Practice Management > Building Your Business

Experts’ Top Pearls of Wisdom on Practice Management

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On June 13 in Chicago, four practice management experts in the advisor space participated in a day-long, invitation-only roundtable discussion that tackled the Herculean task of defining “practice management” for advisors and addressed the findings of the first Pursuing Practice Excellence study.

The four experts were David Patchen of Raymond James, Kim Dellarocca of Pershing, Kirk Hulett of Securities America and Jim Komoszewski of Investment Centers of America. (From left to right in photo, Brian Stimpfl and Spenser Segal of ActiFi; Komoszewski, Dellarocca and Hulett.) 

The intent of the study, which AdvisorOne and Investment Advisor conducted in partnership with ActiFi, was to devise a practice management survey to assess the current state of practice management, identify best practices among advisors and their partners and to discover advisors’ key unmet needs and their future challenges and opportunities.

Four separate feature articles that discussed the Pursuing Practice Excellence study appeared in the June, July and August issues of Investment Advisor. Those articles, along with videos of the roundtable participants and additional content, can be found on the Pursuing Practice Excellence home page.

In this slideshow we present for your consideration some photographs displaying the individuals at the roundtable, along with some quotes from the participants on the key issues around advisor practice management. 

David Patchen of Raymond James.

David Patchen, Raymond James

On What Works in Practice Management Programs

One of the great things about practice management, and I think I can speak for the group here, is that some of our top advisors really help us drive content, tools and tactics…

What differentiates your offering from other firms’ from a tools and tactics standpoint is what your specific talented top advisors are doing that’s working and that they are willing to share it.

On the Value of Coaching

There’s no magic bullet, and coaching is difficult. Coaching makes you uncomfortable; it asks you to take risks. It is hard to do, but when advisors come out the other side and see those results, we ask them, “What was the biggest benefit from a coaching relationship?” They’ll have 35% to 40% increased revenue, and they’re very thrilled about that. They’ll say, “It was the accountability, accountability, accountability. I didn’t have that before. I have it now. It allowed me to focus. It allowed me to pick high-priority activities, not things that were distracting.”

Kim Dellarocca of Pershing at the Pursuing Practice Excellence roundtable.

Kim Dellarocca, Pershing

On How Advisors Value Practice Management Programs

Prospective advisors are really good at sleuthing out when [in practice management programs] it’s about the custodian or the clearing firm, when it’s about your wallet or when there’s some big check being waved around. The classic ‘You grow, we grow’? That language makes my stomach curl because I’ve been serving advisors for 15 years and no firm looked the same to me. No broker-dealer looks the same to me, and we take every client seriously.

On Succession Planning

I think that the reason succession planning is still such an issue is that nobody wants to think about these things. Who wants to think about death and dying? We all carry around a certain amount of hubris. What people might want to think about instead is not retiring but rewiring. How can they rewire as a leader, as a mentor, as somebody who just doesn’t close their laptop someday and walk out, or cut the cake and leave their clients and associates and a lot of other people in some pretty vulnerable situations? [How can they rewire] as somebody who can transition themselves to leadership? If when we talk about the future, we saw a [theme] emerge for us, it would be around management and leadership, which is an off-shoot of human capital. Advisors can’t go it alone. They need great teams.

What I think we all have is an obligation to help them see the longer term in becoming a good businessperson. These things aren’t fun to do—client segmentation, efficiency, understanding benchmarks, succession planning—not fun at all and very long-term in nature, but it’s our job as an industry to blow on the nerves of the advisors because these are things that are going to help their team and ultimately going to help the investors. The investor doesn’t need another ding in confidence and in trust; and without advisors having these things baked and focusing on business continuity—not sales planning, not succession planning, but business continuity and growth planning—the investors ultimately are at risk.

Kirk Hulett (right) holds court at the Pursuing Practice Excellence roundtable.

Kirk Hulett (far right), Securities America

On the Value of Peer-to-Peer Communication

The best advocates for practice management from the institution are the advisors who participated in the programs. When one advisor hears another advisor talking about it, versus me standing on the stage at our national conference last week talking about it, they’re going to listen to that advisor before they listen to me.

On the Value of a BD’s Own Practice Management Program

In the broker-dealer programs, not only can people liaise and understand the regulatory and compliance [issues] that others may not, but I feel that we can also take the technology tools that we offer and better integrate that into the workflow and operational processes of the advisors affiliated with us.

I think that’s a distinct advantage. Same on the advisory side. What are the aspects of our advisory platform that we’ll be able to consult on, be experts on that someone outside is not? We can offer success pricing so that as an advisor builds their business on the broker-dealer’s advisory platform, we can actually provide a refund back on the subscription fees or the consulting fees that they pay us so it creates rewards that are beneficial to the advisor and beneficial to the broker-dealer at the same time.

On Getting Advisors to Buy In

I had one of our largest reps come to me and say, “Why don’t you go ahead and send me the paperwork? I’m 99% sure that I want to work with you.” And I said “With all due respect, I won’t work with you. I’m not going to be able to help you to the extent that I can because you have some uncertainty, albeit 1%. When you come back to me and say ‘I’m 100% for sure’ in this, then I’ll do it,” because that’s where the accountability comes in. It’s inherent. It’s intrinsic; it has to come from them by saying “I believe 100% wholeheartedly in this program.”

On the Next Generation of Advisors

Young people don’t like the word “sales.” They don’t want to be salespeople. The Gen Xers, the Millenials or Gen Yers, they don’t want to be salespeople. So that’s why a big part of what we taught was questioning techniques and tactics: teaching people how to ask better questions rather than teaching them to close someone. That’s a concept that young folks just don’t have a lot of interest in. They don’t want to close anyone; they want to commence something. They want to educate, they want to build relationships.

Jim Komoszewski (center) of Investment Centers of America speaks at Pursuing Practice Management roundtable.

Jim Komoszewski, Investment Centers of America

On the Process of Practice Management

One of the most critical things for us to do, particularly at broker-dealers, is to brand our programs very, very strongly.

How I did that at NPC was to say, “I’m going to offer a program that’s fully comprehensive and follow it from the assessment through the establishment of your individual goals through a custom process. We’ll walk you through implementation. We’ll get you through execution. We’ll set up quarterly monitoring and adjustments. We’ll adjust accordingly and we’ll re-evaluate in one year from now as a continuum.”

That’s why I call the program “Pursuit” because a best practice is an ongoing pursuit. When we’re coming in as product wholesalers, we’re just hitting one spot, one teeny, tiny spot. We’re not really doing much good for practice management.

On the Value of Advisor-Specific Practice Management

I’m amazed—and I hope you guys are too—at the thousands and thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars that our advisors pay to participate in coaching or consulting programs where they sit in a hotel lobby next to a dentist and a lawyer and a guy who owns a restaurant. Are you kidding me? This is a very specific industry and we need specific answers to specific problems, and they need to have solutions. Not only do we understand the industry really well, we understand our broker-dealer.

On Getting Started

Lastly, if I have a rep who’s struggling in an area and I have one that’s really successful, I can either share those stories or set up a call and bring those two individuals together. I want to go on the record by saying I’ve never told anyone how to use me. I’ve encouraged many to use other programs. I can’t remember [who], maybe all of you, have said that the most important thing [advisors can do] is to do something. Use us, use somebody else, but just do something!


Four separate feature articles that discussed the Pursuing Practice Excellence study appeared in the June, July and August issues of Investment Advisor. Those articles, along with videos of the roundtable participants and additional content, can be found on the Pursuing Practice Excellencehome page.