Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best for businesses of any size.
As an advocate of advisory team structures for about 15 years now, I’ve helped to create them in many large firms. But using team structures can be just as beneficial — if not more so — in small and mid-sized firms, too.
As the name implies, advisory teams are small groups of advisors who work together to service a specific group of clients. These teams can be organized in several ways.
The most common is combining advisors with a broad range of experience — from new recruits to firm partners. This creates an excellent opportunity for younger advisors to gain experience with clients, with different aspects of financial advice, and with the firm’s approach to serving its clients.
Another way to form a team is to combine advisors with varied specialties: portfolio management, financial planning, estate planning, insurance, etc.
This enables a team to work with a broad range of clients with varying needs as well as provides a good training platform for younger advisors. Of course, many firms combine both ranges of expertise and experience in their teams.
What’s In a Team?
There are obvious advantages of advisory teams over the more traditional solo or silo models for advisory firms. But it’s important to be clear about the term “advisory teams.”
Many firms believe that an “advisory team” is comprised of a senior advisor supported by a cadre of clerical staff. While this support may provide some leverage for senior advisors to work with a larger number of clients, it falls far short of the many benefits of actual advisory teams.
For instance, true advisory teams enable clients to be connected directly and quickly with a financial advisor on their “team.” Depending on their experience and professional focus, the advisor can then either help the client with their issue, or quickly direct them to an advisor who can.
We find that quickly directing clients to an advisor they’ve met, and who is knowledgeable about their financial situation and focused on getting them the help they need, creates a very high degree of client satisfaction and builds a strong bond for the firm.
Also, we’ve found that teams work best when they are named or numbered so the clients can be quickly and easily directed to a member of their team.
Team structure and its process of helping clients get what they want/need creates stronger bonds with the firm than when clients work directly with one advisor. Not only will a team usually get a client help faster, it also creates a client bond with the firm, rather than just one advisor.
This firm/client bond can become the key to retaining clients in situations when an advisor retires or leaves the firm to practice elsewhere.
The team approach to delivering financial advice also makes it easier for a firm to create a consistent client experience, not only within each team, but throughout the firm. Not only is it easier to communicate the desired client experience with a team, but team members can then monitor each other on the delivery of that experience.
On the business end, well-constructed and trained teams can work with significantly more clients than the same number of advisors could work with individually. That’s because in a team, advisors don’t form a deep personal bond with client that can often lead to over servicing clients.
Deep emotional connections with the clients, for instance, cause advisors to blame themselves when clients don’t take their advice. In a team, advisors tend to be more accountable to the team for delivering advice efficiently.
Finally, teams create growth. Advisors working in teams keep their focus on growth because they feel accountable to their teammates to keep the team growing.
Overall, advisory teams increase the chance of delivering what the client needs. It emphasizes the focus on client service, and the emphasis on client service creates growth.