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Joining the Independent Wave? 3 Ways to Make It a Smoother Ride

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What You Need to Know

  • Going independent is exciting, but it can't be done for short-term reasons.
  • Clients can handle a change, as long as it is explained thoroughly to them.
  • Entrepreneurship can be scary, but the right partners can help advisors make the change.

Every new era in the financial advice profession brings changes that affect how advisors run their businesses and serve their clients. Even the answers to familiar and fundamental questions have become moving targets, given the profound upheaval we’ve seen in our lives and our world over the last two years.

One of the questions our industry should continually reexamine is, “How can we help advisors make the transition to independence as smooth as possible?” Today, it’s clear that best practices that may have applied five or even two years ago are no longer state-of-the-art.

As we have helped advisors join the independent channel throughout this unpredictable time, we’ve learned that three key lessons have become more important than ever in ensuring a smooth and successful transition:

1. Going independent is a long-term decision. Don’t do it for short-term reasons.

Motivations matter when building an independent advisory business. One of the biggest pitfalls I see happens when advisors go independent because they’re running from a bad situation, rather than making a plan and moving thoughtfully toward something more positive.

If an advisor is moving because he or she can’t stay in their current situation any longer, they may not be considering all the potential angles.

On the flip side, many advisors at wirehouses and regional firms find themselves thinking about independence thanks to the ongoing M&A “gold rush” in which strong and growing independent firms are being snapped up by RIA aggregators and others, in deals often fueled by private equity money.

This is certainly a more “positive” reason to move — but it’s still short-term thinking. Does your long-term vision align with the long-term vision of the firm you are joining?

Advisors who jump to independence prematurely or in haste are more likely to overlook critical questions like, “Does my new strategic partner have a transition team that has helped move billions of dollars in client assets to a new platform? Do they offer flexible affiliation and real estate solutions that fit my business? Can they help me role-play client transition conversations — and will they take the time to do it?”

These advisors also may underestimate critical factors that will determine their long-term success, like whether the new firm offers turnkey marketing resources that fit with the practice’s client acquisition model; the depth of the strategic partner’s technology and practice management offerings; and the new organization’s service culture.

2. Clients aren’t scared of transitions anymore — as long as they’re handled correctly.

It’s a well-known fact that the pandemic has changed client behavior. What we are seeing, however, is that these changes are building on each other, resulting in evolution that’s occurring at a faster rate than we would ever have anticipated.

As an example, we’re seeing transitions happening at a faster rate. Rather than becoming skittish due to the uncertainty of the last several years, clients have come to trust online tools that help them collaborate and build relationships with their advisors more than we’ve seen previously. They’ve also become more familiar with e-signatures and other key technologies.

The result? The ramp up in transitioning an advisor’s full book of assets — and then helping them achieve a growth trajectory to add even more — is happening faster.

Of course, this transition must be handled the right way, and still requires an advisor’s personal touch. To make these conversations as smooth as possible, I counsel advisors to avoid reaching out to their top clients first.

Instead, look toward the lower third of the client list. This will help in establishing a cadence and rhythm for these conversations before working with the top clients, who tend to have more complex questions and issues. Working in this pattern sets a tone and enables advisors to provide their top clients with the best service experience possible.

3. Entrepreneurship is tough. Helping advisors envision their new possibilities can get them over the hump.

One advisor who joined us recently at Integrated Financial Group found that the idea of being in business for himself — after years of working at a larger firm — was more stressful than inspiring, even as he continued to move through the process. His mom had concerns that he was abandoning a comfortable job with a company, and he felt a little unsure as well.

On the day he started working with us, he walked into his fully prepared office and realized, “I am going to be able to control the entire client experience.”

He also realized that he could determine what it looked like to be his client from now on, and what his firm would be able to offer. The choice was now his — and it reignited his entrepreneurial passion. He has not looked back since then!

Going into business for yourself can be daunting. Independent advisors need marketing, branding, compliance, real estate, administrative assistance, and a team of employees — and it can be overwhelming at times.

Strategic partners who can remove as much complexity as possible for newly independent advisors can help to not only streamline their businesses, but to open their minds to their expanded possibilities and help them maintain the inspiration that led them to become independent in the first place.

For many advisors, going independent is the best decision of their lives. The opportunities available in the industry today are incredible. In order to begin writing their new success story, though, it is critical for them to work with the right strategic partner that can help them keep the lessons above firmly in view — and make the transition process as smooth and rewarding as possible.


Land Bridgers is CEO of Integrated Financial Group (Integrated-Financial-Group.com), a consortium of independent financial planners. IFG is dedicated to leading the fiduciary standard for the wealth management industry, providing business support services, regulatory compliance oversight, human resources, business consulting, investment solutions, marketing, and professional coaching to its advisor members.