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The Interim Move on the Way to Independence

Many advisors who feel the status quo no longer serves them—but ultimately want independence—are opting to make an interim move rather than wait.

Advisors choose to move from one wirehouse to another for a number of reasons, not the least of which is their turnkey nature and brand cachet. In the past few years, though, a new motivator has emerged—the desire to make an interim move before making the leap to independence. 

So, why are these advisors opting to make two moves instead of one, particularly given the heavy lift required to transition a business? As with any move, it’s driven by a series of pushes and pulls. That is, challenges and frustrations within one’s current firm that impact the advisor’s ability to serve clients and grow their business, with the pull being a more compelling opportunity elsewhere, one that will allow them to deliver a better client experience and accelerate growth. While staying put and waiting it out may indeed offer the path of least resistance, accepting the status quo is no longer good enough for this population of advisors as they worry that what got them “here” may not get them “there.”

And as these advisors consider their future and assess the path forward, there’s no denying that life as an employee at a wirehouse has changed quite a bit over the past several years and, like their colleagues who are making the leap to independence, they too crave the freedom, flexibility and control that accompanies being a business owner. However, they also recognize that with business ownership comes a host of other responsibilities, including oversight on such things as technology, compliance, HR and marketing—all of which have the potential to distract an advisor who isn’t personally and professionally ready to be a business owner.

So, what’s to be gained from an interim move to another wirehouse, especially given that on the surface, it’s a seemingly lateral one? For many, it’s a means to an end in that these advisors subscribe to the notion of incubating their business or, said another way, they want to get their “house in order” before becoming business owners. For some advisors that may translate to:

  • Hiring additional team members or support staff
  • Deepening their wealth management expertise
  • Evolving their client service model
  • Jettisoning unproductive assets

Additionally, making a well-timed interim move to a full-service firm offers advisors the opportunity to monetize their business while also readying it for “prime time.”

As with any potential transition, the process should always begin by identifying your reasons for a move:

  • What are the challenges and frustrations at your current firm that are preventing you from reaching your goals?
  • Are there limitations being placed upon you that are preventing you from best serving your clients?
  • What is it that you want to achieve by making a move—will a new firm’s resources, capabilities, thought leadership and operations help you to “put your house in order?”
  • And last, will a move to another wirehouse move the needle in the right direction?

While the perceived notion is that all wirehouses are created equal, there are subtle differences between them that can meaningfully and positively impact an advisor’s business.

That said, why make a move to another wirehouse at all, particularly given all the options? To start, for many advisors and their clients, there’s a level of comfort, familiarity and safety within the confines of a major brokerage firm, least of which is a well-recognized brand. And with access to everything under one roof, including best-in-class financial planning, research, investment management, trust and estate planning, lending and investment banking, these wirehouse devotees place a premium on a turnkey user experience—so much so that they are also willing to tolerate the challenges and frustrations that come with being an employee at a big firm.

At the end of the day, every advisor’s route to independence is different. For some, it’s an interim move to evolve and grow their business while also derisking and capitalizing on it at a time when transition packages are robust and financial markets are cooperating. Provided such a move is more than better enough and that clients are the ultimate beneficiaries, taking two steps instead of one toward launching an independent practice can be an ideal career strategy.


Deborah Aronson is a manager and senior consultant at Diamond Consultants, a recruiting firm in the wealth management space.

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