In a one-and-a-half page memo to Commonwealth Financial Network’s advisors sent in January, new CEO Wayne Bloom mentions the word “indispensable” or “indispensability” five times.
“It’s the buzzword here,” the 44-year-old Bloom says unapologetically. “If our advisors didn’t have to be legally connected to the firm, we want to make Commonwealth so good they would choose to do so anyway. Our team’s energy is completely focused on a single objective: being an indispensable resource.”
In late January, Commonwealth founder and chairman Joe Deitch announced that Bloom would succeed him as CEO. The news took many outsiders by surprise. Deitch, something of an icon in the independent channel, has been the voice of Commonwealth Financial for 30 years — closely associated with its every move. But Bloom had been Deitch’s heir apparent for five years, the key to the firm’s carefully calibrated succession plan.
Commenting on his top pick’s transition, Deitch noted: “[It's] been about as perfect as anyone could have hoped for…. That said, I absolutely want Wayne to feel pressure to champion this noble cause and to continue to excel. Businesses just don’t run themselves and as human beings we’re always open to making mistakes. Just take a look at our economy today and you’ll see a long list of mistakes. Call it greed, call it stupidity or whatever you prefer, but they’re all human and we can never ever take our success or our future for granted.”
Among Bloom’s chief initiatives: strengthening Commonwealth’s indispensability to its 1,200 advisors.
Bloom joined Commonwealth 20 years ago, serving most recently as managing principal of wealth management — a function he will continue to oversee. He is one of 11 partners, who run the firm collaboratively.
Groomed for his new role by Deitch and President Peter Wheeler, Bloom says: “It’s important to maintain the consistency of our culture. Joe has set really high leadership standards. Certainly, our focus is the same although our styles may be different. He’s strategic, always thinking ahead, while I’m more tactical, more involved in the day-to-day running of the business. Actually, it’s more complementary than it is being different. We run this place as a team — and we’ll continue to run it that way.”
Calling Bloom “the ideal candidate,” Deitch noted: “Like me and the rest of our partners, Wayne is fanatical about quality and community. That’s the foundation of Commonwealth, and remember, we don’t just see it as our business — it’s our home and it’s also home to thousands of people in the home office and in the field who depend on us day in and day out. Philosophy aside, Wayne also has the strength of conviction, personal energy, management expertise and industry experience to oversee the people and the systems that make Commonwealth run.”
After Deitch, who remains as chairman, announced the executive change, nothing appeared obviously different. Bloom sits at the same desk. He continues to answer his own phone. He didn’t have an administrative assistant before he became CEO and he doesn’t have one now.
But Bloom did make one change, just about instantaneously. He is formalizing Commonwealth’s business planning process, something that’s been traditionally handled in a more informal way by the firm’s various departments.
“I’ve always been a little bit more formal,” says Bloom, an alumnus of Harvard Business School’s owner/president management program. “I subscribe to a formal business planning method of management. That’s not to say we can’t be nimble. All the partners have had their own form of doing it. Now, we’re weaving everything together and using similar formats and timelines.”
It’s a process Bloom says will help eliminate redundancy while heightening consistency and operational efficiencies. As an example, Commonwealth recently reorganized its marketing program for advisors. Previously, marketing was handled by three different departments. Now, the effort has been collapsed into a single department, which Bloom says gives advisors a much-needed one-stop shop.
Bloom has served many roles at Commonwealth over the years — in investment analysis, trading, recruiting and information technology. Among his larger accomplishments, he founded the firm’s fee-based asset management infrastructure and helped pioneer its wealth management initiative.
Commonwealth first got into fees in 1992 with a third-party program, then launched its own in 1996. The first year the internal program did $25 million, the next $300 million. Since 1997, the majority of the firm’s revenues have been derived from its fee-based accounts.
Along the way, Bloom has kept a small book — in part to keep in touch with what advisors are going through.
“I worry about how our advisors are doing and the pressures they’re under. I want to try to make sure, especially in my new role, that the whole staff is very cognizant of this,” noted Bloom about the challenges advisors face in today’s troubled economic climate. “Our guys are in a real battle. Every advisor I talk to, I want to remind: We remain by your side. From every nook and cranny of this firm, we must continue to deliver indispensability. And when the tide turns, our advisors will be as well positioned as they can to take advantage of the opportunities to come.”
Note: Photo by Tsar Fredorsky/Getty images