If you oversee an insurance or financial planning firm that expects its advisors to be one-man shows, managing everything from prospecting to client care, then it’s time to revisit the business model. Reorganizing the advisors into teams, wherein job functions are divvied up based on the advisors’ skills and interests, will produce far superior results.
Patrick Ungashick, a chartered financial consultant and executive vice president of White Horse Advisors, Atlanta, Ga., delivered that message at GAMA International’s LAMP 2008 conference, held here earlier this month. Titled “Building High-Performance Advisor Teams,” the presentation served as a case study of best practices applied by Ungashick’s firm and detailed in the GAMA Foundation’s latest research.
“Clients increasingly need expertise that no one individual can credibly provide,” said Ungashick. “To ask advisors to do everything ignores the reality that individuals have strengths and weaknesses. When we ask advisors to be great prospectors, marketers, empathizers, planners, technicians and service providers, we’re asking them to do the impossible. They may become good at all of the above, but, almost certainly, they will become great at none.”
Expecting advisors to be a jack-of-all-trades reduces productivity and job satisfaction, he added. To the extent they devote their efforts to tasks in which they’re lacking (or don’t like), advisors deny themselves of time to focus on work at which they excel. Also, as they add new clients to their Rolodexes, advisors find it more difficult to service existing clients.
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There is, too, a compliance issue. When multiple advisors carry out the same tasks, such as periodic reviews of IRA accounts, but each does so in his or her own way, then compliance systems have to be set up to accommodate the different methods, said Ungashick.
The various drawbacks of requiring advisors to go solo in all facets of their practices speaks to the value of creating multi-functional teams, with each team member performing one or two tasks in which the individual excels. White Horse Advisors, says Ungashick, endeavored to transform its own division of labor 3 years ago, modeling its efforts on best practices that the GAMA Foundation incorporated this year into its new Systems for Success research report, “Building High-Performance Advisor Teams.”
A chief focus of the initiative: determining where advisors’ proficiencies lay and pairing them with individuals holding complementary skills. Said Ungashick: “The next time you have a one-on-one meeting with an advisor, ask two questions: ‘What do you want to do more of on a daily basis? And what do you want to do less of on a daily basis.’
In executing the makeover, he added, Whitehorse had to address other questions that are major topics of the GAMA report. Among them: how to launch, manage and maintain the advisor teams; how to track team performance; and what roles to assign to field leaders overseeing the teams.