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Six Reasons Advisors Get Stuck in the Status Quo

Complacency is a funny thing: It’s easy to fall into and hard to get out of.

It happens to the best of us: Things seem good enough, and then “status quo mindset” creeps in.

It’s a natural progression, especially on the heels of extended bull markets when most advisors are enjoying record success. Advisors fall into refrains like, “I am crushing it financially. Things could be a whole lot worse.” And my favorite, “There’s no such thing as perfection anywhere.”

There is nothing inherently wrong with that thinking: So long as you feel you are living a congruent life (that is, a life in which your personal and professional goals align with the platform afforded by the firm).

In fact, a sense of incongruence between advisor and firm often drives movement. Historically, however, advisor movement has been a largely reactive process: An advisor gets frustrated, fed up or even loses a client, so they decide to consider options elsewhere. Excitingly, we are seeing a much more proactive mindset in recent years, whereby advisors make a change not just because they are running from something but because they are intrigued enough to run to something.

But complacency is a funny thing. It’s easy to fall into and much harder to get out of. You know in your heart that something is not quite right, yet you have not given yourself permission to imagine something better.

Advisors trapped by the “status quo mindset” often share one or more of these six justifications for not upsetting the proverbial apple cart. But by thinking critically about each, you can, if needed, find a way out and fully assert your agency, control and voice.

  1. No one likes a complainer. What if I told you that it’s OK to complain? That, if done properly, complaining can actually be productive, effective, and rewarding. By no means am I advocating complaining for complaining’s sake, but instead doing so with a goal in mind: to affect positive change. Advisors often share with us that while things aren’t perfect at their current firm, they are enjoying tremendous financial success beyond their wildest dreams. So what right do they have to complain? I believe verily that this thinking is flawed: Just because you are successful doesn’t mean that you aren’t entitled to want more. Remember: People may not love complainers, but the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
  2. My team doesn’t pull their weight. This is incredibly valid. After all, if you can’t rely on your team, it’s difficult to fathom making a transition—which entails rigorous work in the short term. And the only real remedy is to work hard to get the right people on the bus. Otherwise, you will always be a hostage to the status quo.
  3. My partner doesn’t feel like I do. Let’s tackle this one in two parts: First and foremost, are you absolutely sure that’s the case? Often partners hide their true feelings about their firm for fear that it will spark conflict and turmoil within the team. An open and honest conversation might go a long way. But if you are indeed right that your partner is not on the same page as you, it’s time for some good old-fashioned soul-searching. How critical is your partner to your business? Is it worth the pain of staying put not to upset the apple cart? Might your partner be compelled to make a change with you even if they are less unhappy than you are?
  4. I’m loyal to my firm and/or manager. That’s incredibly admirable; for some, it’s reason enough to stay with one firm forever. But it’s increasingly common to see even one-time lifers change jerseys if they feel they might be better served elsewhere. After all, even the most fervent loyalty has its limits. Typically, it’s great to be loyal, so long as that loyalty isn’t impacting your ability to serve clients or grow your business without limitation.
  5. I’m fearful of a transition. For starters, you should be! A firm transition is a major life event, and it should scare you—at least to some extent. It’s disruptive, a hassle and a lot of work. But keep your eye on the prize and remind yourself often why you are considering change to begin with. Sometimes, the long-term gain is well worth the short-term pain.
  6. My book has elements that are not portable. Until now, we have focused on internal factors that prevent advisors from making a move. But what about when it’s your clients that are keeping you in place? It really depends on how much pain you’re in and how much you stand to lose. For example: If your book is 90% institutional and non-portable, you would need to be incredibly unhappy to consider a change. But on the other hand, if 20% of your book is plugged into the firm’s investment bank and non-portable, you may well decide it’s worth leaving that sleeve of business behind if need be because a change would be meaningfully better in other ways (including, presumably, the ability to grow and make up some or all of the lost revenue). 

None of this is to suggest that all advisors should make a change or that the above six factors are not perfectly valid reasons for staying with a particular firm. For many advisors, staying put is the right (and indeed the easiest) path. But it’s essential to make sure these factors aren’t being used as a crutch or an excuse, even when it no longer serves you or your clients.


Jason Diamond is Vice President, Senior Consultant of Diamond Consultants—a nationally-recognized recruiting and consulting firm based in Morristown, N.J. that focuses on serving financial advisors, independent business owners and financial services firms.

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