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Dress for Success: What to Wear in 2017 to Impress Your Clients

Jeremi Karnell
Jan 27, 2017
As a financial professional, you work with clients from all walks of life and many different financial situations. From the new client who is busy saving for retirement to the multimillionaires trying to make their retirement funds last a lifetime to everything in between, you serve the needs of clients all across the financial spectrum.

No matter what their net worth or where they come from, every one of your financial planning clients has one important thing in common. From the worker with a moderate income to the CEO in the corner office, every one of your clients looks to you for advice and guidance.

That means your clients must put their trust in you. They must rely on you to put their best interests first, and to bring their training, education, and expertise to bear in everything they do.

That training, education, and experience are obviously important, but there are other, far more subtle, factors at play. One of those factors is how you, and the brokers, financial advisors and wealth managers who work for you, dress each day. The right wardrobe can have a profound impact on the respect your clients have for you and your firm and for the level of professionalism with which they view your business and your brand.

As 2017 gets underway, it is time to take a look at how what you wear can impact your financial planning or wealth management firm going forward. No matter how expensive your wardrobe or what designers you and your staff members wear, the clothes you take to the office should serve many important purposes.

Your office attire is a direct reflection of you and your abilities, so the pieces you choose should project the notion that you are capable, and that you have the skills you need to solve problems and provide exceptional advice for your clients. At the same time, the clothing you choose should be relatable to your clients, and appropriate for their needs and expectations.

What that means on a practical level is that you do not necessarily need a closet filled with $3,000 Italian designer suits to make a powerful impression on your clients. As the owner of the practice, you need to assess the nature of your clientele and how the wardrobe you choose could impact their perception of you and your firm.

If your practice consists of mainly blue-collar working clients, Italian designer suits may be unnecessary, or even counterproductive. If your client base consists of wealthier individuals and C-class professionals, top-quality designer suits may be a vital business expense.

No matter what the nature of your clientele or your financial advisory firm, the men and women who work for you should always dress professionally. Casual office attire may have its place, but that place is not the modern financial planning and wealth management industry. Whether they are serving as individual financial advisors, independent brokers or professional wealth managers, the people who work for you must project success and competence, and that starts with what they wear.

It does not matter how your clients dress, or how casually they view the relationship with your advisors. The men and women who work for your firm must maintain a professional image at all times. And that means formal dress. Even if the client is wearing a T-shirt and blue jeans, his or her broker should be outfitted in a quality business suit.

It is important to maintain a fine line between dressing up and overdressing. While the clothes make the man (or woman), overdressing can project a slick appearance and the attitude to go with it. Overdressing can be just as dangerous as underdressing, and it should be avoided at all costs.

So how can male brokers and advisors walk that fine line and dress appropriately for the office? By investing in a basic wardrobe of quality components, including at least one summer and winter weight suit, a variety of dress shirts in both subdued shades and plain white and several pairs of stylish dress pants.

The shoes can make or break any outfit, and that means footwear is a vital consideration. Far from being an unnecessary indulgence, a top quality pair of Prada, A. Testoni or Ferragamo shoes can be an investment in future success. Top it all off with a variety of understated woven and silk ties, and you have a winning wardrobe for your male advisors.

Female advisors have a bit more flexibility in how they dress, but the basic concept is much the same. Skirts and business suits should project an air of understated elegance, and the length should always be appropriate for professional office wear.

As with their male counterparts in the industry, female brokers, advisors and wealth managers should strive for quality, even if that means fewer pieces in their wardrobes. Women in the financial industry can always add new pieces to their closets as finances allow, but starting with a basic set of pieces is essential.

That means investing in a variety of top quality designer dresses and business suits, along with the best blouses they can afford. Female advisors should not rely on their business suits to cover up their inferior blouses. No matter what else they wear, their blouses must be able to stand on their own.

It goes without saying that all elements of their wardrobe, from their business suits and dresses to their blouses, should be understated and appropriate for the professional office. Short sleeves are fine for hot days, but no sleeveless blouses and nothing too revealing.

Quality shoes are just as important for female brokers and advisors, perhaps even more so. Cost can be a factor here since the average woman owns far more pairs of shoes than her male counterparts. Even so, the shoes she chooses should be of the highest possible quality, and they should always be freshly polished.

Both male and female advisors can start with off-the-rack garments to save on cost, but custom tailoring is always a smart investment. Whether the suit cost $300 or $3,000, it will always fit better and look more professional after a round with the local tailor.

Dressing for success in the financial services industry is not easy, or cheap, but it is important. Your clients can afford to dress down and go casual. They are, after all, the ones paying the bills. You, on the other hand, must always dress your best, and so must your brokers, advisors and anyone else who works for, and represents, your firm.

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