Financial advisors often feel bound by a fiduciary mindset—that is, putting their clients’ best interests before their own—when making any decision about their practice.
So what happens when they trust you and are certain you are doing everything right, yet you find yourself asking if that’s true? If you are in the right place to best serve your own needs as well as theirs? How could you even consider replacing your current business card with a new one?
The recent market downturn, changing regulations, and firm consolidations have made the advisory business more complicated; some advisors question whether they have a future at their current firm. Some frustrations are rooted in the day-to-day business, while others go deeper and pose a conflict to the advisor’s core philosophy. And while there may be discontent, advisors mask the pain out of a sense of responsibility to the client.
Consider an advisor we’ll call Amy: An uber-successful wirehouse rep, making more money than she ever dreamed of, with clients who seemed reasonably happy. Yet she was miserable. The majority of her day was mired in bureaucracy and inefficiency. She had little time left to spend with her family, or on herself.
Amy was trying to build a younger client base to backfill her book of aging clients. She was meeting many up-and-coming young professionals who lacked the $250,000 minimum accounts the firm was looking for but were well-poised to join the ranks of the wealthy once they got their professional practices on track. She wanted to take on these smaller accounts and get paid for them—yet the wirehouse didn’t agree.
All she wanted was to do what was right for her clients, and not be forced to “sell” them products to satisfy a corporate goal. She hated getting up in the morning, yet she felt as if she had no choice.
Of course she wasn’t really stuck. With a length of service at 20 years, $240 million of assets under management, and trailing 12-months of around $1.8 million, there were far more options available than she knew. Always entrepreneurial, Amy eventually joined an established independent firm that helps advisors like her achieve the benefits of independence without building a business from scratch.
And her clients? She found it was easy to provide them with viable reasons for the move and how it would benefit all of them. In fact, the biggest payout Amy received was that she was now happy. She liked to get up in the morning to go to work, and even better, still had time to be with her family.
What's the Overall Impact on My Business?
The experience brings up some essential, but often shelved, questions for advisors.
“While I’m helping my clients reach their dreams, is there a cost to sacrificing my own personal happiness, and could that inevitably impact my ability to serve these clients and grow my business?”
Living a life that is aligned with your values and beliefs creates a state of integrity and a sense of harmony. In fact, there’s often a feeling of intrinsic trust that comes from someone who’s acting in accordance with who they are and what they believe in. Trust, technical competence, experience and knowledge are the foundation for the advisor-client relationship, and given that financial services has morphed from an industry driven by product to one defined by advice, client satisfaction likely has more to do with the advisor than the firm he or she works for.
“Then, what happens when I feel that my firm’s policies are not congruent with my own core values and beliefs? Can this feeling of incongruence and discontent trickle down to the client, and what’s the overall impact on my business?”
In our experience, advisors are masterful when it comes to insulating their clients from their frustrations, yet maintaining the status quo requires an enormous amount of energy that can hurt overall productivity. If your values clash with those of your firm, the authenticity you’re delivering to clients and prospects will be diminished.
“So, if I decide to leave my current firm, will my clients follow? How disruptive will this be to our relationship and future?”
The good news is that clients are recognizing it’s the person who’s watching out for them, not the corporate name posted outside their door. That being said, when the time comes for you to change jerseys, identify the key value propositions (“What’s in it for them?”) of the move, and articulate those benefits clearly. They are very likely to don the new colors with you, without issue or concern.