May 23, 2013

Angie Herbers: The 2013 IA 25 Extended Profile

Founder, Angie Herbers Inc.

Consulting, research are two sides to AHi’s coin Consulting, research are two sides to AHi’s coin

This is Angie Herbers’ second appearance on the IA 25. Read her profile from the 2007 IA 25 here. Click here to view the complete list and Special Report schedule for extended profiles for each of the 2013 IA 25 honorees.

Angie Herbers has been working with financial advisors for over a decade and has been writing for Investment Advisor magazine for almost as long. As the founder of Angie Herbers Inc., and a graduate of Kansas State University’s CFP registered program, her firm has worked with practices of all stripes: startups, solo practices, breakaway brokers, ensemble firms and giants, with revenues all the way up to $15 million.

“They all deal with same fundamental problem: growing a scalable business with profitable clients while attracting the next generation to take over the firm,” Herbers told Investment Advisor by email.

The company is more than just a consulting firm, though. “To the industry, Angie Herbers Inc. (AHi) is known as a consulting company,” Herbers said. “What most people don’t know is that we have a research division in our company that has sat quietly behind the scenes for all these years.”

Until recently, that research was done solely for AHi clients, but Herbers said that over the next two years, custodians and broker-dealers will have access to “all our research, solutions and systems through simple tools we have developed to help advisory firms implement the solutions.”

She added, “In the next two years, the industry will see AHi transition into a practice management educational institution with 100% access to our 12 years of research in the advisory industry.”

When she started the firm, Herbers said, she envisioned a research firm that provided consultative work to a select group of firms. She didn’t anticipate how long it would take to build the research side of the company. “We have built a great consulting business,” she said. “However, what I didn’t realize was how long it would take for our research team to produce answers and build a true research company. It has taken 12 grueling years for us to discover and statistically prove the solutions our research uncovered.”

As a result of that long test period, AHi has found solutions for “many of the major practice management issues in the advisory industry,” including how to make the middle market profitable, develop clear career tracks, structure fees, build internal succession strategies, create new organizational structures and innovative client service models, and attract and retain the next generation of advisors.

One of advisors’ big challenges for the short-term is also one of their greatest opportunities, according to Herbers. “Advisory firms across the nation are in a huge growth stage,” she said. “I have no doubt that any firm who wants to grow will be able to add new clients and grow to their desired goal.” The challenge, though, will be keeping people who can serve all those new clients.

“I have been talking about a coming talent shortage in the industry for years,” Herbers said. “Now, we are at a serious crisis stage of the talent shortage. In order for any advisory firm to keep their growth momentum, they absolutely have to be able to attract talent to serve the clients they add.”

Herbers stressed that firms can’t find talent fast enough to keep up with their own growth and pointed to that deficiency as the reason for recent—and continued—consolidation in the industry.  “Consolidation, however, doesn’t solve the issue,” she said. “It simply puts a Band-Aid on it.” To actually solve the talent issue, firms must “focus first on building human capital systems and programs to attract the next generation, train them and keep them.” Doing so will make those firms the “employers of choice for every person aspiring to be a financial advisor. Those companies will be the leading companies in this industry in the future because they will be able to hire, train and keep talent at the same rate as they can grow.”

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