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IvyJane
03-12-2013, 02:28 AM
I'm looking for "day in the life" stuff for someone working at a Private Wealth Management firm (the kind that works with individuals, not large entities).

My main character is in an entry-level administrative position at a small (<20 people) private wealth management firm. I have a basic understanding of what they do there (putting together an investment plan for clients who want to maximize their assets/preserve them for their heirs) but I don't really know what the typical day-to-day office stuff would look like. I've perused PWM firms' websites and skimmed an old edition of "wealth management," but I have a lot of gaps in my knowledge.

Specifically, I'm wondering:

1. How is the typical office organized? Are there physical (paper) files for each client, and are the files stored centrally or with whoever is working on them at the time? Or is most of the information in computer files? If so, would the computer files be networked and accessible by everyone?

2. Who works with the client? Are there "teams" (e.g., managing director + associate + analyst or something) or is it mostly one person working with a client? Do admin people tend to work with specific associates/partners/etc. or do all the work for everyone?

3. What kind of responsibilities would a fairly new (entry-level) administrative person have? What would her typical day look like?

4. What do meetings with the clients look like? For example, for the preliminary interview with a potential client, is it just a relatively senior person meeting with that client? Are admins ever present at meetings with clients (and if so, what do they do?)

5. What are the hours like? Does this depend on the specific firm, or is there a tendency toward light or heavy hours?

Thanks in advance!

King Neptune
03-12-2013, 04:13 AM
There are different types of organizatioon that do the sorts of theings that might be called "wealth management". Those vary from individual financial planners, who might also sell insurance or investments to private banks that operate rather like a small bank without the counter/cages. Most people in those fields work whatever hours they have to, but clerical personnel would usually work normal business hours.

cbenoi1
03-12-2013, 04:22 AM
1. How is the typical office organized? Are there physical (paper) files for each client, and are the files stored centrally or with whoever is working on them at the time? Or is most of the information in computer files? If so, would the computer files be networked and accessible by everyone?
The customer assignment is done on a wealth basis. The owner will deal with the wealthiest customers with associates dealing with the lesser fortunate. Account management papers (opening/closing/transferring) are kept in a secure location. Most if not all financial dealing are done electronically. This is called the 'back office' and the better organizations are part of a much larger financial institution that do the actual transactions and account management. This 'back office' also comprises a link to financial analysis reports. Customers choose financial planners based on their experience and strength of their 'back office'.

Everyone has access to customer files, but not everyone can make transactions.


2. Who works with the client? Are there "teams" (e.g., managing director + associate + analyst or something) or is it mostly one person working with a client? Do admin people tend to work with specific associates/partners/etc. or do all the work for everyone?

A financial planner deals with the customer. In rare exceptions (ex: a customer asking for money transfer or send an account printout for the taxes purposes) would a lower-level employee perform this duty.

An admin would almost never deal with a client directly except for: scheduling meetings, conference invitations, newsletter distribution, etc.


3. What kind of responsibilities would a fairly new (entry-level) administrative person have? What would her typical day look like?
There are a lot of paper coming in and out of the mail that needs immediate attention. Keeping the mail straight is essential.

The financial world is active and financial planners travel a lot to meet with portfolio managers, financial analysts and economists. Dealing with plane and hotel bookings, and keeping abreast of upcoming conferences is another important task.

Preparing forms for financial planners is also a recurrent task. Opening / closing accounts means a series of papers that need be filled ahead of a customer meeting. Financial planning is rules by tons of legislation, meaning Ts need be crossed and Is dotted all the time. Admins would be the first to see a legally binding document and be the last to see it before it's filed. Form preparation and verification is key.

4. What do meetings with the clients look like? For example, for the preliminary interview with a potential client, is it just a relatively senior person meeting with that client? Are admins ever present at meetings with clients (and if so, what do they do?)

Customer meetings are always on-on-one. Meetings are meant to update the customer on the market situation, explain the customer's portfolio situation in light of current economic trends (that's why a strong back-office is essential), gather expected cash flow needs, and expose the proposed portfolio adjustments. Admins will bring in the coffee and collations, pickup whatever the financial planner has printed (laser color printers are typically centralized).

