In my work with advisory practices, I get to see all the myriad things that custodians and broker/dealers do to “help” their advisors manage and market their firms more successfully. Often, my exposure is the context of helping advisors decipher some data dump of information intended to be “useful,” understand how a conference speaker’s comments might be translated into constructive actions, or apply some bit of generic advice to fit the specifics of an individual practice.
These days, however, I’m also aware of how these strategic partners are cutting back on the help they provide independent advisors.
E-mailings come less often, programs are being cut back or eliminated altogether, conferences have been scaled back or canceled, staffers who work with advisors have been laid off, and the overall quality of practice management content has fallen dramatically.
Now, I know that broker/dealers and custodians are narrow-margin businesses: it doesn’t take much of a falloff in revenues to hit the bottom line hard. And of course, they are in business to make money. Yet most of these companies have for many years touted their primary goal as helping their advisor/clients succeed in their businesses. So to cut back or eliminate practice management support now, when their advisors need help the most, seems to me, at the very least, sending the wrong message.
I’m not unsympathetic to the challenges that B/Ds and custodians are facing these days. Which is why I’d like to humbly suggest an alternative strategy that would be more of win/win. When it comes to practice management help, the clich?’ is true: less really is more. Firms that service advisors need to stop trying to be all things to all advisors, and covering their lack of understanding of what advisors really need with mountains of whatever information they can dig up on topics from technology to transitions in grandiose, expensive programs.
Instead, provide concise, useful, user-friendly information about exactly what advisors need to do now, compiled by a small group of folks who truly understand the challenges that advisors are facing: falling revenues, nervous and unhappy clients, increased workload, managing overhead, physical and emotional burnout, and often more new clients than they and their overworked staffs can handle. That would be a lot cheaper, and actually help the advisors upon whose success B/Ds and custodians depend.