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Industry Spotlight > Advisors

4 Ways to Make a Move — With Fewer Headaches

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As we head into the homestretch of 2022, many advisors may be reevaluating their firm affiliation and asking themselves whether they are in the right professional home as they plan for 2023.

While making a move to another firm can be a major undertaking — and should not be taken lightly — the fear of transitioning your business should not hold you back, especially if it’s in the best interest of your business, your team and your clients. 

As the head of Onboarding and Integration at Cetera Financial Group, I lead a team that helps advisors affiliate their businesses with our firm every step of the way. We consistently hear all kinds of feedback from advisors about their experiences changing firms, including lessons learned, what worked, and what didn’t.

Here are some key lessons and important considerations advisors should keep in mind when contemplating a firm affiliation change.

1. See it as an opportunity to reset.

While many advisors perceive the pain that accompanies a business onboarding may outweigh the benefits, the reality is that transforming your business provides several long-term opportunities.

If you have strong relationships with clients, they are likely to come with you, regardless of your firm affiliation. In this case, onboarding with a new firm becomes an opportunity to proactively talk to your clients – in many cases, we have seen these conversations drive business and provide a pathway to consolidate assets. 

Changing firms also provides an opportunity to clean house – to shed clients who aren’t the right fit, and reset the bar, if needed, in terms of your pricing. We have also seen many advisors proactively survey their clients as part of an onboarding to benchmark their satisfaction with their service and results, which goes a long way toward building and maintaining long-term client retention. 

Ultimately, if you’re moving your business for the right reasons, and you take a disciplined approach with a firm with a proven onboarding program, onboarding with a new firm can put you in the driver’s seat in terms of defining the type of business you want to run and the clients you want to serve. 

2. Preparation is key.

Just like any other major life change, preparation is key to success. The better you prepare your team and business for the change, the better the outcome. 

As an example, having current and reliable data is critical. Do you have updated contact information and risk tolerance details for your clients?  If not, you should prioritize doing so before any transition. If your data is not current, you risk those clients having a negative experience during your business transition or worse – losing them. 

When it comes to your team, be sure to define clear roles and responsibilities well before any onboarding takes place. Collaboration and transparency are key; don’t work in a vacuum or keep team members in the dark.

Be realistic about when and where you can commit your time and energy and be willing to delegate aspects of a transition to team members who may be better equipped to handle them. 

3. Take a close look at the potential firm’s onboarding and integration programs. 

Not all onboarding programs are created equal. It’s important to carefully evaluate your options and ask some tough questions. For example, does the onboarding program consider the unique needs of your business, or is it more of a one-size-fits-all approach?

It’s important to ask your potential new partner to share details about their onboarding plan – including information about how they accept data.

Do they provide flexibility in terms of account opening to accommodate wide-ranging client needs? Do they have a common, disciplined approach that is flexible to the needs of individual financial professionals? Do they have dedicated resources that will be with you from start to finish throughout the onboarding process?   

The reality is that no two financial professionals are the same and therefore, their onboarding shouldn’t be the same either. Asking these questions up front can provide a sense for what your onboarding might look like and whether making a move to that firm is the right fit. 

4. Be honest with yourself and set realistic expectations.

If you’re considering changing firm affiliation, it’s important to be honest about the state of your business and your relationships with clients. You should also fully grasp the impact of a transition on your business.

You will have an income gap while your business is in transit to your new firm, which makes transition assistance critically important. In addition, clients will have questions, including how the change may impact their fees.

It’s important to anticipate these scenarios and questions from clients to best answer them in a way that puts their minds at ease and makes them feel reassured about their relationship with you. 

Transitioning your business to a new firm is no small feat. It takes considerable time, energy and resources and can be disruptive to your business. Ultimately, doing so in a disciplined way with a firm that has a leading onboarding program can provide many long-term benefits, re-establishing your business faster and positioning your firm for future success.

If you’re contemplating a move but fear the process, use these learnings to maximize your experience — and set your business up for long-term success.  

Jamie Baker is the Director of Onboarding Services at Cetera Financial Group.


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