Tennessee Williams wrote the famed line for tragic character Blanche DuBois in his play, “A Streetcar Named Desire.” But veteran executive recruiter Mark Elzweig says the dialogue happens to apply — happily –to him too.
Blanche: “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”
Elzweig: “Well, so have I! I’m a referrals guy!”
Indeed, his boutique search firm, in New York’s midtown Manhattan, has been serving high-end advisors and financial services companies for more than 20 years.
When he launched Mark Elzweig Company back in 1985, a $500,000 producer was a big producer; and brokers moved jobs “in a fashion that now seems flippant: ‘I don’t like my manager — I’m out of here!’ That’s long gone,” the laid-back Elzweig says.
As a resource for advisors mulling a change and for firms seeking top FAs, Elzweig, 56, is highly respected for his painstaking matchmaking results. Networking nationally with advisors and brokerages, he boasts numerous, long-established relationships — and is always at the ready to form fruitful new ones. His other line of business is conducting searches on retainer for asset management companies.
“Mark is very disciplined and methodical in trying to find the best match for the advisor and the firm. It really says something that he’s been in this business, with all its changes, for so long and is still at the top of his game,” says David Tufts, senior managing director with Oppenheimer & Co., in New York City. With 110 advisors on Park Avenue reporting to him, Tufts has been hiring Elzweig-introduced FAs for the past 20-plus years.
Native New Yorker Elzweig started out as a social worker in Brooklyn. Far cry from exec recruiting? Not really.
“In some ways, I’m still a social worker,” he says. “I’m helping people make good career decisions. As an advisor, you have a variety of options. Each one has pluses and minuses.
“To be good at recruiting,” he continues, “as in social work, you need to be a good listener and get to know the advisors and companies thoroughly.”
Recent sweeping industry layoffs triggered by turmoil in credit markets have in fact significantly increased demand for high-end advisors, according to Elzweig, who keeps in touch with FAs via his Elzweig Report newsletter, which pegs retail brokerage trends.
“There’s been a big upsurge in activity. A lot of people aren’t happy with the experience they’re having at wirehouses. Also,” he adds, “when you’re looking at a difficult market ahead, the prospect of being able to lock in a deal based on your trailing 12 commissions is particularly attractive.”
Today’s ideal advisor candidate? Firms are mainly looking for high-level FAs with lots of assets under management and who typically have a ratio of commissions to assets of 1.5 or less, says Elzweig. For example, if managing $100 million in assets, then gross commissions should be above $1 million.
“If you don’t have sufficient assets versus the commissions and fees you’re generating, you may be a compliance risk; or your over-traded clients may not be making money,” he notes.