Moving from the brokerage world to independent status is a major decision that shouldn’t be rushed. David Kohlhaas and his colleagues at Ascential Wealth Advisors in Duluth, Minn., spent about three years evaluating their options for going independent before joining Raymond James Financial Services last October.
Kohlhaas, Brad Christiansen, Kristin Rognerud and their support staff were successful at UBS, where they managed over $200 million in client assets. The team’s decision to leave UBS wasn’t based on any one specific event, says Kohlhaas. Instead, they believed that some of the company’s decisions were beginning to influence their client relationships. “When we felt compelled to address corporate initiatives, whether it was products or processes or some kind of change in the relationship that’s corporate-driven, it felt to us like it impeded our ability to have a pure relationship with the client that was based on their needs, what (the) business should be all about,” he says.
Kohlhaas recalls that the wirehouse advisors were pushed to be more engaged with in-house products and processes. His concerns were not necessarily about product quality, he points out, because the products might be good. He cites an example: switching clients to paperless statements. “I’m not opposed to being green and saving paper,” says Kohlhaas. “But I don’t think that all of our clients should be approached to go paperless because I think it’s an invitation to not pay attention. Those initiatives that were driven by the corporate office felt more about the corporation and less about the client and their needs.”
When they decided to leave UBS, Kohlhaas, Christiansen and Rognerud compiled an initial list of 13 firms for possible affiliation. They evaluated each firm’s systems, processes and tools and narrowed the list to three finalists. They then visited the finalists’ corporate offices before deciding.