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Common wealth management interview questions and how to answer them

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Typically speaking, brokerage firms that are recruiting entry-level financial advisers aren’t looking for people who can provide the next great stock tip. They want salespeople who can tap their personal networks and handle rejection on a daily basis. Those skills are the minimum price of entry.

As such, the interview will likely include very few specific questions about the market and how it operates. Much of that knowledge is gained through training. Rather, most questions will center on your networking ability and sales acumen.

We talked to two current financial advisers at large wirehouses who started at the very bottom and worked their way up. They’ve been on both sides of the interview desk. Below are the types of behavioral questions they’ve asked and been asked, along with some tips on how to answer them.

Tell me about your background

On the surface, it appears to be a softball question. Really, it’s a cue to detail how your background fits a business development role. “Push anything to do with sales, entrepreneurialism and your competitive spirit,” said one veteran adviser. “Even talking about college athletics and your desire to compete” is looked upon favorably, he said. Extenuate examples of your communication skills and fearlessness when it comes to selling.

What motivates you?

Another common question asked in any sales interview. “Money is a perfectly acceptable answer,” said the other adviser. “People who aren’t hyper-motivated by money and success tend to fare poorly in wealth management, especially early on when you need to build your book the hard way.” More clichéd yet still acceptable answers include wanting to work with people and a general interest in the market.

Tell me about your network?

Perhaps the most important question for firms that hire rookie advisers, although it’s probably phrased more subtly. Recruiters will often inquire about your “natural markets” – people you know and places that you go where money is prevalent. An adviser we talked to last year said his previous firm asked him to come back in with a list of 200 people who he knew who he could call on tomorrow with the potential of setting up a meeting.

For an entry-level wealth management position – not to be confused with a private banking role, which is more strategic – candidates who have family and friends with money have the upper hand. An unfair yet accurate statement.

Why here and not another firm?

Why Morgan Stanley over UBS? Why a big wirehouse over a small brokerage firm? These questions give you the opportunity to show you’ve done research on the firm, its competitors and the team in general. “Good answers would mention the company’s training program and the opportunity to work with and learn under a specific team of brokers,” said one of the advisers.

For smaller firms, you can mention company culture.

If you could have lunch with three people, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

A question one of the advisers asks applicants. “The answers don’t matter; it’s just a test of their ability to think on their feet.” The exact question will likely be different, but something that will draw out a similar finding is a distinct possibility.

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