I turn 50 this year, and somehow, I feel like I’ve only just begun to tap into what is possible for me as an entrepreneur and a manager of wealth.
I suspect I’m not the only advisor who has gone through the last year and a half asking myself what I want out of my career, and whether my professional affiliates were getting me any closer to that goal. For my part, I spent decades in the wirehouse world, and I’m proud of the work I did there. But I have at least 20 more years left in the tank. I want to build a legacy. I want to create a business with strong roots.
Picking a Destination
The sheer number of options facing an advisor who wants to break away are both a blessing and a curse. It was great to know that an ideal solution was out there for my team, but we couldn’t find it until we started asking ourselves what we wanted to do. As an example, while some breakaways choose to go it alone, we found complete independence to be a double-edged sword. It works for many advisors, but my team did not relish the idea of starting from zero and reinventing the wheel.
Nor did we want to affiliate with a partner who would only end up being another wirehouse in all but name. But what does that mean? I’m talking about an affiliate who puts their priorities over yours. At my prior firm, I lost client opportunities because the services they needed were siloed away. I had very little control over the hiring process, to the point where a key staff position went unfilled for more than a year.
There are people out there who will give you what you want, but only if you fight for it. How long are you willing to keep going to the mat with a “partner” just to get the resources you need to continue growing? It’s not how I wanted to spend the next 20 years; I’ll tell you that much.
Focusing on Clients, Not Tools
After examining our own professional goals, we realized we wanted some kind of partnership. I didn’t want to be a franchisee, but I was willing to give up a little of my capital to gain the advantages of affiliation without sacrificing my independence. I don’t want to be monetized; I want to be empowered.
Since I made the decision to break away, I discovered a simple but powerful difference-maker that has liberated my team to work at their highest potential: Clients come first, not products. In the wirehouse world, you have a shelf of products, and you must match them to clients as best you can. Now, I can take full stock of an investor’s needs and find the solutions that truly serve those needs from wherever they may be. I don’t like telling clients “No,” and I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to have a partner who will help you figure out how to get to a “Yes.”
High-Touch Client Transitioning
The client-first focus is never more important than the moment you make the transition to independence. While most clients may not be steeped in enough inside baseball to know what breaking away means, they are justifiably wary of any changes to the way their financial futures are handled.
If you’re looking for a partner as part of your breakaway process, find someone who will advocate for you to your clients. They need to hear exactly how the move will preserve the wealth they have already built and open the door to more opportunities and better service. And I’m not talking about a form letter in their mailbox. Would your prospective partner’s leadership take time on a Saturday evening to personally call one of the families you serve to help explain the transition? I have seen firsthand the impact of a hands-on approach with a partner committed to your success.
There is no one size that fits all, whether it comes to those of us who work in wealth management or the investors with whom we work. We have different ambitions, values and fields of expertise that shape our businesses and our ideal client profiles. But the breakaway process has shown me the difference between working with people who will fill your sails, and people who force you to grab the oars and row against constant resistance.
Monish Verma is managing partner at Vardhan Wealth Management, an independent firm affiliated with Summit Financial.