Carolyn Armitage’s decades of experience in the broker-dealer and wealth management field have provided her with many insights to tap into when helping her clients, but one in particular stands out.
“How CEOs struggle with managing people in teams,” says the managing director of the Los Angeles-based consulting group and investment firm Echelon Partners. “It’s surprised me at how consistent that is in very, very large organizations as well as small firms.”
The Minnesota native began her career on Wall Street working for First Investors (now Foresters Financial) in the late 1980s. The firm was a great training ground, she explains; plus, “getting to go to Wall Street was a really big deal … , and I was fearless.”
That position was the first of many Armitage, CFP, has held in the BD community. When her spouse transferred to Dallas, she went along and joined HD Vest for seven years, which she says “was such a growing, innovative firm. It was a great culture.”
She later moved out to California to take a position with Financial Network, and then was “tapped to run the advisory for all the broker-dealers that ING had acquired,” Armitage explains.
“I did quite a bit of consolidation work, assimilating all the programs, putting RIAs in place where there weren’t any — it was a big role, and I enjoyed it,” she says.
But the role came to a halt during the financial crisis, and so she took a job with a smaller firm, Western International Securities, in Pasadena. Over two years, the consultant says, she put much infrastructure in place for the BD’s estate planning, advisory services, strategic partner programs and educational programs.
From there, she joined LPL Financial, where she saw a “terrific way to use all of my experience … to help these CEOs throughout the country improve their organizations,” Armitage explains.
“Because I had such a worldview of what advisors, branch managers and home offices went through, I knew where the trouble spots were and the conflicts these CEOs run into on a day-to-day basis,” she adds.
When this program at LPL ended, she did some independent consulting and became part of Echelon in 2017.
This career roadmap means Armitage can tap into “all of the skills, all of the learning that I’ve had throughout my career and give back to help CEOs improve their organizations.”
THINKADVISOR: What’s the most surprising thing you’ve seen in your career?
Smaller and larger firms can have many of the same issues. About 50% of revenue is often attributed to compensation expense, so it’s a big expense category.
But it’s challenging managing the human capital side of the business, which is a major variable. That part is the wild card, and yet it’s the most important element — and I’ve seen it as a struggle for almost every CEO out there.
What key advice do you provide?
It depends where they are in their stage of development.
One of the big kind of “aha” moments for people when they hire a consultant is they finally realize that they can attend a conference and get great practice management tips. But if it’s not applicable to where they are in their development, it’s not going to work.