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The Move to Branch Management: Could it be for you?

Perhaps you’ve been advisor for a few years and are wondering whether branch management could be for you. As you ponder your next move, read on for some sound advice from others who have already made the leap

The Move to Branch Management: Could it be for you?

Perhaps you’ve been advisor for a few years and are wondering whether branch management could be for you. As you ponder your next move, read on for some sound advice from others who have already made the leap.

For starters, evaluate why you really want to go into management, and make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons and not because you are tired of the business, you think it will be easier, or you’re looking to increase your compensation. “If it’s because you want to give back to the business, you want to help brokers achieve their financial goals, and give yourself a creative outlet, then that’s why you go into management,” said Scott Fergang, branch director in the Paramus, N.J., office of RBC Wealth Management.

Next, consider your personality. Are you a people person with a lot of patience? Are you business-oriented, organized and analytical? How about a natural leader who likes to motivate others and can multi-task without getting too flustered? What about open-minded and willing to listen to others’ ideas?

“If you feel you have all the answers, I don’t think you’re going to be effective in this job. I think a person has got to be able to say ‘I don’t know, but let’s find out together,’” said Clyde W. Wyatt, managing director of Navigation Financial Group, a wealth management and financial planning firm in Dallas.

You also need to be a good listener. “It’s very easy when you’re in a management position to tell them to do x, y, z. But sometimes they have a better idea,” Fergang said.

Recruiting is also a big part of a branch manager’s job. You have to be able to communicate to advisors why they should work for your firm and what you are offering them. It is also important to be a mentor and coach, said Don Patrick, managing director of Integrated Financial Group, a consortium of independent advisers based in Atlanta. “I take a very hands-on approach with the advisors and help them grow their businesses.”

Beyond personality there are several things would-be managers should consider before they throw their hat in the ring.

For one, they have to be open to the possibility of relocating, perhaps multiple times. Another thing to consider is the difference between what and how advisors and branch managers get paid. “Like the role of financial advisor, if you are a very talented, success-driven financial advisor, you’ll make a very, very good living, and the same is true as a branch manager, but you do get paid differently,” said Tim Van Simaeys, branch manager for the Centerville, Ohio office of UBS Financial Services Inc.,

As an advisor, for example, Van Simaeys received commissions monthly. As a branch manager, however, he receives a salary plus a yearly bonus, which is the larger part of his pay, and is based primarily on the profitability of his office and a variety of other metrics.

Also keep in mind that as a branch manager you might be forced by your firm to give up some, or all, of your book, which can be a sticking point for someone with a large client base. You also give up some of your security. If your branch closes, for example, and there’s no other spot at the firm, you’re out of luck, whereas if you have a book of clients, you can pretty much do your business from anywhere. “It’s an asset that you’re giving up,” said Dean Vernoia, chief operating officer for J.P. Turner & Co., an independent brokerage and investment banking firm in Atlanta.

Even if you are allowed to keep clients, you need to question how much time and energy you’ll have to devote to them amid myriad other duties. Van Simaeys of UBS, for example, was allowed to keep his book because it didn’t meet his firm’s cap, but nonetheless, he decided to give up managing money for all but close friends and family because he didn’t feel he could do both jobs well. “If you really want to pour your heart and soul into it, it’s more than a full-time job,” he said.

Of course, for Van Simaeys there wasn’t a lot at stake because he was only a few years into it. But it could be a bigger deal for someone with 10 to 20 years under his or her belt. “I think you would certainly want to take much more time and care about the move to management, assuming you were leaving that book behind,” he said.

After weighing the pros and cons, if you still think you are interested in becoming a branch manager, speak up. Have some conversations with your manager about the ups and downs of the position. Ask if there’s something you can do to help him or her out in some way. See if your firm offers training programs and determine how you can get into one. And don’t be frightened off by the fact that you may not be one of your firm’s top producers since the skills are not necessarily the same. “You may have someone who is a very, very good salesperson, but does a bad job of managing other people,” said Vernoia of J.P. Turner & Company.

One word of caution. The job description of branch manager doesn’t mean the same thing at every firm. Some branch manager positions are compliance-oriented, while some are designed around recruiting, training and building an organization. So make sure the job you’re applying for is the one you are looking for, Vernoia said. “It’s not one size fits all.”

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