What You Need to Know
- Some clients will follow a departing advisor out of loyalty; others will stay out of loyalty to your firm.
- Review the client's account thoroughly and contact them immediately.
- Sympathize with clients who followed their advisor. Be respectful of your colleague, and follow up in a couple of months.
If you work at a large firm, you’ve seen it before. An established producer leaves. Although they might be retiring, the departure is often because they’ve joined a competitor. Sometimes it’s a newer advisor who didn’t hit their numbers. To ensure continuous coverage of the clients affected, their accounts are reassigned within the office immediately — well, most of the time. What next?
Years ago, “reassignments” was the primary growth strategy for some experienced advisors. One advisor likened it to feeding time at the seal tank at the Central Park Zoo. Considering we were attending a firm recognition event at the zoo and watching the seals waiting to catch the many fish thrown by the zookeeper, his comment was pretty funny.
A lot has changed. Strict protocols are usually in place concerning which advisors get accounts. Retention is a primary concern. If the departing advisor joined a competing firm, it’s a safe bet they are soliciting their clients to follow them. Yes, there are rules, but expect activity.
You can make a case for why the client would follow the advisor. They would follow out of loyalty. There are many reasons the client would stay. An affinity or loyalty to the firm is a big one.
There’s also a third option: The client leaves the firm yet doesn’t follow the advisor. They move to a different firm entirely. They have been solicited by another advisor they really like. They have no intention of leaving the first advisor, but if that advisor is no longer in the picture, they have a backup plan. My wife and I have fallen into that category.
7 Steps to Retaining Reassigned Accounts
Let’s assume you have been handed a reassigned account by your manager. Obviously, you said thank you. What next?
1. Review their account thoroughly. You can view statements. Personal information. Their trading activity. How involved was their investing relationship? Do they use managed money or trade individual stocks?
Desired outcome: You know enough about them to consider them a person, not just an account number. They realize you are prepared.
2. Contact them immediately. This part is obvious. The other advisor will be doing the same. If account transfer requires physical signatures on paper forms, assume those were sent out to the client by overnight mail. Don’t delay. Use multiple channels. The phone should be first. Reach out through email, or maybe even a text message. The object is to speak with them.
Desired outcome: They know the firm wants them to stay. They are considered an important client.
3. Explain the situation. Learn what you are allowed to tell them. Their advisor is no longer with the firm. They made the move themselves. They had their reasons. Do not say anything to imply there was wrongdoing or otherwise blacken their name. And avoid remarks such as “In a sudden burst of insanity, they left our firm.” The firm takes the concept of continuous account coverage very seriously. Our manager asked me to work with you going forward.
Desired outcome: You are being respectful concerning the departing advisor, who was your colleague. The firm’s desire for uninterrupted coverage shows their relationship is important.
4. Be welcoming. The object is to retain the account. They might say: “Don’t I get a choice of advisors?” Review your experience and credentials. (This might be a step up for them.) You would like them to give you a chance. Some clients have had multiple advisors over the years. They might say: “OK. You are my new advisor.” Don’t say: “I do business differently” or “This discounting has to stop.”