Entrepreneurs Dave Dickinson and Delwin Holeman saw an unmet need in the marketplace: There are a lot of unhappy advisor-client relationships out there. So they decided to launch an advisor-firing business.
If that sounds like a sinister plot to the ears of advisors, think again. The beneficiaries of this business, in addition to disgruntled clients, are new advisors who are introduced to a prospect with both assets and a disposition to receiving financial advice.
Dickinson speaks with sympathy for the experience of an advisor, having spent decades managing a book of business. He started at Merrill Lynch for six years, followed by a stint with a regional firm, before a two-decade stretch in the RIA world.
Unhappy in the brokerage world’s “sales culture,” he found much more satisfaction as an RIA, and one of FireMyAdvisor’s principles is to only match fed-up investors with some kind of a fiduciary, be it an RIA or CFP.
But the unhappiness that may exist in a client relationship can go both ways, and there are many advisors who ignore or neglect some of their relationships as well. Perhaps they don’t click with the client or the client is unimportant economically.
Dickinson and Holeman initially thought: “Wouldn’t it be great to find a way to switch clients” between an advisor unhappy with his client and one that would be very happy with that same client?
Thus was born their contrarian approach to lead generation: Rather than seeking to attract clients interested in investment advice, FireMyAdvisor, which launched this week, is seeking to appeal to those investors with assets in hand who may not understand how they can divorce their advisor.
“If you were to poll investors, I’m taking a very educated guess that most people don’t know they can switch advisors by simply signing some paperwork,” Dickinson says. “They’re under the impression they need to talk with their financial advisor and have a confrontation.”
FireMyAdvisor’s plan is to attract investors to its site with an offer of a free guidebook on exiting a relationship they would rather not have, as well as an offer of help in finding a more suitable advisor.
The idea is to validate the feelings of these investors, essentially saying: “It’s okay to be in a bad relationship; it’s just bad to stay in bad relationship,” Dickinson says.
The duo — Dickinson is the one with experience as an advisor and is married to a compliance expert to boot, while Holeman produces advisor websites and has expertise in SEO and online marketing — is singling out women in particular for its dissatisfaction pitch.
“They’re one of the unhappiest groups; we have a bunch of studies that verify that,” Dickinson says, noting as an example of the experience of his wife, a native of Minnesota’s lake country.
“She loves to fish. But when we go into the local fishing store, they ask me if they can help me,” assuming he’s the one there to pick up fishing tackle. “That is also true for women with investment advisors,” infuriating many female clients, he says.
The FireMyAdvisor team thus expects its service will be of particular value to female advisors in cases where disgruntled investors state a preference for them.
Since it started Saturday, the team has so far sold 25 of its 300 territories. Noting the complaints of advisors who subscribe to other lead gen sites and have found when contacting a lead that some other subscriber got there first, the FireMyAdvisor founders grant subscribers exclusivity in their 1 million-person territories.
The cost for the service is $1,800 a year. At that rate, Dickinson figures that an advisor who gets a single client with $200,000 in assets and charges 1% will generate enough to cover the cost. “Anything above that [one client] is gravy,” he says.
The FireMyAdvisor founder expects the service will be worth much more than that, and will charge accordingly, after it is firmly established in the marketplace.
“Our goal is to double or triple our revenues” after the first year, Dickinson says, saying advisors shouldn’t expect the current low cost and easy access to a territory to remain.
“Advisors have to believe in the concept,” he says of pioneer subscribers.
“It’s different than other lead gen programs out there," he says. "It’s not just a listing. We’re going out there promoting ourselves trying to attract clients.”
Asked what would happen if an investor is seeking an advisor in a territory that is not yet claimed, Dickinson says they will try to match the investor with an advisor in a nearby territory, and if that does not work they’ll look for a suitable advisor nearby, passing on a first “freebie” client.
So far, there is some enthusiasm for the concept among the pioneer subscribers. Dickinson paraphrased one of them saying:
“You know, I think this will do all right in a normal market. But if the market goes bad, the FireMyAdvisor service is probably even more valuable.”
A good market “hides a lot of sins,” Dickinson says, suggesting that FireMyAdvisor is well positioned to capture the inevitable opportunity of money in motion in the next market crash.