I run a broker-dealer, but I used to be a producer. Finding and acquiring great clients is often a difficult, cumbersome journey. That’s why it can be especially frustrating when, after traveling that long road, an advisor runs into a problem with the broker-dealer near the end of the transaction. Consider this hypothetical conversation between an advisor, Pat, and a staff person at the broker-dealer:
“I’m sorry, Pat, but we’ve got a problem,” says the person on the phone halfway across the country.
“WHAT?!,” Pat politely asks, now concerned that the “problem” could unravel a huge sale that promises to turn a lackluster year into a highly profitable one.
“Compliance says we have to use a different form,” the person replies with aggravating calm. “Can you go back to your client and ask him/her to sign the other form?”
But Pat can’t, at least not until the client returns from an around-the-world cruise. The delay will prevent Pat from meeting the sales goal, attending the national convention and qualifying for an end-of-year bonus. In short, this snafu could cost Pat a lot of money.
But Pat didn’t get where he is by adopting a “stuff happens” attitude at crunch time. Pat is the kind of person who makes stuff happen. He casts about for an idea–something to prevent this calamity.
Let’s pause here and consider next steps. There are various approaches to resolving these situations and they usually start with questions for the broker-dealer person:
–”Do you know how much money I’ve made for your company?”
–”Why didn’t you tell me this sooner?”
–”Oh no! What am I going to do? You’ve got to help me!”
–”How can we solve this problem?”
There are more versions of the above, but they tend to fall into the same categories: (a) the power wielder; (b) the blamer; (c) the desperate pleader; and (d) the last-minute collaborator. Which category should advisors be in to make the broker-dealer want to bend over backward for them? (Warning: This is a trick question.)
Did you select D? Yes, D is a better choice than the others. But the choice your broker-dealer likes best is none of the above. Ideally, advisors bring their broker-dealers into the process earlier, meaning panic-inducing events are avoided entirely.
Right, you may say to yourself. In a perfect world, we all do everything right and on time. But the world isn’t perfect and sometimes…well, stuff does happen.
You know what? We know that. And it’s OK. Because even though the expression, “I’m from the broker-dealer and I’m here to help” may cause you to raise a skeptical eyebrow, it’s true.
The broker-dealer’s and advisor’s interests overlap almost completely. If the advisor wants a, b, c, d and e, the broker-dealer wants b, c, d, e and f. The areas where their interests diverge are tiny. That’s why advisors tend to get great service from the broker-dealer no matter how they treat the staff.
But you’re in the “none of the above” category; let’s call it the “ideal advisor.” Your broker-dealer not only will keep you from hanging yourself but will also steer you clear of the scaffold. Why? Because the broker-dealer–like you–is all about servicing the client.
The people who work for me are smart, dedicated and professional. They’ll cough up a lung to get the job done. In an unscientific survey, a handful of them talked about working with advisors under different conditions. They said they love their job the most when they help an advisor through a difficult situation and are thanked for it. Examples:
–”An advisor called me at home early one Saturday morning to rejoice in selling her first fee-based financial plan. She changed the way she did business and now she’s a rising star. That’s the best thanks I’ll ever get.”
–”I love my job when I get through a difficult situation and receive recognition from the advisor whom we made it through. A simple thank you means a lot.”
–”The most rewarding times of the job are when I am viewed as being part of the team.”
–”When I can help produce a desired outcome for an advisor, I’m thrilled!”
Here’s what they say about working with advisors who behave unprofessionally:
–”I try to concentrate on the situation instead of any negative feelings.”
–”When an advisor begins an interaction antagonistically, I find it really difficult to refocus on common objectives.”
–”Advisors have a very difficult, stressful job. With that said, it’s also true that no advisor is entitled to chronic unprofessionalism. Dealing with difficult advisors takes a special blend of compassion and confidence.”
–”Yelling and foul language immediately put me on the defensive.”
How good a job can people do for you if their stomach is in a knot and they’re focusing on not getting angry instead of focusing on your problem?
Personal sentiment aside, there are practical reasons for cultivating good working relationships with your broker-dealer. As we all are acutely aware, the regulatory pendulum has swung to the strict end of its arc. Thanks to a handful of high-profile situations, as an industry, we are now under the microscope.
Consequently, even the most scrupulously honest and competent practitioner can get into trouble. More than anyone, your broker-dealer is focused on helping you successfully navigate these turbulent regulatory waters and avoid costly fines or suspensions.
Additionally, your broker-dealer can enhance your success with clients. You can’t be an expert on every financial product. Let us help you find the perfect, customized solution for every circumstance. Your clients will be impressed by the breadth and depth of your expertise.
In the box on page 14 are some tips my staff put together for advisors who want to derive maximum benefit from their relationships with broker-dealers. It’s our gift to all of you hard-working professionals who are striving for success in a complex industry, love their jobs and want only the best for their clients. Good luck!