The best advisors in the world already know the secret to real success: It’s all about the client. They are absolutely passionate about their missions to provide best-in-class service, and consider themselves the best at their specialties. They also know they can’t be everything to every client, so they build teams of individuals, many with diverse backgrounds and perspectives, who share their passion and their vision. In fact, besides seeking opportunities in the market, their greatest challenge is finding the right individuals who share their passion.
Gone are the days of the one broker, one sales assistant structure when serving the affluent. Today’s most successful teams include specialists that range from relationship managers and trust professionals to bond traders and gerontologists.
Also gone are hiring practices based on trial and error, bringing in warm bodies and hoping they work out. The best teams — the ones that make it into The Winner’s Circle — spend months, and sometimes years, doing their own due diligence on prospective team members, looking for something that a Series 7 exam can’t measure: attitude and passion. Most of our team leaders rate these two qualities above direct experience.
In fact, in our survey of top teams, character, values and especially attitude and passion ranked far higher than any specialized knowledge. The reasoning: Anyone can learn a trade, but developing the right character and attitude can take a lifetime.
Another consistent hiring theme among top teams is finding the right personality fit. No matter how strong the structure you have in place, one wrong person could tear it apart. If the new person isn’t a good fit, they could demoralize the entire team, leading to a cultural demise that would lead to a lack of productivity and lower client satisfaction.
How do these Winner’s Circle advisors avoid potential catastrophes? One way is by taking their time. Merrill Lynch’s Cenname Team in Columbus, Ohio, doesn’t hire anyone unless one or more of the partners has known that person for at least two years. George Schietinger, in Credit Suisse Private Banking’s New York City office, says that he’ll hire an outstanding individual now, and then find the right position later.
“Outstanding advisors are absolutely passionate about serving their clients with the highest levels of service and advice,” says Peter Jones, president of Franklin Templeton Distributors. “And they’re committed to surrounding themselves with teams that share this passion.”
In July, Franklin Templeton hosted our celebratory event honoring this year’s Winner’s Circle inductees at the Woodfield Country Club in Boca Raton, Fla. Much more than just a pat on the back, the event brought together a dynamic group of teams and individuals, each anxious to share their ideas on how to better serve and advise clients.
[NOTE: A list of Top Teams appears at the end of this article.]
Private Asset Management
Robert W. Baird & Co.
Recently, a family sold its business and invested the proceeds in a complex of trusts and foundations. When performance and service lagged, they turned to the Private Asset Management (PAM) team at Baird. The team’s research analysts engineered a lower-cost, tax-efficient portfolio with better performance. Working with outside tax and legal experts PAM assisted the family in revamping planning structures, so the project would keep on moving and the client, team and outside advisors would be kept informed.
“That account’s problems went far beyond performance,” says Michael Klein. “We addressed each one creatively: eliminating costs, improving performance and lowering fees to bring value to the bottom line. That kind of value can’t be shown in a pie chart.”
A Multi-Disciplinary Team
This Winner’s Circle team, led by Mike Klein, Jerry Gerndt, Phil Dallman, James Schultz and Kristin Lindblom, credits its success to three distinguishing characteristics: an unbiased approach, value-added services and diverse specializations. Specialization and depth of expertise are hallmarks of this multi-disciplinary team whose members possess MBA, CFA, JD and CPA degrees and designations in addition to an average industry experience of over 15 years per team member.
“Our clients are sophisticated and they require expertise far beyond pie charts and reports,” Klein, a former engineer, says. “They expect solutions that provide value, in dollars, along with personal service.”
Dedicated sub-teams for service, operations and research provide the depth and diversity needed to serve the team’s client base: ultra-high-net-worth families and corporations. Each business segment is supervised by one of the partners. Klein works closely with the PAM research team in addition to overseeing business operations and overall management. Dallman, a 20-year veteran of the industry who joined PAM in 2004, focuses on business development.
Lindblom leads the team’s analysts whose independent, unbiased research selects and monitors investment managers for client portfolios. Schultz, with over 20 years of experience, manages clients’ fixed-income portfolios for cash-flow concerns and alternative minimum tax (AMT) control.
Gerndt oversees service and operations, including coordinated planning with individual clients’ other advisors for general taxes, AMT minimization, estate and business succession issues. Corporate clients also benefit from the team’s cash-flow-focused pension modeling, which integrates both allocation and regulatory requirements.
Even compensation is engineered around the client. Everyone is on salary, and everyone shares in the year-end bonus pool based on how well the team meets client objectives.
“We make client service everyone’s concern,” says Gerndt. “That spurs extra effort and creative thinking by the whole team.”
The Corey Group
Ask any successful partnership to describe their relationships and one word tends to come to mind: marriage. Partners since 1992 and married since 1984, Lee Corey and Dail Turner are no exception. But while they share the many interests and values that make a successful marriage, there’s one characteristic that adds to their business success: diversity.