Financial Advisors

Helping Advisors Grow by Focusing on Learning vs. Training

Rapid industry change and rising competitive threats are forcing advisors into new ways of thinking and operating.

Success in our new industry can only be achieved by advisors who incorporate next-generation skills like digital, behavioral and tech-enabled, and develop a mindset and mental agility that help them compete and thrive in today’s business environment of accelerating change. But the need for a rapid transition from older, established, habitual patterns of operating to this new world of professional agility and deeper client engagement has shown that there are vital distinctions between “training” and “learning” that need to be applied to financial services business development efforts.

Training generally refers to the offering of information in a manner that instructs the trainee and teaches them about a specific process or procedure. It is normally job-specific and about achieving a very focused and definable objective. There also tends to be a negative connotation by some established advisors who bristle at the concept of needing “training.”

Learning, on the other hand, is about absorbing information to increase new capabilities and developing the mental agility to apply them in new situation. It needs to become a constant ongoing thinking process that is directly intertwined with our “new normal” business environment. Accordingly, learning helps the learner deal with a broader range of situations while also assisting them to develop more holistically as entrepreneurs versus business owners.

The recent June 2021 Virtual Mastermind Collegium by Clarity2Prosperity was an excellent example of engaging advisors into learning vs. traditional training efforts. As a financial professional development, coaching, and IP development organization led by financial advisors, coaches, mentors and financial services business leaders, Clarity2Prosperity is committed to strategically simplifying financial planning into an understandable, engaging and holistic process, and helping advisors break through to their next level of success.

I asked Jason L. Smith, CEO and founder of C2P about being a “learning company” versus a training organization, and what that means in how they execute their business development services for advisor clients:

Smith: “The difference between training and learning is in specializing in how the adult mind works. The use of the word training can be overused and diluted. Other industries do a much better job. In our industry we get a guy on a podium that talks for a few hours to a couple of days and we call it training. It’s drinking out of a firehose. Advisors say they are going to go back and implement, but then they get busy and have to put out fires. The transfer of knowledge never really happened.”

“Some people can listen and learn, but most people learn by doing. We reinforce it through multiple modalities of learning: e-learning, experiential, mentoring, coaching, edutainment, and reviewing real life examples. We teach them how to fish, instead of fishing for them or handing them a rigid, unthinking process. They are learning how to take tools and concepts and how to apply them. We also teach advisors how to help their clients be better learners. They are learning how to help their clients learn.”


To see this mindset in play at the Collegium, advisors were provided with an engaging learning experience by designing the Mastermind Collegium into a virtual, international spy-themed format. Advisors were set out on a mission of traveling across the globe. They had to complete assignments and gather clues that were strewn through the different presenter sessions. There was also a sales pitch competition that converted sponsor sales idea presentations into a real-time competition where advisors could vote for best ideas for growing their business and a virtual roulette prize wheel with chances at winning prizes. Lastly, there was a virtual happy hour with a bartender demonstrating how to master the shaken, not stirred, martini. 

Many of the sessions provided peer-to-peer coaching where advisors openly discussed the largest obstacles they face and offered which strategies and resources were working best in the field with prospects and clients right now. There were plenty of opportunities to share ideas, collaborate and learn new skills along the way that helped attendees reach a new level of understanding of the benefits of holistic financial planning.

The overall structural design for the Collegium, especially in having advisors stay connected to leverage their collective knowledge and practical expertise with each other and learning from one another, was the key to the success of the event. This level of engagement fosters and instills the creation of a learning network and culture, giving advisors the support and resources that they need to develop and expand their perspectives. Advisors are more likely to see “the big picture” when you are in the midst of an orchestrated learning culture.

Many large companies across all industries have already shifted their focus away from training to learning and nurturing a vibrant ongoing learning culture. The goal with this approach is often to develop individuals in a much more rounded way and to give them skills to deal with a much wider range of situations, including ones that are not predictable.


A few highlights from the Mastermind Collegium included:

The Man with the Golden Promise: Become a Legendary Leader and Discover Your Signature Moves - Jason Hewlett, Jason Hewlett Entertainment

Jason provided an excellent example of the effectiveness of “edutainment” in delivering his keynote speech “The Promise.” Teaching leadership through a performance of uncanny musical and comedy impressions bringing legends of stage, music and comedy to life to help advisors discover their very own “signature moves,” he was able to incorporate proven processes and immediately implementable takeaways to transform their business and leadership skills. Each virtual attendee received a copy of his book "The Promise to The One.”

Dinosaurs are Forever: Can a Dinosaur Hunt Virtually? - Karl Wolf, Atlantic Asset Advisors

Karl, not originally a tech savvy advisor, outlined how a global pandemic did not stop his efforts of working with and engaging his clients. He shared how he learned to transform his business in the past year and went from fear to success in today's virtual environment.

Quantum of Valor: Winning More AUM with an Active/Passive Selection – Tim Clairmont, Clear Financial Partners & Dave Alison, C2P Enterprises

Tim and Dave shared the wording and tools they use to gather assets under management with clients and prospects using both active and passive approaches. 

From St. Louis with Love: Keys to Multiplying Your Success - Don Chamberlin, The Chamberlin Group

Don shared five keys that led to extraordinary growth in his practice focusing on quality hires, quality clients and quality service, and how that can lead other advisors in the same direction.

Goldreferral: NPS Survey Referral Process - Bryan Bibbo, The JL Smith Group and Matt Seitz, C2P Enterprises

Bryan and Matt walked everyone through an innovative survey process that can build a referral pipeline by getting clients to self-identify if they would like to refer you!

A View to a Killer Plan: The Visual Retirement Method - Reno Frazzitta, Smart Money Financial Advisors       

Reno discussed how you need to lay out the mission as you begin a client engagement. He shared how drawing on a whiteboard to visually lay out the client’s needs and goals can help potential clients understand holistic financial planning and its importance in securing their financial future.


The 2021 Clarity2Prosperity Mastermind Collegium put together a broad range of engaging sessions and advisors who shared financial approaches, engagement strategies, and a level of advice that offered ways to help differentiate an advisor’s positioning into a holistic, family-focused, financial planning specialist. This value proposition can attract prospects and retain clients with confidence that they are in good hands with an understandable and integrated financial plan for their future and legacy. The C2P Collegium viscerally engaged and demonstrated the effectiveness of being a learning company towards that pursuit.

The Institute for Innovation Development is an educational and business development catalyst for growth-oriented financial advisors and financial services firms determined to lead their businesses in an operating environment of accelerating business and cultural change. We position our members with the necessary ongoing innovation resources and best practices to drive and facilitate their next-generation growth, differentiation, and unique client/community engagement strategies. The institute was launched with the support and foresight of our founding sponsors - Ultimus Fund Solutions, NASDAQ, Pershing, Fidelity, Voya Financial, and Charter Financial Publishing (publisher of Financial Advisor and Private Wealth magazines).

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

Bill Hortz

Bill Hortz is an independent business consultant and Founder/Dean of the Institute for Innovation Development- a financial services business innovation platform and network. With over 30 years of experience in the financial services industry including expertise in sales/marketing/branding of asset management firms, as well as, creatively restructuring and developing internal/external sales and strategic account departments for 5 major financial firms, including OppenheimerFunds, Neuberger&Berman and Templeton Funds Distributors. His wide ranging experiences have led Bill to a strong belief, passion and advocation for strategic thinking, innovation creation and strategic account management as the nexus of business skills needed to address a business environment challenged by an accelerating rate of change.

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