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Michael Kitces' #FASuccess Podcast: Jeff Concepcion Explains 'Supported Independence'

Stratos Wealth Partners acts as a support platform for independent advisors, effectively operating as the back and middle office for affiliated advisors.



Welcome back to the 122nd episode of Financial Advisor Success Podcast!

My guest on today’s podcast is Jeff Concepcion. Jeff is the founder and CEO of Stratos Wealth Partners, a corporate RIA and super OSJ under the LPL platform that oversees more than $13 billion of assets under advisement across nearly 300 advisors in 100 different locations. What’s unique about Jeff, though, is that he built Stratos as a support platform for independent advisors, effectively operating as the back and middle office for his affiliated advisors, providing everything from compliance and HR support to IT support and consulting on mergers and acquisitions in what he calls a “supported independence” approach.

In this episode, we talk in depth about the ways that the demands on an advisory firm owner’s time shifts as the business grows, how advisory firm tasks can be split into back, middle, and front office roles and why advisors do best to spend the bulk of their time in the front office roles and not mired in the rest, the crossroads that advisory firms reach when they have to decide whether to insource or outsource additional tasks and responsibilities as they grow, and why for growing firms the whole decision about whether to insource and outsource goes far beyond just the investment management process of whether you use a TAMP or not.

We also talk about the details of Stratos’ own supported independence model in particular. The way their typical 85% and 66% payout grids work and what advisors actually get in return for not taking a typical 90% payout rate directly from an independent broker-dealer but needing to pay their own overhead instead, the math of how a lower payout compares to the overhead cost of hiring staff internally to fulfill all those key mid- and back-office roles that are necessary in a growing firm, and the ways that larger firms at scale like Stratos can potentially provide a wider range of services to a larger number of independent advisory firms that would be cost-prohibitive for those firms to get on their own, at least one advisory firm at a time.

And be certain to listen to the end, where Jeff talks about the challenges that he faced in launching Stratos himself. How even though the business is incredibly successful today with more than $13 billion of AUA and nearly 300 advisors, Jeff still didn’t get a paycheck out of the business for the first 3 years. How he worked through those challenging early years with the combination of conviction, transparency, and a little faith, and how despite the challenges of perhaps overinvesting into his infrastructure in the early years, he’s now learned the bigger risk for a dynamic growing enterprise is still failing to invest enough into the team early enough to stay ahead of the growth curve in the first place.

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