If a college student asked you what they should study to prepare for a career as a financial advisor, you’d probably say economics or finance. But would you recommend communication science and rhetoric?
Cammie Sorensen would.
A 2005 graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Sorensen said her bachelor’s degree in communication science and rhetoric equipped her to effectively communicate with clients and understand them on a deeper level.
“My degree has been immensely helpful in my career,” Sorensen said. “One of my biggest takeaways from my studies is to always consider your audience. Where are they coming from? What context do they have for the discussion? Are they familiar with the terminology that’s being used? What is important to them about this conversation?”
After graduation, Sorensen went to work for Legacy Advisor Network in Madison, Wisconsin, the firm led by her father, David. Today, the 36-year-old Sorensen is senior vice president and focuses her efforts on working with women. As a woman, she said she has an advantage over male advisors when speaking with clients and prospects from this specific demographic.
“My practice is unique partially because I’m a woman,” she said. “The way I interact with people and process information is just different. I’m organized and work incredibly hard to follow through on every commitment I make to clients. I listen for the questions they’re not directly asking and do my best to focus on what is meaningful to them.”
Age is rarely an obstacle for Sorensen when developing strong client relationships. She credits her parents for her ability to communicate confidently, even with people decades older than she.
“I’ve always chosen to believe my age isn’t a factor,” she said. “As a child, I was trained to speak intelligently with adults. There may be people who won’t work with me because I’m young, but they probably aren’t a great fit for me anyway. I’m licensed, trained and have been mentored by my dad, who has more than 40 years of experience as a planner. I will outwork anyone. My age is not a factor.”
To make a positive impression with older clients, it’s important for young advisors to make up for their lack of life experience with strong industry knowledge and organizational skills, Sorensen said.
A woman who recently moved her accounts to Sorensen’s practice shared candidly that she and her husband chose the firm because their previous advisor was disorganized and lacked the commitment to keep his promises.
“They wanted to work with an advisor they could believe when that advisor said she’d contact them for their next review or when she said she would mail the forms and show them just where to sign. And she’d spell their names right – every time,” Sorensen said.
Sorensen cited another recent client meeting, where, after the lead advisor left, the client said she was glad Sorensen had been there because she knew Sorensen could help clarify the next steps in the plan.
“I’d taken the time to answer the question I knew she was asking, even though she hadn’t known just how to phrase it,” Sorensen said.
It’s interactions like those that have proven to be the most rewarding aspect of being an advisor, and Sorensen said she considers it an honor to be included in clients’ conversations about family and causes that are meaningful to them.
So if a career as an advisor can offer so many rewards, why aren’t millennials considering it as an option? Sorensen blames the financial industry for adhering to out-of-date business practices that fail to engage the generation of young professionals graduating from college today and make it difficult for them to build a practice.
“Until the financial planning industry sheds its white-haired, only-on-paper, only-in-person reputation, millennials will continue to choose other career paths over ours,” she said.
That said, she has simple advice for any millennial looking to start a career as an advisor: Do it.
“Getting to know people in this way is so rewarding, and the work we do matters,” Sorensen said. “As advisors, we have the freedom to choose who we work with and how we do our work. And what an opportunity we have. We have access to so many wonderful people who’ve gone before us to teach how it’s best done.”