By John Appleby
For smaller advisory firms, there are many benefits that come from merging with larger, more established firms. From handling issues around succession to access to new platforms and technology, the resources made available to these smaller teams help them to rapidly improve their ability to serve clients. However, one of the first enhancements that takes place post-merger, and often one of the most noticeable, is the office makeover.
When firms are tackling the larger issue of “what’s next” prior to a merger, upgrades and maintenance of their physical office space often fall to the bottom of the priority list, below serving clients and handling human capital issues. So, when these firms make the move to become a part of a larger organization, their office spaces are often in need of a serious makeover, if not a total overhaul.
For some firms, it’s a fresh coat of paint and some new furniture. For others, moving to an entirely new space makes it possible to fully integrate the branding and esthetic of the firm, and can reinforce the strong commitment to the next chapter. Brand consistency on a nationwide scale ensures that the feel of a brand is the same whether you are in a single branch, or the organization’s headquarters. This helps both the clients and advisors understand and live the culture of the organization. Consistency of branding also reflects the importance of finding a partner with a culture that matches the values and philosophy of the smaller firm. Culture should drive an advisor’s business, and the advisor’s office should be the reflection of that culture.
Regardless of the changes needed to upgrade the look and feel of an office, the resources offered by the larger firms are much more than the capital to enable this makeover: Often the larger firms have already worked to integrate many, if not dozens of other firms and know how to quickly and efficiently upgrade a space with minimal disruption to work.
The other important piece of the office upgrade is technology. Of course, the joining firms will now have access to new client portals and industry-leading software, but in many cases what they are most in need of is improved hardware. From converting from desktops to laptops and even phone system upgrades, this new technology allows for advisors to more seamlessly serve their clients. For many advisors, they are enabled to work from home for the first time.
In addition to creating brand consistency and providing advisors with state-of-the-art technology, by centralizing the management of office spaces within an organization, firms can develop stronger operational and business efficiencies. For example, if a firm has wealth management and institutional retirement practices in a single city, perhaps combining those offices will lead to business commingling. Institutional clients can get access to wealth management services within the same office, leading to stronger and deeper client relationships across business channels. These major changes to business outcomes and client relationships can be established through simply investing in one large office rather than two previously distinct smaller offices.
For firms considering making the move to becoming a part of a larger organization, it is important to weigh all of the benefits. While the physical office upgrades may not seem like an important factor, consider the old adage of the importance of a first impression. Whether it’s new clients, established clients or prospective hires, having a sophisticated and elegant office space instills confidence in the longevity and overall success of a firm.
John Appleby is managing director of project management and acquisitions at CAPTRUST.