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Why Advisors Put on the Career-Coach Hat

By Chris Latham May 14, 2014

When a client recently lost her job, advisor Lazetta Braxton assessed the severance package, then set aside the traditional script and asked her what she really wanted to do with her life. This sparked a back-and-forth that’s helping the client verbalize dreams she hadn’t shared even with her husband, and has prodded her to consider a major change from her corporate communications career.

“She had a panic attack, but by looking at all that, she calmed down,” says Braxton, who runs Financial Fountains in Baltimore, Md. Braxton works mainly on retainer and by hourly fees. “It may not be labeled like estate planning in the same formal structure, but career guidance can certainly be an integral part for a holistic planner.”

Although few firms make the effort, experts say career-coaching services can help advisors deepen relationships with their clients. Résumé writing, interview preparation, negotiation training, salary research and skills assessments are all in the mix. Would-be specialists can pursue certifications, and generalists can tap outside coaches — much as one calls in attorneys or accountants. At a minimum, a few well-timed questions when a client seems anxious about her career can prove helpful and serve to forge stronger advisor-client ties.

Advice firms that offer career coaching differentiate themselves from traditional competitors, according to advisor and coach Joni Lindquist of KHC Wealth Management in Overland Park, Kan.

Originally a client at KHC herself, she had been an executive at a large telecom company. Realizing she wanted to work at a smaller firm several years ago, Lindquist joined the firm, which now manages $270 million, and soon began helping its clients over career hurdles. In addition to being a financial planner, Lindquist is a Certified Career Management Coach, a designation accredited by the International Coach Federation, requiring 30 hours of training.

Joni Lindquist
Clients who come to KHC for career coaching often add financial-planning or investment-management services, and vice versa, Lindquist says. Guiding someone through difficult decisions about their job increases chances they will remain a client long-term, especially if such talks steer the client toward higher income down the line, she says. Lindquist charges either an hourly rate or a set fee for a minimum six-month career coaching program, separate from financial-planning fees.

“We’re not doing this to make money on the career side,” she says of the firm’s strategy. “We’re doing this to get stickier with the overall clients.”

Life Changes

Job loss and workplace disillusionment are but a couple of the pain points that prompt career discussions, says Bonnie Bell of Bell Investment Advisors, a firm in Oakland, Calif., that manages nearly $620 million. Many people need tips on how to advance at their company or in their profession. Clients near or in retirement may want to start second careers to stave off boredom or isolation, says Bell, who has 25 years of experience with coaching. She handles career and life-coach services while her husband, James Bell, oversees the firm’s investment managers and financial planners.

Being able to help clients identify the transferrable skills they need to tackle new careers has proved useful to Neal Van Zutphen of Intrinsic Wealth Counsel in Tempe, Ariz., which manages over $100 million. He recently helped a young engaged couple sort through career options and permutations to get them off, he believes, to a solid start together in life.

Even advisors with no desire to provide career advice should have a vested interest in those careers, according to consultant Jim Buro. The accountant and former advisor, who now coaches advisors on their communication skills, is based in Nutley, N.J. He says there’s ample evidence to suggest that career satisfaction is correlated with physical, social and financial well-being — and that motivated clients tend to accumulate more assets for retirement.

“A lot of advisors use as a throw-away question, ‘Do you foresee any changes in your career down the line that can impact your finances?’ But they rarely ask, ‘How satisfied are you in your career?’” Buro says. “It would be a fairly easy conversation for an advisor.”