The conventional view in the financial services industry is that financial advisors must be extraverted to be successful so that they can find and develop a steady stream of new clients to work with. Prospective advisors who weren’t highly extraverted were often cautioned away – or outright avoided in the hiring process – and over time, an increasingly high volume of extraverts came to dominate the field.
Yet in our recent research study on the Financial Planning Process, a detailed look at the personality traits of 1,000+ financial advisors – using the “Big Five” framework of extraversion, conscientiousness, openness, agreeableness, and neuroticism – finds that in reality, extraversion is not the biggest predictor of success and staying power amongst financial advisors! Instead, while the majority of financial advisors are extraverted (and more so than the general population) the biggest traits that defined the longest-standing and highest-income financial advisors were being highly conscientious and very agreeable (but not necessarily extraverted!)!
In addition, the results of our research suggest that one of the biggest “deal-breaker” traits for success as a financial advisor is that they must have very low neuroticism (i.e., especially high emotional calm). In other words, not only do financial advisors often describe one of their key value propositions as helping clients to stay the course in times of difficulty and market volatility, but the most successful financial planners appear to be uniquely suited to do so with an unusually high level of emotional calm and low neuroticism as one of their natural personality traits!
Of course, the reality is that statistics describing a large swath of the population are still not necessarily definitive of the success or failure of any one individual. Yet nonetheless, it turns out there really is a “typical” profile of a financial planner, who is far more than just being extraverted… successful financial planners are also extremely conscientious, highly agreeable, and especially good at remaining calm during emotional times. Which suggests that perhaps it’s time to take a fresh look at how we identify and hire financial planners into the industry in the first place?