As the lending environment in the U.S. economy continues to rebound, the number of financial advisors has increased. Currently, a fairly robust market exists for financial advisors, and in negotiating loans or other transactions, lenders may be seeing more borrowers working with them.
The advisor’s key role is to serve as matchmaker, pairing borrowers and lenders. But not all advisors are equal, and it is important for borrowers to properly evaluate the past experience and professional network of advisors before putting a deal in their hands. Working with a bad financial advisor can be worse than working alone and can waste both the borrower’s and lender’s time.
Alternatively, a good advisor can facilitate better deals for borrowers. Lenders often have more potential borrowers to review than time. From their point of view, a good financial advisor can make the difference between a prompt review of a borrower’s package or putting it in a pile where it can sit for months.
From my experience, here are a few guidelines for evaluating and working successfully with financial advisors:
Look for knowledge, experience and industry contacts. Generalists lack specialized industry knowledge – borrowers should choose a financial advisor who is knowledgeable in their industry and able to grow with the borrower, no matter the geography. A good financial advisor must have relationships with multiple lenders, knowing which deals those lenders look for and are best equipped to handle, and which lenders — both firms and individuals — are the best match for a particular deal. For lenders, finding a well-networked, experienced advisor can mean an early look at potential deals and can cut through the high volume of submissions.
A good financial advisor must have a track record of success with a range of debt and equity placements. First impressions matter. When borrowers consider a financial advisor, they should ask to see books or packages that the advisor has placed for similar, successful transactions. Release agreements may be necessary for client confidentiality issues.
Most importantly, financial advisors should work hand-in-hand with the borrower to develop an organized and compelling package, including a summary that clearly describes the request with detailed financials and other essential information. Lenders will want to see: 1) a clear plan for how the borrower would use the funds; 2) how the transaction would benefit the borrower’s financial performance; and 3) goals and expected outcomes from the transaction.
A good financial advisor also will counsel the borrower to be up-front and to disclose all relevant information. Leaving out negative information can lead to delays and wasted resources, and full disclosure allows the borrower to explain setbacks in the financial record.
Do not neglect due diligence. Borrowers should do their homework on a financial advisor’s past work and industry relationships. Ask them for a list of references and speak with several, asking what worked and what did not, and whether they would recommend working with the advisor.
Third-party or other industry resources may provide additional recommendations for evaluating financial advisors. For example, the nonprofit National Investment Center for Seniors Housing and Care (NIC) is a valuable source of research and data for owners, operators, developers and capital providers active in the seniors housing and care sector.
It’s essential that borrowers not confuse financial advisor salesmanship for competence. Working with a mismatched financial advisor can leave borrowers with unfavorable deal terms, or even worse, leave their financing request stuck in negotiations or in a pile of competing proposals. However, an experienced, savvy financial advisor can speed up the transaction process and lead to a better result for both borrowers and lenders.
Imran Javaid is a Managing Director, Commercial and Specialty Finance, Capital One Bank.