Investor Education

What Should I Look For?

When you have a list of potential investment advisors, you need to weigh the alternatives. Your decision will be more straightforward if you know the qualities you want in an investment advisor. Here’s a short list.


Your investment advisor has to know a lot about you—not just your financial information but also personal details that are relevant to working out a portfolio strategy. So you will want your investment advisor to be impeccably professional.

Regulatory standards in the financial services industry are strict. Advisors should comply with those regulations. They should also have in-house policies about confidentiality, security, and fiduciary responsibility toward clients, as well as a Code of Ethics.

Personal style is important. Is your advisor more concerned about selling products than understanding your goals? Do you know who in the firm would work directly with you? Can you communicate openly with that person?


There are several organizations that provide rigorous training and examinations for financial services professionals. You may want to look for advisors with recognized qualifications.

The prestigious Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification is hard to earn and involves passing three years of examinations in a curriculum covering economics, investment instruments, asset valuation, portfolio management, and ethics. It is the financial advising equivalent of the CPA for accountants.

The Chartered Investment Council (CIC) certifies that its members have passed examinations in economics, taxes, accounting, and money management, and have at least five years professional experience.

If your investment advisor has more than 25 million under management, he or she should be registered with the SEC, and otherwise with the state government. These are legal requirements for managing the investment portfolios of clients.


Investment advising is a difficult profession. Being successful as an investment advisor requires sound knowledge, an internal drive to keep educating oneself, high ethical standards, the ability to relate to other people, and patient appreciation of the investment world’s ups and downs.

All of these skills are honed through experience. Neither knowledge nor people skills can compensate for lack of experience.

Does your potential investment advisor have the experience needed to do the job well, in difficult market conditions as well as in good times?