Interviewing an investment advisor

Every year millions of investors get poor advice. Some of them get fleeced at the hands of brokers who don’t have the training, the experience, the knowledge, or the incentives to give investors the help they need. Worse, most of these brokers have conflicts of interest with their clients.

The good news is that the fastest-growing segment of the financial services industry is made up of independent advisors, like Merriman, who avoid such conflicts of interest. Investors who are willing to do their homework and who know what to look for can find excellent advisors whose interests match those of their clients.

Most advisors will meet with you for a free initial session. You can be sure the advisor has identified clear objectives for such a meeting, and you should have your own objectives in mind as well. We personally believe that you need to understand your clients values and goals before you can make investment recommendations which is why we ask questions to learn about you in our first meeting, then we have a second meeting to talk about investing strategies. We know how important it is to customized investment plans to the individual needs of the client.

Often times knowing the right questions to ask can make all the difference when choosing your advisor, but it is sometimes hard to figure out what are those right questions? We asked our advisors to think of some questions they think a prospect should ask when interviewing someone in the finacnial industry, and here is a sample to get you started:

General company information

  • How long have you been in business?
  • How many clients do you have?
  • Who owns your company?
  • Please describe your ideal client.
  • How do you select your advisors? What qualifications do you look for?

Regulations, compliance and conflicts of interest

  • What agency regulates your company?
  • Do you have a compliance officer or department who ensures your firm is abiding by those regulations?
  • What does the word ‘fiduciary’ mean to your company and how does it affect the advice you will give me?
  • What does fee-only mean and are you a fee-only advisory firm?
  • Do you sell any products for which you earn a commission?
  • Is your firm paid by outside mutual fund companies to invest money in their funds?


  • What is your investment philosophy?
  • Why have you chosen to invest client money the way you do?
  • Do you have a research department who selects your model portfolios?
  • How will you determine my tolerance for risk?
  • How will you determine what investment strategy is right for me?


  • What is the scope of financial help I can expect to get from my advisor?
  • How often can I expect to meet with my advisor? What kinds of things will be covered at those meetings?
  • Who will help me if my advisor is on vacation?
  • Will the money be held in my name only and always be under my control?
  • How often will I be given a statement showing the return on my accounts?
  • Can I see my account balances online anytime?
  • How do you charge for your services?