Are you seeking a career as an independent financial professional or as a traditional career representative? This is a question that many experienced financial professionals face today. But is it really a matter of either/or? As insurance companies and independent firms try to retain talent in today’s competitive marketplace, ample opportunity exists for you to find what type of organization best meets your needs.

Touch decisions

You would think it would be easy to pick a path, but in reality the choice requires making some tough decisions. The choice, and confusion, comes when considering the level of service and amount of independence you desire, and how to pick the best affiliation model and business partner to work with. Don’t listen to the standard hype that says insurance-affiliated broker-dealers are too proprietary-focused or that independent broker-dealers don’t offer enough support.

The decision should be about what’s best for you. Look around and kick some tires before deciding which business partner will best support your business for the long run.

To find out more about what financial representatives are actually looking for from a business partner, we surveyed a cross section of experienced reps, from many types of business models. Not surprisingly, the majority of reps we surveyed, all currently working and successful, preferred a mix of support provided by a traditional career firm and the type provided by an independent broker-dealer.

So, there isn’t a “right” or “wrong” answer about what business model is best. But I do have some thoughts about major components to consider in your quest to determine what the right fit is for you.

Ownership of the business

How important is it to you to own your book of business? Does your broker-dealer offer equity succession programs? Arrangements on this vary, as do preferences. As with many of the components, the more independent, the more you will own. But, also, the more responsibility you will have.

National platform of resources

What resources does your broker-dealer provide? Does your organization provide resources leveraged nationally that as an individual business owner you would have trouble gaining on your own? These resources include things as diverse as furniture and equipment leasing, sharing of best practices, access to specialists, cross-selling opportunities, transition support and access to marketing.

Access to products

Do you prefer to work for a firm that allows access primarily to proprietary products or would you prefer an open product platform, with access to a variety of products from a wide range of firms. Each is valid, but it is important to remember that whichever model you choose, your offerings must be disclosed properly and be transparent to the client.

Benefits

How important is it to have access to health and welfare benefits, such as group health insurance or a retirement plan? How far-reaching are these benefits? Are they available to staff employees, administrative assistants or others that support your practice?

Scale, stability and reputation

Does your broker-dealer have scale, stability and a name that clients perceive as financially strong and trustworthy? In this economy, these variables may be more valuable than ever before.

A lot of decisions, yes. The good news is that it’s getting a little easier. There is a lot of consolidation occurring in the marketplace and some insurance/financial services companies are evolving to develop a more sustainable business model and meet the unique needs of today’s financial professional.

They’ve recognized that the one-size-fits-all method that worked so well in years past is no longer financially viable or relevant to today’s financial representative. But the difficult decision remains with you to determine what business model and business partner is best for you.

This is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make in your career. If you can help it, you only want to do it once. The most important thing is to take time, become familiar with the different models and decide where your business would thrive. In today’s world, advisors don’t have to settle.

And for those insurance/financial services companies ready to adapt and grow their business, this should come as welcome news.