Talk about trial by fire; Jeff Auld left Berthel Fisher Financial Services to head what was then AIG Financial Advisors in July 2008. We all know what happened roughly two months later, and any affiliation with AIG was an affiliation with the ills of capitalism itself.
Not that he really likes to talk about it, but manage through it he did, and he is now looking to the future of the rebranded and revitalized SagePoint Financial.
Q: You took over at AIG Financial Advisors and almost immediately entered crisis mode. What was the atmosphere like at the time?
A: I remember in June when I was preparing to meet [AIG Advisor Group CEO] Larry Roth to interview for this position. I told my wife AIG was the sixth largest company in the world. Two months later I had to tell her AIG needed only a mere $30 billion.
Q: What are you taking from the crisis?
A: Almost immediately I began weekly webcasts with advisors. I answered questions, addressed concerns and responded to rumors, because they were flying all over the place. In hindsight, the frequent communication with my customers got us through that as well as it did.
Q: With where you find yourself now as a company, what attributes are you looking for in an advisor?
A: On one hand, I have producer groups with multiple OSJs that do $8 million or $10 million in production. Our technology and our supervisory platform allow us the scale and payouts that attract large groups of producers. On the other hand, we’ll permit advisors with as little as $250,000 of production to have the choice to either become an OSJ or be a stand-alone satellite office supervised by our home office. Very few firms of our size give advisors that breadth of choice.
Q: How are you separating yourself on the technology front?
A: We’re piloting a product with our advisors to market their practices with social media. It gives the supervision department comfort that they can capture everything they need. In 2010, we rolled out a marketing library. It’s an electronic library with over 3,000 pre-approved marketing pieces and all are filed with FINRA. They are all customizable so when our advisor logs into our website we know who it is.
Q: How is your recruiting this year?
A: We’ve just finished a profitable year and we’re already ahead of our budget for 2011. We recruited almost $10 million in new production in 2010. And almost all of that came in the later half of the year. I’ve already had $3.5 million worth of new producers affiliate with us in the last four to six weeks.
Q: What do you attribute that to?
A: I think an awful lot of it is coming from referrals. I would say at least half of our new advisors are being referred to us by existing happy, satisfied customers. We’ve already had the letters of intent and advisors that have committed to joining us. They’re already scheduling the transition in the next 90 days, and we’ll cross out 2010 total at that time as a result.