In any business profession, establishing credibility and trust are important to attracting clients and building a reputation amongst colleagues. A key method to do so is through appropriate business attire. Traditionally, business attire for financial advisors meant wearing the typical suit and tie in all instances of client-facing activities. Because psychologically, a suit and tie has been recognized for many years as a symbol of trust and credibility. But as business interactions have evolved (virtual meetings, younger clientele, serving a particular niche, etc.), many advisors tend to feel overdressed wearing a suit and tie and may opt to wear more business-casual attire. However, business interactions have varied greatly in recent years, making it difficult to always understand when it is appropriate to dress more formally, especially for younger, newer advisors who have yet to establish a reputation.
In our 110th episode of Kitces & Carl, Michael Kitces and client communication expert Carl Richards discuss how appropriate business attire can build trust and credibility, understanding what appropriate attire looks like, and ways to determine when to wear certain attire.
Choosing the appropriate business attire begins with understanding the particular business setting. For some advisors, the type of clientele they serve may not be concerned about what the advisor wears, while others who work in large corporate settings or with clients who have expectations that their advisors will adhere to a certain dress code will be compelled to dress more formally. Many advisors, however, may not know what business situation to expect until they meet with their client (prospective or otherwise).
A good rule of thumb for advisors unsure about what to wear is to dress at the same level or 1 step above the client (i.e., if a client is wearing just a dress shirt, the advisor may do the same or may opt to wear a dress shirt – with a tie, for men – or even a full suit). And because it can be difficult to tell what the situation will call for, it is a good idea to always be prepared with full business attire. That way, the advisor can dress up or down without appearing unprepared or inappropriately dressed. Though this may be a sound approach for younger, newer advisors, more established advisors may opt to wear a full suit no matter the business situation and others may feel that anything more than a dress shirt is uncomfortable for them and their clients.
Ultimately, the key point is that even though the ways business is conducted in the financial services industry have evolved, dressing appropriately and building trust and credibility comes down to how comfortable and confident an advisor feels. There will always be advisors and clients who feel full business attire is the only acceptable form of dress, but advisors often have more flexibility when working with clients who feel comfortable with more casual dress. And if their attire helps them feel more confident and comfortable, they will be even more likely to attract the types of clients that are best suited for them!