5. What are the hours like? Does this depend on the specific firm, or is there a tendency toward light or heavy hours?

It's a 9-5 job for admins. It's a different matter for financial planners.

-cb

IvyJane
03-12-2013, 08:20 PM
Thanks so much for the great responses! I really do want to keep my character in a fairly low-level position (since I don't know much about this field), but I also want to avoid making obvious mistakes about office life/procedures. This is definitely helpful.

CWatts
03-13-2013, 02:11 AM
I'll go ahead and delurk here as I was an admin (sales assistant) at a brokerage for about ten years. Granted working at a retail brokerage (most of the time it was the investment/wealth management area of a bank - which incidentally has nothing to do with investment banking) is a bit different from what you seem to be portraying.

I was handling many more client calls - customers needing to move money, etc., and also screening calls for the brokers (financial advisors). I supported usually 3 or 4 advisors and had to juggle their competing needs. I was also licensed (Series 7/66) so I was able to place buy and sell orders for clients when they knew which stock or mutual fund they wanted to trade - these were "unsolicited" trades which the admin staff could handle as long as we were licensed. Only the advisors were allowed to solicit trades - telling the clients which investments they should buy or sell.

There were revenue sharing agreements with some of the advisors, so I could get a percentage of their commissions (1 to 2% is typical). This would usually be paid out as a quarterly bonus because of the fee structure for most of the accounts.

Depending on the staffing level and corporate culture of your character's firm, this can be a hugely stressful and demanding job. Customers can be unreasonable and rude, as they can in any business, and as you are often dealing with older men of a certain background they can be particularly condescending to young women. The gender ratio in the office tends to be rather Mad Men-esque, with at least 80% of the advisors being male and almost all of the support staff female (the office was also 80-90% white but that may vary based on location). There are some male assistants but usually they are still in their 20s and working as an "apprentice broker" so to speak, whereas it is not unusual for women to work as assistants for decades though their experience usually means they work for the higher-producing brokers and are making a decent living despite it technically being an "entry-level" job.

I hope I'm not coming across as too negative. I enjoyed my time in the business and still work in the industry (more of the back office now), but I lived through the HELL that was the 2008-9 meltdown, plus a difficult merger around the same time. I assume your story takes place in ~2013 but these still-recent experiences would have scarred a lot of people in the business as well as their clients so it will still have some impact on your characters.

IvyJane
03-15-2013, 04:03 PM
Thanks so much for the details, CWatts!

I found this especially interesting:


There are some male assistants but usually they are still in their 20s and working as an "apprentice broker" so to speak, whereas it is not unusual for women to work as assistants for decades though their experience usually means they work for the higher-producing brokers and are making a decent living despite it technically being an "entry-level" job.

I definitely wondered about that. When I perusing websites - especially smaller, "boutique" firm websites - a lot of them claimed to encourage promotion from within (e.g., "We encourage all of our [junior position] people to work toward their CFP designations..." etc.). But I've definitely worked in offices (thought NOT in this industry) where many of the admin staff are female and 45 - 55 years old, and they've obviously had that same job for years. (On the flip side, I didn't see a lot of men in positions like that.)

Don't worry about being/sounding negative - the more negativity the better! Negativity is fodder for conflict, so I love it!

cbenoi1
03-15-2013, 10:26 PM
- a lot of them claimed to encourage promotion from within (e.g., "We encourage all of our [junior position] people to work toward their CFP designations..." etc.). But I've definitely worked in offices (thought NOT in this industry) where many of the admin staff are female and 45 - 55 years old, and they've obviously had that same job for years. (On the flip side, I didn't see a lot of men in positions like that.)

There's admin and admin. I'm talking about the secretarial work type (the title is a diminutive from 'administrative assistant', which evolved from 'secretary' a long time ago). CWatts is talking about those hired as junior brokers. And yes, they are in their 20s, working like crazy to get their trading licenses and titles, and some are even working on their CFA, and at least in Canada they need to have a bachelor's degree. Those tend to be the more career-oriented ones. The secretarial types tend to stick at the same position for a long time.

-cb