The number of wirehouse advisors over the years who switch to independent firms tends to rise at a glacial pace—far out of proportion to the estimated two-thirds of advisors who profess to want independence.
Advisors say they value the added flexibility, autonomy, increased pay, improved technology and reduced bureaucracy that come with independence. Yet time and again they fail to pull the trigger. What’s holding them back?
In a word, it’s fear.
Fear of starting over, fear of losing good clients, fear of taking a temporary financial hit, fear of the loss of wirehouse branding, fear of not becoming a better advisor despite the change … and many other fears as well.
Now, for some advisors, their wirehouse offers the perfect fit and they are as contented as can be. What follows is not an argument for leaving a constructive and fulfilling place of work.
But advisors who believe their current work environment is an impediment to their achieving their professional potential, who feel they are not free to serve their clients in the optimal way or who simply worry their firm will eventually cut them loose at the time of their choosing should make a plan to leave.
To do this successfully, advisors need to run toward rather than away from their fears.
Just like investors who eschew the portfolio risk they need to achieve their long-term objectives, advisors too need to appreciate that fear (like risk) is a tool for living.
Fear rouses your consciousness, makes you appreciate life, keeps you from focusing on petty concerns.
Re-frame your feelings toward fear. If you like rollercoaster rides, horror films or ever felt the exhilaration of facing a fear and conquering it, you can begin to see how fear sharpens your perception and increases your vitality.
Why is this important? Because each of you has a special talent and your work as an advisor is your way of expressing it and contributing to the good of others.
If you’re letting fear hold you back from achieving your potential, you will not be living the life you could be living (or giving the advice you could be giving).
So be afraid. But fear instead the comfort that dulls your alertness, the inertia that blocks your personal growth. Recalculate your path so that you are now afraid of not having self-respect.
Make an inventory of the things you don’t like about your current work life, but put a dollar price alongside each item so you can tabulate the hidden costs of not changing against the assumed gain of your current income. Can’t do what you want for your clients? Maybe that should cost $100,000.
The more you cultivate this kind of thinking, the sooner you will appreciate there can be pleasure in fear—it’s not for nothing that certain scary books and movies are called “thrillers.”
But you don’t need movies because reality is thrilling enough when you choose to not sleepwalk through life.
But please don’t jump to hand in your resignation notice. An advisor’s essential professional insight is that one should give thought to a complete plan before taking any action.