Many financial advisors are attracted to the freedom of independence. After all, the ability to advise their clients as they see fit without being micromanaged is appealing. But independence can be risky. Independent advisors often find that it’s easy to get bogged down in the daily minutiae of running a business, too.
That’s why some advisors instead opt to work at larger firms, where they have greater resources and support. However, this model also has its downsides. Advisors may feel that they’re often just another face in the crowd, forced to conform to a certain mold and mode of doing business without much personalized attention or assistance.
Understandably, many talented advisors find these two options lacking. That’s why firms that take a different approach, combining the best elements of both, can often attract top talent and give their entire business a boost.
The Balance of Independence and Support
These days, firms that want to recruit top talent must treat advisors like entrepreneurs. This means trusting them to run their own business while providing them with extensive support and resources. Advisors must be empowered to decide who they work with, which products and services to recommend, and when to engage other parts of the organization in meeting a client’s needs.
Advisor empowerment doesn’t appeal to just the best and brightest advisors; it also benefits the entire organization. Clients want to trust their advisors, which can be hard to accomplish if the advisor isn’t free to recommend what he or she believes to be the best financial roadmap. When a firm doesn’t require cross-selling or the use of proprietary products, advisors have more freedom to make genuine recommendations and, consequently, earn their clients’ trust.
One Team, From Bottom to Top
Another key component to advisor empowerment is accessibility. Firms that empower their advisors not only allow but also encourage conversation between advisors, senior leadership and home office professionals. When an advisor can get a quick answer to a question about a financial product for a given client, or call to get approval for a sound-but-unorthodox plan, he or she can offer a more tailored approach. And that can lead to client retention.
Minimizing the layers between the executive suite and client-facing advisors also ensures that senior leadership is close to the “heartbeat” of the organization: the advisors and their clients. These are the two most important people in financial services, and every layer between them and the decision-makers can serve to negatively impact the health of the organization.
In fact, senior management can only stand to gain by listening to and learning from the unique perspectives of experienced advisors. Listening to advisors means listening to clients, and meeting clients’ needs means growing a business that’s built to last.
John Pierce is head of recruiting at Stifel.