Ken Wren Jr. began his career in 1994 when he joined his father as an advisor at Scott & Stringfellow. The two, along with four other team members, joined TowneBank in 2004 where they co-founded the bank's investment group. The team has grown to about $900 million in AUM and about $5 million in annual production.

In my 19 years in the industry, I’ve seen young advisors repeating some of the same mistakes. Here are three career tips to help young advisors stay on track.

Being a Financial Advisor Is a Sales Job: You Are not an Analyst

You need to “sell yourself” as a trusted source of advice. Analysts spend their time researching stocks, bonds or mutual funds in order to make a recommendation. You need to rely on them and other available resources to handle that type of analysis for fund selection or individual stock and bond selection. An advisor’s time is better spent talking with clients or being face-to-face with clients building relationships. Leverage your time to grow your business, not your recommended list.

Don’t try to be everything to everyone

It is easy for a young advisor to want to take on every possible client no matter what the demands. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to a client or prospective client. That might simply mean that you won’t buy that penny stock that their neighbor recommended; it might mean standing firm on your fee; or it might mean telling your client that you don’t know the answer. If you are not comfortable with a subject or don’t have knowledge on a subject or product, then say so. Faking it is pretty obvious. Tell a client or prospect “no” especially when it means that you may not get paid and you will build credibility when you do have confidence in a recommendation.

Develop passion or niche.

The most successful advisors demonstrate passion to their clients or have some type of niche expertise. If you have passion in your advice or your portfolio management techniques it will be obvious to your clients. If, for example, you believe firmly in fee for advice and are extremely knowledgeable about ETFs then explain with strong conviction why your management style is the right fit and the client will accept you and your passion. Advisors with a niche have a strong position and a competitive advantage. Niches take time to develop but can define an entire career. If you have become an expert on point-and-figure charting within technical analysis and use it to guide your decisions, you will set yourself apart from your peers. While it may seem that a niche may limit the clients that you can work with, it in fact will mean much less competition for their business. The combination of passion and a niche is very tough to beat. 

Ken Wren Jr. is the president of Towne Investment Group, a division of TowneBank. (Raymond James is the TPM.) He is ranked 13th in BIC’s most recent Top Program Managers.