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Commonwealth Rolls Out Virtual Admin Program

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What You Need to Know

  • The offering pairs advisors who need support with specialists employed by Commonwealth.
  • The program provides advisors an alternative to hiring part-time staff, the firm says.

Commonwealth Financial Network has started lending its advisors a hand with non-advisory business needs with a new Virtual Administration (VA) Program, the RIA said Monday.

The offering pairs advisors who need support in various operational areas with professionals who are trained and employed by Commonwealth, the firm said, noting the program will free up time for advisors at the participating offices so they can focus on clients and other core needs.

The team of specialists, part of a larger Commonwealth operations department, collaborates across business functions to provide fast, accurate support to the advisors and clients they serve, according to the company.

The virtual administrators provide advisors with an alternative to hiring part-time staff and eliminate the need to spend time and money on training, human resources management, technology and setup, Commonwealth said.

“This program takes the time-consuming, day-to-day tasks off an advisor’s plate,” according to Jon Bohs, senior vice president of brokerage operations at Commonwealth.

“It’s one-on-one support, not a pooled service,” he said in a statement. “By gaining an intimate knowledge of the firm they’re working with, VAs recognize their advisors’ needs and work to maximize efficiencies so the advisor can focus on growing their business and training their staff for more client-facing work,” he explained.

“We started the VA Program in beta with the idea that some advisors needed help for maybe one or two days a week,” added Bohs. “But what we found was that, by getting back more time, advisors were able to identify growth opportunities or impediments and take action to make improvements. It’s exciting to see how our program has not only provided operational support but has also been a springboard for helping advisors evolve their practices.”

Advisor Demand

The new program was a “result of advisors reaching out and asking for operational support [from] individuals trained and managed by Commonwealth to work as a member of their office,” Bohs told ThinkAdvisor on Tuesday.

A beta test “started with two team members and two advisors in June of 2020,” he disclosed, noting both of those original beta advisors are “still with the program today.”

The beta was conducted in ”three phases over the course of a year and a half with several rounds of hires and onboards,” he said. “Our goal was first to establish the base program, then figure out how to adapt the core program to fit all sizes and shapes of offices, ending with a focus on scalability and refining our scope. At the end of our beta our team was 7 members strong, and we were supporting 18 offices.”

So far, the program has “received positive feedback from our participating advisors,” he went on to say. “While some offices have left the program after their term ended, to date we have had 82% continue on after their first 6-month term.”

Commonwealth also “received valuable feedback about how we can expand [the] scope to provide even more value to participating advisors,” he said, adding: “We do plan to continue to grow the program, whether that is through additional admins hired or expanding the services and capabilities it has to offer. We want to support as many advisors [as] we can based on our staffing that are interested in the program.”

The Process

Advisors who participate in the new program are matched with a dedicated VA who acts as a part-time staff member for the duration of a six-month agreement that the company said can be automatically renewed.

VAs work for the advisors in eight-hour segments, up to 24 hours per week. Tasks handled by VAs include document preparation, opening and updating accounts, transferring assets, updating customer relationship management, pulling reports and providing direct support to an advisor’s clients, Commonwealth said.

The VAs have access to Commonwealth’s CRM and an email address at the advisor’s domain.

“By understanding an advisor’s practice and processes, VAs can provide critical feedback to Commonwealth, resulting in ongoing enhancements that benefit all advisors,” according to the company.

Commonwealth has more than 2,000 independent financial advisors across the U.S. It had $133.5 billion in assets under management, as of Sept. 30, according to its most recent Form ADV filing.

(Photo: Shutterstock)