Spousal Team Dynamics

Spousal Team Dynamics

Take it from me: Working with your spouse can certainly be challenging at times, but it can also be
a positive.

My husband, Howard, joined our firm about 10 years ago after practicing law for almost two decades. He serves as our chief operating officer and manages our staff, while I spend my days meeting with advisors. I thrive on the “art of the deal.” Howard’s attention to detail and behind-the-scenes management have allowed me to focus on my core strengths. In the same way, many partnerships between financial advisor spouses are very successful because they offer a unique and complementary value proposition to their clients.

Take husband and wife Steven and Jennifer, for example, a $2 million wirehouse team based in Florida. Steven started as a financial advisor in the late 1990s, and Jennifer, an accountant, joined him 12 years ago. When Jennifer started with her husband, she came on purely as a part-time sales assistant after their youngest child had entered kindergarten. “I had been out of the workforce for almost seven years; I didn’t want to go back into accounting, and Steve needed some help in his practice,” she said. Jennifer got her licenses eight years ago. She took on much of the portfolio management for the team, and she also manages the staff, which now includes three other assistants.

But it wasn’t easy at first, Steven said.

“What she learned quickly was that I was a different person in the office than I was at home,” he said. “I was not interested during the day in our weekend plans, the kids’ activities, or really anything that was not related
to growing my practice and servicing my clients. This created a bit of conflict for us.”

With Jennifer’s accounting background, though, she was a natural to run plans and deal with the financial aspects of the practice. Steven also came to realize that his wife was a much better manager of people than he was, so she became the team’s de facto human relations person.

As Steven and Jennifer’s children grew and their extracurricular activities increased, their professional and personal partnership allowed for one of them to attend sporting events and performances while the other manned the fort at the office.

“Our clients are primarily upper-middle-class families,” Jennifer said. “We bring a unique perspective around family values and we can relate incredibly well to both men and women.”

For Carol and Mark, a husband and wife team managing approximately $150 million in assets with a regional firm in the Northeast, it was a bumpy road when they first decided
to partner. Seven years ago, Mark joined his wife as an interim job after spending 20 years in the military. When he first joined, Mark had definite ideas on how Carol should be running and growing the business based upon his army training and experience. Carol felt she had been doing just fine without Mark’s drill-sergeant approach to wealth management. After six months of working together, not only was their professional relationship in jeopardy, their marriage was being impacted. They sought counseling from a business consultant, who helped them come to an understanding about how they could best work together.

Over time, Carol and Mark learned how to respect one another’s opinions, appreciate each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and respect what each contributes to the practice. Carol is a people person who is very good at networking and conducting seminars. Mark is better at strategic planning, working with wholesalers, and dealing with compliance issues. Today, instead of an “invasion” of her business by Mark, the experience is more of a joint exercise in building a legacy likely to be passed on to their children.

With spousal partnerships, one’s relationship at the office often impacts one’s personal life and vice versa. It takes willingness, understanding and a thick skin to make a spousal financial partnership succeed, but it’s often worth it in the end.

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