How Well Do You Know Your Financial Advisor?

by Michael Waterhouse

First, let’s define the title of Financial Advisor. The title itself is often lumped into the Advisor category, which could be someone who specializes in taxes, mortgages, finances, real estate, law, etc. What makes a Financial Advisor different is that they have passed certain licensing examinations which allow them to provide financial advice as well as manage investments and portfolios. On the one hand, you may work with someone who strictly does investment management and another who offers insurance products. Some Financial Advisors do a combination of both, amongst other services. Do you know what your Financial Advisor specializes in? Do you know what professional licenses and designations they hold? Most importantly, are you aware of a history of client complaints, lawsuits, or criminal charges? If you are unsure of any of these questions, now would be a great time to look at your Financial Advisor’s FINRA BrokerCheck.

BrokerCheck is a web-based tool created by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) to provide full transparency to clients on all Registered Representatives. To clarify, Registered Representatives are different from Financial Advisors in that they mainly are limited to buying and selling securities, not providing financial advice nor managing investments. Financial Advisors are often Registered Representatives; too, however many Registered Representatives are not Financial Advisors. In just a few clicks, you’ll have a full detailed report of any Financial Advisor or Registered Representative. This report will help you make informed decisions about working with that financial professional. BrokerCheck tells you instantly whether a person is registered, as required by law, to sell investments or offer investment advice. The report will also give detailed employment history, regulatory actions, licensing information, lawsuits & client complaints. These are vital pieces of information when deciding who you are going to trust with your family’s, your business’s and/or your own personal assets. You want to ensure they are fully licensed to offer unbiased advice and have a limited number of client complaints.

Some red flags to watch out for:

  • Frequent Changes in Firms
  • History of Fines
  • Criminal Charges (DUI’s, Traffic Violations, Theft, Etc.)
  • Unable to Locate Your Advisor on the Site

Choosing the right financial professional is a huge decision. The intention is to work with a Financial Advisor up to and through retirement. A Financial Advisor who looks at your overall financial situation, provides an objective analysis, and works with you over time to create a concrete yet flexible plan will help put you on a path to success. Always make sure to do your due diligence to ensure they have your best interested in mind as well as sufficient knowledge and experience. If you are not comfortable with something you see on BrokerCheck, you are certainly entitled to ask your Financial Advisor for more information. So, let’s revisit the questions again: How well do you know your Financial Advisor?


Registered Representative and Financial Advisor of Park Avenue Securities LLC (PAS). OSJ: 1767 Sentry Parkway West Suite 200, Blue Bell, PA 19422 (267-468-0822). Securities products and advisory services offered through PAS, member FINRA, SIPC. Financial Representative of The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America® (Guardian), New York, NY. PAS is an indirect, wholly-owned subsidiary of Guardian.  Independence Planning Group is not an affiliate or subsidiary of PAS or Guardian.

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