7 Tips for Choosing the Right Wealth Management Partner
Finding the right Wealth Management partner firm is critical to the success of a financial advisor’s practice. While factors like back-office support and practice management are important, the final decision goes beyond a simple checklist of services. Advisors looking to grow their business and elevate their practice will want to dig deeper to ensure the firm they choose has the right team and resources to get them to the next level of success.
Whether you’ve outgrown your current firm or are seeking a better fit, the following are some tips to consider as you look for a new Wealth Management partner firm.
- Learn more about the firm’s culture. Advisors sometimes underestimate the impact that a Wealth Management firm’s culture and values may have on their success . . . and overall career satisfaction. As you think about your goals, do you think the firm has a corporate culture that will support the kind of business you are building? Take the time to learn more by visiting the home office and spending time talking to leaders and employees. Observe how employees interact with one another and how responsive they are to your requests or questions throughout the recruiting process. Ask to talk to advisors at the firm with similar practices to better understand the level of support and overall experience you can expect. It may be helpful to talk to advisors who have recently joined the firm, as well as some who have been there longer.
- Comfort with the firm’s ownership structure. As you consider a move, make sure you look at the potential benefits or pitfalls of the firm’s ownership structure. For example, some structures are more susceptible to being acquired which could dramatically change your situation if there is a switch in ownership. Other structures tend to be more bureaucratic and slow moving, which may not be suitable for an advisor seeking more autonomy and flexibility. In general, you want to ensure the firm has enough financial firepower to invest in the brand, technology and compliance capabilities to support advisor growth. These types of firms will also give you a better chance to negotiate a more lucrative deal for financial incentives prior to joining, such as a forgivable loan. While you want scale, you also want to consider how large of a firm you want to join to ensure you have access to senior management and the attention you deserve versus being viewed as a number with limited attention and input.
- Support for business models like yours, including preferred products and services. Does the firm you are considering support practices similar to your own? Can you access the types of products and services you need to serve your book? If you look around and find that your business model is unique to the firm, it may not be a good fit. At times, firms will analyze their advisors and eliminate those with business models that don’t fit. Also, make sure that the firm you are considering has flexibility to add a product you may need to service your clients if it’s not already available. Larger firms tend to have less flexibility in this area.
- Status with FINRA. Research your potential firm’s history and status with FINRA. Firms in good standing tend to have a FINRA audit every other year. If you see a firm being audited every year, there’s a good chance that there may be issues with the firm. Another indicator of potential problems is a number of advisors with the firm who have multiple marks against them with FINRA. Take the time to do your research to avoid a potentially problematic firm.
- Compensation structure. While some aspects of compensation are not negotiable, there are some areas you can negotiate with a potential firm, particularly if you have a goals-based advisory practice with a higher percentage of fee-based business. Spend the time researching differences across firms you are interested in and know your worth so you can effectively negotiate the best deal at your preferred firm.
- Support for your business today . . . and in the future. What type of resources does the firm offer for practice management? Does the team supporting these services have the experience and expertise to guide you as your business grows and the industry changes? Do they offer help with things like building a succession plan for your practice so you can assure clients that they will have continuity in advice and service even after you retire? You want to find a firm who will be your partner in growth and finding ways to manage your practice more efficiently.
- Technology Platform: The pandemic has greatly accelerated the use of digital applications by clients to manage and plan for their financial lives. Spend some time comparing the technology platforms for firms you are considering. How have they evolved their digital offering for both advisors and clients in the past year? Are they well positioned to build on capabilities in the future as advisor and client needs change? The best firms also provide training and support to help advisors and their clients adopt to new platforms to increase efficiency and enhance your face-to-face interactions with clients.
Finding the right fit when choosing a Wealth Management partner is important to ensure your ability to grow and succeed. Take the time to review and research the capabilities and issues important to you and your clients so you can be assured that you have picked the right partner to reach your long-term personal and business goals.
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