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Practice Management > Marketing and Communications > Client Retention

7 Secrets of Top Advisors Who’ve Successfully Moved Their Books

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What You Need to Know

  • These advisors truly understood their clients' needs and devised an optimal investment and financial planning program for them.
  • They did extensive due diligence, were thoroughly prepared and followed the rules.
  • They understood that things sometimes go wrong, and they took it in stride.

I’ve been privileged to work with many advisors and high-end advisor teams over the years who masterfully transitioned their clients to new firms. Within a month or two, they brought over almost all of their desired clients and began to ramp up their business at the new firm.

In my mind, every time a client opted to sign the transfer papers was a ringing endorsement of their value as a financial advisor. They accomplished this in all kinds of markets, despite their clients often being bombarded with creepy calls from predatory advisors and branch managers at their former firms.

So, what did these first-rate advisors have in common?

1. Solid Client Relationships

Each one of these advisors was at the center of their client’s financial lives. In the client’s eyes, their advisor was akin to a conductor of a world-class symphony orchestra, and the firm was more like the musicians behind the scenes.

Clients viewed the firm for which the advisor worked as certainly worthy, but it was their advisor who truly understood their needs and devised the optimal investment and financial planning program to service them.

2. Extensive Due Diligence Prior to the Move

Each of these advisors did extensive due diligence on the platforms of prospective firms. This enabled them to ensure that they’d be able to serve clients properly at their new venue. They carefully reviewed outside managers for example with an eye to matching up products and fees.

They worked closely with the prospective firm to anticipate and plan for any problems in the transfer of customer accounts. These advisors seized upon the expanded competencies or superior culture of their new firm to get clients excited about their move.

In my mind, their painstaking due diligence was not just a practical business strategy but an expression of how much they cared about their clients.

3. Thorough Preparation

All of these top-performing advisors had called the prospective firm’s legal department and had extensive conversations with the transition team. They knew exactly what to expect.

If they were coming from a protocol firm, they entered all allowable client contact information into the new firm’s portal before the move. Advisors from non-protocol firms understood clearly in advance what was permitted and exactly what the boundaries were on things they could and couldn’t do.

These advisors had also devised a strategy beforehand on how to get clients excited about their move. They were ready to explain to clients why they’d be able to service their accounts better at their new firm.

4. Followed the Rules

They didn’t notify their clients in advance or take prohibited materials.

5. Chose Firms With Crackerjack Transition Teams

It’s essential to have an experienced and dedicated transition team in your corner. I still remember as a young recruiter the time in which a branch manager professed not to need the services of a transition team. Instead, he said that his assistant would help out. 

That, of course, didn’t end well.

6. Knew How to Harness the Power of Social Media

Once they joined their new firm, their web presence was transformed to reflect their new affiliation. Both firm websites and LinkedIn profiles help to get the word out about their new affiliation.

Hiring firms often posted online announcements that these advisors shared with clients.

7. Took Imperfections in Stride

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, some things go wrong. During COVID, I worked with an advisor who was expecting clients to return ACATS materials to his new branch. Instead, his boutique firm was forced to temporarily close his branch.

He took it in stride because he knew that he had solid client relationships and that he’d landed in the right place. Since then, his business has blossomed in ways that he’d never imagined.


Mark Elzweig is head of the executive-search firm Mark Elzweig Co. Ltd., in New York.