a job.
Career Path to Becoming a Client Service Associate
Generally, working for a bank or other financial institution that deals with securities is the next natural stepping stone, after education, for becoming a client service associate. For example, you might work as a customer support representative, which can help you fine-tune some of the communication and organizing skills you’ll need to be a client service associate.
You may need to get at least a year or two of experience working in the financial services industry under your belt to qualify for a client service associate position. There is no guaranteed career path that you must follow, but getting the right education and combining that with industry experience are the most important things you can do to set yourself up for that role.
Client Service Associate Salaries
If you’re at all interested in becoming a client service associate, a central concern may be just how much earning potential exists. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, financial clerks earned median pay of $39,570 in 2018, which breaks down to $19.02 per hour. The amount you could earn, however, may depend largely on how much experience you have and what type of company you work for.
Brokerage clerks, for instance, represent the highest earners with a median annual income of $51,400. That number doesn’t include the value of any benefits you might enjoy as an employee, which can include health, life and disability insurance, paid vacation time, paid sick leave, wellness benefits, retirement plan matching contributions or reimbursement for higher education expenses. All of those benefits can add value, on top of your base salary.
The Bottom Line
Client service associates play an important part in the financial advisory industry. These individuals can work in front of or behind the scenes to keep advisor-client relationships running smoothly. Like other financial services jobs, there are certain requirements you’ll need to meet to become a client service associate but it can be a financially and emotionally fulfilling role.
Tips for Picking an Advisor
- If you don’t yet have a financial advisor or you’re considering switching to a new advisory firm, SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
- As you compare advisors, remember to ask whether an advisor is a fiduciary. Being held to a fiduciary standard means advisors are obligated to act in their client’s best interests at all times.
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