Close Close
Popular Financial Topics Discover relevant content from across the suite of ALM legal publications From the Industry More content from ThinkAdvisor and select sponsors Investment Advisor Issue Gallery Read digital editions of Investment Advisor Magazine Tax Facts Get clear, current, and reliable answers to pressing tax questions
Luminaries Awards

Life Health > Annuities

Stop Promising to Split Commissions

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.

As promised in last week’s blog, we’re spending the month of April looking at the top four mistakes advisors make in their efforts to work with CPAs and other professionals. Last week, we looked in detail at the mistake that most advisors make when offering to cross-refer clients to CPAs.

This week, we’re going to discuss the second biggest mistake advisors make, which is offering to split commissions with CPAs. At first glance, you may be tempted to think, “What’s wrong with offering to split commissions? What’s more valuable than that?” While it’s true that extra income is attractive to everyone on some level, it’s important to understand that offering to split commissions can hurt you more than it helps. 

Here are three areas you need to address in this scenario:

  • You sound like every other advisor.
  • You’re setting yourself up for being replaced by another advisor.
  • How this is perceived by CPAs in their role as fiduciary.

You Sound Like Every Other Advisor

As I pointed out last week, it’s critical when approaching CPAs and other professionals that you find a way to bring value to the relationship in a way that differentiates you from all the other advisors competing to work with their clients.

By offering to split commissions with CPAs, you are immediately categorized in their minds as being just like “all the other advisors” that are only concerned about what’s in it for them. The irony is that while you don’t want to split commissions, you feel this is probably the most valuable thing you have to offer. But the CPA interprets your offer completely differently. The key is spending time to “get inside the mind” of CPAs before approaching them and creating a value proposition that brings value to them by their definition.

So as not to repeat everything we talked about last week, let me sum up this point with this piece of advice. Never start off a relationship with a CPA by discussing what percentage of commission you’re willing to split. If this comes up in the future, so be it, but always let the CPA be the one to bring it up first.

You May Be Setting Yourself Up For Replacement

Expanding on the thoughts shared above of never being the one to bring up splitting commissions, there is another reason that I would recommend you not go down this road. If, as an advisor, the only value you can bring to the relationship is commission, what’s to stop the CPA from dropping you as soon as another advisor comes along offering to split a higher percentage? You see, when dollars are all you have to offer, you’re replaceable. In addition, the CPAs that respond positively to the concept of commission splits are probably the ones that once you get them licensed and they learn how it all works, they will drop you in an attempt to become the advisor themselves. So either way, there’s more risk than reward in my opinion when you get into commission splits.

But the following is probably the biggest reason to stay away from this conversation…

How Splitting Commissions Is Perceived By CPAs in Their Role As Fiduciary

Many advisors I’ve talked to who found themselves frustrated in trying to work with CPAs often overlooked the fact that their view on commission splits and a CPA’s view are very different. In my experience, CPAs more than any other professional, really buy into the role of fiduciary for their clients. As a result, they put their client’s needs ahead of anyone else’s, including their own. As a result, many CPAs get uneasy at the thought of earning any income from the commission on products their clients may purchase. 

By accepting a commission or a referral fee as a result of helping their clients connect with you, CPAs generally feel like they are selling their clients out, which really runs contrary to how most of them think. On the other hand, most advisors I’ve talked to are quick to want to talk about commission splits simply because that’s what they would want if they were in the CPA’s position. However, it’s important that you, as an annuity advisor, understand the mindset of the CPAs and tax professionals you want to work with before you offer something that you think is of value, when in fact it is seen as a negative. The desire of most CPAs is simply to make sure their clients are being taken care of. For most CPAs and accountants, a satisfied client is payment enough.

To help you apply this month’s content, I’ve filmed a quick video addressing each of the most common mistakes I’ll be coving over the next few weeks. If you’d like a copy emailed to you, send me an email at [email protected], along with any feedback on the Strategic Alliance Advisor blog, and I’ll gladly send it your way. You can also visit our website at


© 2024 ALM Global, LLC, All Rights Reserved. Request academic re-use from All other uses, submit a request to [email protected]. For more information visit Asset & Logo Licensing.