Moving a financial advisory business to a new firm is a major undertaking, no matter when you do it. Making that move while the economy is shutting down and markets are tumbling amidst a global pandemic is a special challenge.
I shifted my business to Rockefeller Capital Management in the middle of March, and my timing could have been better. It was a stressful period for everyone, especially for my clients, many of whom own their own businesses and had unique challenges through the start of crisis.
Still, now that the transition is mostly complete, I can say it has gone remarkably smoothly. The move worked because we followed some three rules that would apply in any economic environment.
What were they?
1. Let your clients know what they can expect.
Transitions like this don’t happen overnight. Some liquid assets, like brokerage accounts, can move to the new firm quickly.
Annuities, on the other hand, may take four or five weeks. Hedge funds, loans, insurance – each one has its own timetable. It is critical to communicate all that to clients so they know what to expect every step of the way.
In our case, we used an aggregation tool with a dashboard that let clients see exactly when their assets moved from one firm to the other. This helps clients get a real-time view of where their money is.
We also told people we would have to recreate files of their personal information because we couldn’t bring them with us.
That involved some long telephone conversations going through basic details like birthdates and addresses, which clients were fine with because we were transparent about the whole process upfront.
2. Make it clear there were compelling reasons for the switch.
My new firm is a great fit for my clients and I let them know why. The firm is independent and private and has been serving high-net worth clients since the 19th century. It has a long time horizon.
The story resonated with my clients, many of whom have owned their own companies for a long time. At Rockefeller, my clients will have access to a range of alternative investments.