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Terminated: Managing the Real Impact on Partners and Teams

Seven steps you need to take when a partner or team member has been handed a pink slip.

Over the past several years, big brokerage firms have become more risk averse, creating an incongruence between advisors who want to provide a customized experience for their clients and compliance departments that continually want to tighten the box around them. Advisors at big firms have found themselves in a world driven by a zero-tolerance culture, where compliance departments rule with a heavy hand and management is focused on the lowest common denominator.

This increasingly hypercompliant environment has resulted in many examples of top advisors who were terminated with cause for things that in the not-too-distant past might have been handled with just a warning.

While the headlines focus on the terminated advisors, few conversations discuss the partners and teams they leave behind—for whom the termination creates a wave of disruption to the business and concern over their own potential vulnerabilities. They’re left wondering what their exposure is, what the clients will say and how they’ll be able to move their own careers forward.

For those who find themselves in this position, the goal should be to clarify your own thoughts and ultimately determine if the partnership is worth maintaining and reestablishing elsewhere. Start by addressing these seven action items:

  1. Be sure all client relationships are solid. Make the clients aware of the situation, and let them know that you are their link to stability and continuity. Assess their responses and use that to guide your next steps in the relationship.
  2. Assess your own vulnerability. Determine if your position at the firm is in any way jeopardized due to your connection to the terminated advisor.
  3. Take the emotion out of the situation. Form your own objective conclusion as to whether this termination was justified.
  4. Decide where you stand. Consider whether you support the actions of the firm or the advisor. This will help to identify your next steps.
  5. Assess the real value of the terminated advisor. You’ll need to establish how important the advisor was to the business—and if it can thrive without him or her.
  6. Consider options for going forward. Decide if you’re better off staying put and rebuilding without the key partner or rejoining him at a new firm.
  7. Wait for the dust to settle. No decision should ever be made in haste. Take some time to get educated about the options available as you gauge response from your firm, the team and your clients.

When a valued partner is dismissed, it can rock even the strongest of teams. As the shock wears off, it’s critical to determine what’s best for the business—that means looking closely at your current firm and weighing it against other prospective opportunities.

Then think about your own role as an employee of your firm: Will you feel well supported in your abilities to service your clients and grow the business going forward? Or will you be looking over your shoulder, waiting for the next shoe to drop?

Keep in mind that the disruption this has caused is finite. Being proactive will allow you to redefine your own future as well as the next chapter of the business—and get on to what will be the new normal.

Mindy Diamond is president and CEO of Diamond Consultants in Morristown, N.J., a nationally recognized boutique search and consulting firm in the financial services industry.

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