The Perfect Manager

It's January. Everyone wants to become his "ideal self," you know, tackle all those bad habits and really kick it hard. So, as a service to our loyal readers, we asked several branch managers and compliance experts for advice to help other BOMs and OSJs improve their management skills. Oh, while some of these entries may strike one as, well, prosaic and somewhat obvious, that is exactly the point: It's the obvious, daily blocking and tackling that is hard to do. Here are nine ideas:

It's January. Everyone wants to become his "ideal self," you know, tackle all those bad habits and really kick it hard. So, as a service to our loyal readers, we asked several branch managers and compliance experts for advice to help other BOMs and OSJs improve their management skills. Oh, while some of these entries may strike one as, well, prosaic and somewhat obvious, that is exactly the point: It's the obvious, daily blocking and tackling that is hard to do. Here are nine ideas:

Don't Just Delegate: Manage
"We're all great at saying, 'My operations manager will do this, my assistant will do that'," says Jill Bradley, a 20-year veteran and producing manager who oversees 20 FAs at Wachovia Securities' Louisville, Ky., branch. "But, you can't just delegate and forget about it. That's where I think a lot of mangers have trouble." Bradley schedules weekly meetings with her "delegates," both individually and as a group, to discuss the specifics of what they've been doing. "This way, we always know who's doing what and when," she says.

Get to Know -- and Understand -- Your FAs
OK, this sounds utterly hokey. But it's still important. Jim Oxley, a CFP and producing regional manager for Raymond James & Associates in Greenwood, Ind., oversees 16 branches. He says managing people you have good rapport with is key. "I have regular lunch dates with the head of every team in every office I oversee, where we share our ideas and problems."

It Helps to Form a Team
Oxley says he realized early to do both -- supervise and produce -- he needed a partner. Today, he's part of a team of four FAs and two sales assistants whose total production topped $2.5 million last year.

"Branch managers can be pretty ego-driven," says Wachovia's Bradley. It's something she says she knows all too well. "That's how I was when I started as a 33-year-old female BOM." But, she says she quickly learned that ego only breeds resentment. "Now, I try to make everything a team effort. I don't make any major decision in this office without the consensus of the people it's going to affect. I'm willing to do that because it works. And, I know that -- as a rep -- that's how I'd want to be managed."

Be a Manager for the Right Reasons
"The best managers are driven foremost by the success of others," Bradley says. "That's the opposite of brokers, who are driven by their own success. Since many of us have been successful brokers, we need to lose that mentality."

Don't Be Afraid to Seek Help
Jeffrey Korzenik is now president of Salem Five Investment Services, a boutique wealth-management firm with six advisors in Salem, Mass. But Korzenik spent 17 years in management at [then] PaineWebber and Smith Barney before going independent two years ago.

In 2002, Korzenik went from the assistant to Smith Barney's Midwest Divisional Director to managing a New England office complex, where he oversaw 55 reps, five managers and a support staff of 20. "I was far removed from the day-to-day work flow of a branch," he says. So, he hired a coach to get him back in the swing.

"Unfortunately, coaching is often viewed as remedial, like for helping an underperformer," he says. "I got over the stigma when someone told me that Tiger Woods has five coaches."

Though your peers can be supportive, Korzenik says, "A coach gives you someone in your corner to bounce business issues off of -- without any negative consequences."

"A lot of BOMs do this, and I think it's horrible," says one wirehouse branch manager in New York, who asked not to be identified. "I've known my share and even worked for one when I was a rep." But, it probably won't take long for your reps to see through you, he says. "It's terribly unfair to the people you're supposed to be helping." And, it's hardly a surefire means of career advancement: "It can backfire very easily and make your life miserable," he says. Focus on your present job is good advice for anyone.

Encourage Reps to Keep Careful Notes
Andrea Kotch Duda, CFP, a seven-year veteran BOM who oversees 10 FAs at RJA's Ann Arbor, Mich., branch says it's critical for reps to clearly identify -- in client records -- where they may have concerns. "You want these notations in the files in case there are any arbitration or litigation issues in the future," Duda says. "I can't tell you how many outcomes are determined by how much record-keeping the FA did."

Identify and Focus on High-Risk Activities, People
"I've seen many managers spend too much time on the low-risk, day-to-day stuff," says Cindy Cheney, director of compliance for RBC Dain Rauscher's private client group. "I'd say 80 percent of your risk is probably found in 20 percent of your activities. I'd break risk down into three categories: high-risk brokers, such as new brokers or those with any questionable history; high-risk clients, such as very aggressive clients or elderly ones; and high-risk investments or investment strategies, such as annuities and mutual fund B shares."

Scan daily trade blotters to see where these risks lie, Cheney says. "If you spend more time on these areas -- and less time on, or even delegate, if your firm allows -- the supervision of the lower risk areas, it will help you tremendously in today's regulatory environment."

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