5 Reasons Why You Should Move Your Practice to a Regional Broker-Dealer

By David E. Geschke
President & CEO, HilltopSecurities Independent Network
Senior Managing Director, HilltopSecurities Wealth Management

This article was originally published on AdvisorHub.com

Last fall, several national firms struck a blow to equitable advisor recruiting by exiting the Broker Protocol—a 13-year-old industry truce protecting member firms who recruit against one another from legal action (so long as they follow protocol guidelines).

Shortly after, the headlines of industry trade publications were flooded with stories of advisor moves and the injunctions, restraining orders and lawsuits that followed. Yet, more than a year has passed now and the torrent of headlines has trickled to murmurs while protocol and non-protocol firms continue to recruit against each another.

What did all the bluster solve? First of all, it’s given advisors looking to make the move from non-protocol to protocol firms a roadmap for how to do so with minimal disruption. It’s also caused many advisors to consider whether a national broker-dealer (or wirehouse) is the best home for their clients.

Moving Your Practice to a Regional
Let’s face it, transition packages, signing bonuses and other recruiting enticements, while nice, will only take you so far. And above all else, they take the focus off what’s most important: the financial well-being of your clients.

While wirehouses dip into their legal grab bag in hopes of retaining client assets, regionals are experiencing a recruiting renaissance. And it’s easy to see why. At a regional, you’re more than just a production number, and the trusted relationship you have with your client is both respected and valued.

If you’re working in your clients’ best interests, moving to a regional just makes sense—especially when you take into account all the industry infighting we’ve witnessed for the past year. But if you’re still not convinced, here are five reasons you should move your practice to a regional mid-size firm:

  1. Quality of life.
    Feeling like you’re part of a team—instead of just a production number—is an important part of keeping you and your clients happy. At larger national firms, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. Their entire business model is centered on growth, which results in continually pulling branch managers up to report numbers, push recruiting and enforce unsolicited policy changes rather than letting them do what they do best: developing the practices of their advisors. At a smaller regional, feeling connected with your immediate co-workers and the home-office team is what’s most important. It’s where true synergy resides—where you and your manager, your co-workers and the home office can collaborate on policies and strategies that enable you to better serve the client, not the corporation.
  2. Open communication and lack of silos.
    At the larger wirehouses, operating in silos means efficiency. With headcounts in the tens of thousands, there’s no other way to remain both attentive and efficient. Unfortunately, a siloed organization creates longer wait periods for trades, compliance/supervision reviews and the general day-in, day-out housekeeping. At a regional, silos aren’t a thing of the past because they never really existed there to begin with. An advisor can connect with executive management, call up their trader to ask a quick question and develop long lasting relationships with the home-office support teams who know their business inside and out. The absence of silos at mid-size regional firms improve the advisor-client relationship, rather than hinder it.
  3. Flexibility supporting your practice.
    At a regional, square pegs and round holes don’t exist when it comes to your business model. Chances are if you’re given an offer, you’ve gone through a thorough practice analysis and your prospective firm has decided your business model can be supported as is (or with limited tweaks). At a wirehouse, whatever model you have in place needs to fit their mold, severely disrupting your client relationships with ongoing paperwork and follow-up planning meetings. A firm that molds itself around your business model drastically decreases the transition time and limits any bumps in the road that can be felt from your clients’ point-of-view.
  4. Tried and true transition support.
    When it comes to advisor transitions, regionals generally fare better than wirehouses, and it’s not because of advisor turnover or a ramped-up recruiting effort. The lack of silos surely contributes to the ease of transition, but it’s mainly because regionals have the experience of recruiting against wirehouses/non-protocol firms and handling the legal intricacies of non-solicitations, non-competes and restrictive covenants—it’s the difference between exercising regularly and letting a muscle atrophy. The less time you spend dodging the road blocks designed by your firm to retain your clients’ assets is more time you can spend helping your clients in a real, meaningful way.
  5. Consistent compensation.
    The wheels of industry turn at larger nationals, where moving numbers around to eke out as much profit as possible is the status quo. Nowhere is this more evident than the regular recalculation of their compensation programs. While they shy away from changing up the grid itself, wirehouses push deferred compensation and growth awards as a work-around to limiting cash payouts. Conversely, regionals rarely if ever change their payout grids—and if they do, it’s not drastic enough to make you switch gears and rework your business practices in order to gain a higher payout rate for the next year. A consistent compensation model means there’s no guesswork on your end, and no guesswork means you can stay focused on serving your clients’ best interests.

Canary in a Coal Mine
Ever wonder about the origin of the term “canary in the coal mine?” Coal miners used to take caged canaries with them down into the mines as barometers for the presence of life-threatening gases, like carbon monoxide. The gases would kill the canaries first, giving the miners the signal to exit the tunnels as quickly as possible.

Your clients are more than canaries, but if they’re unhappy, it could be because of the mine and not the miner. Keeping your book of business—and your clients’ trust—at a firm that only concentrates on retaining assets inevitably leads to an unhappy advisor and even unhappier clients.

Regionals exist as an antidote to the big-box, one-size-fits-all model. If you’re looking into offering your clients the experience they deserve, consider HilltopSecurities. Here, we give you everything you need to do right by your clients. The rest follows.

Pacific Coast
Alan Lennick
Regional Director, Private Client Group
Senior Vice President, Practice Management
Gulf Coast
Steve Jones
Regional Director, Private Client Group
Senior Vice President

Hilltop Securities Inc. (HTS) is a registered broker-dealer and registered investment adviser that does not provide tax or legal advice. Additionally, Group and Individual Health Insurance products are not offered through HTS. Material presented herein is for informational use only and reflects the views of only the author. This information may not be duplicated or redistributed without prior consent of HTS, and distribution or publication of this material does not represent a solicitation to complete a financial transaction with the firm. Though information was prepared from sources believed reliable, HTS does not guarantee its accuracy or completeness. Securities offered by HTS (1) are not insured by the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) or by any other federal government agency; (2) are not bank deposits; (3) are not guaranteed by any bank or bank affiliate; and (4) may lose value. HTS is a wholly owned subsidiary of Hilltop Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: HTH) located at 1201 Elm Street, Suite 3500, Dallas, Texas 75270, 214.859.1800. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.