John J. has been an FA for 30 years. He started at a regional firm and went on to work at two different wirehouses in Manhattan. He’s been with the current one for a decade and manages $270 million assets for 900 households. After the 2008 market crash, like most of his peers, the 56-year-old’s production took a hit. And, while it’s not what it was four years ago, it has rebounded. John makes a good living, gets an occasional new client via referral, and has no plans to retire yet. He comes in at 9:00 and is home by 6:00. In short, he’s pretty happy with the way things are.
Which is a problem. John is just one example of what branch managers face when trying to motivate their teams: top producers who’ve grown complacent. “That is the number one complaint I hear from branch managers these days,” say clinical psychologist Alden Cass, author of The Bullish Thinking Guide for Managers, and head of Competitive Streak Consulting, which specializes in the financial services industry.
Of the BoM’s many responsibilities, being an effective motivator can prove particularly challenging, especially now, as the industry struggles to repair its battered reputation. We asked some experts for their thoughts on how managers can get the most out of their top producers—and, indeed, all of their FAs.
Motivating a team of FAs is a lot like being a pro-sports coach, Cass says. Managing both athletes and FAs successfully requires acknowledging that each “player” is very different, and, therefore, BoMs have to learn how each individual ticks, he says. Only then can a manager truly understand how to approach and motivate any given FA. (In his book, Cass divides advisors into five different ‘mindset’ categories and suggests strategies for motivating each one [see SIDEBAR]).
“With what’s happened to the economy over the past few years,” Cass says, “I think some advisors have really lost their sense of purpose.” His suggestions:
- Remind FAs of their importance to their clients, their clients’ lifestyles, and to your team.
- Talk about why they first entered the business. “Find out what made them motivated them back then to find out why that is lacking now.”
-Just as successful sports coaches are typically former stars, talk to your FAs about your past—your challenges and how you got over them, Cass says. “Meet with them one-on-one, and talk about experiences that relate to each one’s individual strengths and weaknesses. Follow up with regular meetings—this lets them know you mean what you say. They’ll respect you for it and will want to do their best for you and the team.”
-Suggest bringing in an intern or junior partner. “Now, your senior FA will be coaching someone young and hungry—like he once was. Training a newbie can really re-invigorate a seasoned advisor,” he says.
Werlin believes five things motivate all human beings: 1) monetary reward; 2) recognition; 3) competition; 4) internal satisfaction; and 5) fear. Each individual is motivated by some of these factors more than others, he says, and the order of importance can shift as his needs change. For example, an advisor who was not primarily motivated by money all of a sudden finds his children nearing college age.
“Know each of your advisors, and which motivators are most significant to him,” he says. “If an FA is complacent, financial reward may not be his top motivator. You have to appeal to him on another level. For example, some people are so motivated by competition that all you have to do is say, ‘I bet you can’t beat me,’ and they’re aching to win.” Werlin suggests exciting your FAs, challenging them, and recognizing their achievements as effective motivators.
And, this applies to everyone. “Your top producers know they’ll get the best money, perks, etc.” Cass says. “It’s very important to inspire everyone else. Emphasize that, while they may not be heavy hitters yet, they can indeed get there.” It’s important to recognize smaller victories among these folks, he says. “Offer them special educational workshops, extra discretionary funds, and new accounts that may transfer in to reward them and demonstrate your faith in their continued achievement. And, as they improve, give them immediate recognition.”
While recognizing achievement is important, Werlin says that, if there's room for improvement, constructive criticism can be in order. “But, if you want your FAs to really value your recommendations, you must first carefully try and analyze why they may be falling short,” he says. For example, you might notice an FA isn't taking enough notes during a client presentation, or he may not be thoroughly qualifying a prospect before making a recommendation. “Before giving feedback, try to understand why he did what he did. Does he understand the need to put detailed notes in client files? Does he need training in how to qualify a prospect, or was he just taking shortcuts?
“Don't give reps a list of what they're doing wrong—give them the benefit of your experience,” he says. “Ask thought-provoking questions which can inspire them to develop their own solutions.”
SIDEBAR: The Five Different Advisor Mindsets. Below are brief descriptions of each one, and his tips on motivating them.
The Catalyst is an enthusiastic, optimistic self promoter. He’s socially driven, emotional, and a risk-taker. “Talk about his dreams, goals, and financial aspirations,” Cass says. “Compare him to other top dogs in the industry with whom he can compete. Praise even slight improvements in his performance, offer incentives, and make his achievements known to the branch.”
The Decision-Maker is ambitious, forceful and highly goal-oriented. He’s also typically impatient and is a calculated risk-taker. “Focus on helping him with his bottom line. Ask what can you—as manager—do to foster growth of his business. Keep conversations business-like, with a strong focus on meeting goals.”
The Voice of Reason is patient, reliable and modest. He tends to be a rule-follower who is risk-averse and needs a sense of trust. . “Develop rapport with this advisor. Have plenty of meetings to build his trust. Once he feels you ‘have his back’ in helping him building his business, he’ll be motivated. But, don’t expect overt signs of excitement as his numbers improve. He’s not likely to brag. Simply thank him for his trust and working on his business.”
Facts and Detail: This advisor is a perfectionist. He’s dependable, analytical, conservative, risk-averse and often introverted. “Put things in writing for this advisor. Going over ‘written’ business plans keeps him motivated.” Cass says. Help him with the networking aspects of building his business, as this is usually not his forte. Consider pairing him with a catalyst teammate for this purpose. Help him on the creative end.
The Contrarian frequently takes the opposing position. He’s typically a blunt non-conformist who enjoys confrontation and is very focused on the bottom line. “Let him do his thing with little to no interference,” Cass says. “If you get in the way, he’ll resent it. Show him you appreciate his individuality, unique process, and quirky style.”