5 Tips to Calm Clients About Broker Bonuses

Sharing news about signing bonuses gives advisors the chance to engage clients, not alienate them, says one recruiter

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is pushing for a rule that would require brokers to disclose recruitment incentives and compensation of $100,000 or more.

The proposal, which is set to go before the Securities and Exchange Commission, has been discussed by the industry for some time. Like other experts, Houston-based recruiter Rick Peterson says the push for disclosure of recruiting deals is “nothing new.”

“Brokers have left in the past,” he said, in an interview with ThinkAdvisor. Some brokers who take over their books of business may “call the clients to say ‘Your broker left for a check from another firm.’ This has been going on for years!”

Disclosure of recruiting deals isn’t and shouldn’t be a problem for financial advisors, the recruiter says. And he offers the following advice on turning the potentially uncomfortable situation into an opportunity.

1. Discuss such issues openly whenever they are questioned by clients.

“Even if a client doesn’t bring it up, advisors should mention it,” said Peterson. This builds trust.

2. Turn questions into dialogue.

Advisors should disclose that they did get a financial incentive to make a move and then ask, “Do you have any concerns with that?”

3. Acknowledge client concerns and broaden the discussion.

Say things like, “You are right, yes. I got a financial boost to move to Firm B. But you know, I was offered a lot more to move to Firm C and even more money to go do Firm D …

“But, I chose Firm B. It’s not about money it’s about what’s right for you and me. As I’ve said to you before, I’ve been miserable due to technology, feelings of hostility at Firm A, etc. The product push with Firm A isn’t good for you or for me. I’ve fought it, and it’s been very intense lately.

“Though I was offered some financial incentives to stay at Firm A, I’ve turned it down to join Firm B, which I believe is the right thing to do for you and for me.

“Again, the point is, it’s not about the upfront money. It’s about what’s best for our interests in the long term.”

4. Look into the future.

“Focus on what clients care about,” Peterson stressed, “such as the quality of the research, the portfolio recommendations, etc., and emphasize that these are likely going to change with the move – and probably for the better.”

5. Deflate other concerns.

If clients ask why disclosure has become important to regulators, like FINRA, advisors can explain that it seems to be “much ado about nothing.”

“I’ve advised clients for years to be prepared for these questions. FINRA thinks this will get everyone off our case … and the major brokers all say they agree, hoping they won’t lose brokers. But brokers are still going to leave the major firms,” he explained.

It’s true that, in some cases, when an advisor departs, remaining reps may say bad things about them (often in the hopes of winning over clients), including critical remarks about how the rep went “for the money.”

However, such a scenario only works against a departing rep if his or her client relationships were doing badly already.

“Yes, if the advisor didn’t have good client relationships, this could be a nail in the coffin,” Peterson said.

Meanwhile, the recruiter cautions broker-dealers to watch out for advisors who are highly concerned about disclosing their signing deals with their clients. It could be a red flag.

“Maybe [the advisor] has no client control, and maybe this is not a good move,” he noted.

-- Want to learn more about how you can use social media to grow your business? We invite you to a free ThinkAdvisor webcast on Oct. 1 featuring social media experts Amy McIlwain, Clara Shih and Hardeep Walia.

Check out FINRA Broker Bonus Plan Would Be ‘Nonevent’ for Many Reps: Henschen on ThinkAdvisor.

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