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The Right People with the Right Stuff: Leadership and Pipeline

This is part two of a two-part post on how talent influences practice growth, efficiency and success.

This is part two of a two-part post on how talent influences practice growth, efficiency & success.


Earlier this year, I visited in-person with nearly 50 advisor teams (both within and outside the HighTower community). In addition to challenges related to recruiting high-quality talent and navigating the technology marketplace, the other common themes that I heard during my travels had to do with leadership and pipeline management.


A great advisor is not always a great leader

All firms strive to grow their businesses, but when their strategic efforts result in a significant increase in both clients and assets, properly allocating time to wealth management, client relationships and operations becomes difficult and precarious.

Growth that exceeds principal advisors’ ability to simultaneously manage their businesses and their clients’ needs is a high-class problem, but for many, a sincere dilemma.

I recently received a call from one of the industry's top advisors. In confidence, he shared with me that after nearly 30 years as an advisor, he recognizes that with his rapid growth of revenue and people, his team needs direction and leadership. He also confessed that he knows he does not have the experience or skills to do this himself, so he wants to learn. He asked me if I would be willing to coach him, or if I could recommend someone else to help him.

I suggested that he consider an alternative route: Why not hire an expert? Naturally, hiring for this role is not an insignificant expense but it is also a major cultural decision. Many lead advisors are unsure of the business size and growth rate that necessitates the addition of a professional manager or group director to manage the business operations, while others do not know how to approach the crucial self-assessment that determines whether or not they are capable of being a CEO as well as an advisor. However, without the proper leadership, direction and support, a growing practice can cease to grow, or far worse, end up sacrificing efficiency and client service.

Business leadership requires a different set of learned skills that take time to cultivate and are constantly being refined. Not all financial advisory practices need a dedicated manager or group director, but once a firm grows beyond particular thresholds of size and complexity, it may benefit from designating a skilled leader to successfully sustain and continue to enhance growth.


Pipeline management should be a team effort

Many of the teams and prospects that I visited do not currently have their key staff engaged in their pipeline management discussions and growth plans! If a practice is committed to growing, it is crucial that lead advisors or principals work with their entire teams in order to optimize their efforts.

More often than not, key staff members want to be included in growth and recruiting initiatives. Key employees, especially those long-tenured and loyal professionals who are more like family and friends, are much more invested in the growth and success of the business than many lead advisors know. After all, the growth in their compensation often depends upon the growth of the practice.

They can help, so let them! Key staff can add a crucial and direct level of accountability to ensure that both advisors and the entire team are tracking towards key results and correlating activity. Also, encouraging their involvement and participation in weekly pipeline reviews helps ensure timely and efficient prospect engagement.

Portfolio managers, planners, analysts, concierges, client service associates and other subject matter experts on your team have insights and perspectives that can also help you advance and close prospects, so do not exclude them from the process, either.

Lastly, in addition to engaging key staff, practices that are dedicated to pipeline management are tracking and optimizing their efforts with a credible CRM system that all team members can access.


The right people with the right stuff 

My travels gave me perspective and the opportunity to identify practice trends both within the HighTower community and in the industry at large. Ultimately, to be a Jack of all trades but a master of none will not support business growth or efficiency. Sustainable success is achieved with a staff that comprises talented professionals and specialists with diverse skills and “the right stuff” for your business, culture and objectives. 


Michael Parker is National Director, Enterprise Development for Hightower Advisors.

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