Here’s the premise of the Super Model series:
As the financial services profession evolves, we have seen the maturation of business models to support individuals who want to be independent, but not alone. While the traditional affiliation arrangement still has appeal for certain investment professionals, three business models that support the more independent-minded professional have emerged. The Super Model series discusses the new business models that have emerged to support independent financial advisors:
- The Super OSJ
- The Super Ensemble
- The True Enterprise
Over the coming year in this publication, we will expand upon that information by profiling Super OSJs, Super Ensembles and True Enterprises in the financial advisory space. We may also profile some of the more interesting financial services institutions and wealth tech companies in this publication. Today, we start the Super Model case study series with a closer look at Simply Money Advisors, a financial planning and registered investment advisory firm that became a True Enterprise according to the Super Model definitions laid out by Strategy & Resources, and effected a successful capital event.
The firm went full cycle — from birth, aging, maturity and successful transition.
The True Enterprise Model, Explained
The True Enterprise is a fully functional retail advisory firm where the focus is on making a professional staffing model work. As the business grows, they’re adding employees, not additional partners per se. It’s not that there isn’t an opportunity for people to move into partner roles, because there are; basically, think about this as if you were going to open another McDonald’s. You’d be very interested in hiring and keeping good employees, using professional managers to run the business divisions, maintaining a unified message and brand in your targeted markets, implementing a consistently successful marketing strategy and so forth. You have the business model; you hire employees to staff it. It does not rely upon super-human effort to simultaneously sustain growth and a consistent client-service experience. It enables motivated people to stay focused on their preferred functional role and ultimately to do their best work.
These are the functions that have to be done well in order for a professional advisory business to succeed and sustain margins:
- Business Development (Marketing/Prospecting)
- Client Onboarding (Sales)
- Financial Planning (Case Design)
- Client Relationship Management
- Client Service
- Investment Management
- Business Management
- Human Resources
This business model is designed to outlive founders and current professionals or partners. It’s a true business, not a practice. This is an important distinction. We tend to think about this model as comparable to a local, regional or national accounting firm where standardized processes and consistent branding result in sustainable growth. There is planned succession for all roles in the firm and as a result they’re able to attract and retain talent.
The True Enterprise, in a nutshell:
- The business is a fully functional retail advisory firm.
- There is a professional staffing model with career paths (think legal, accounting, medical practices).
- Services are provided by company employees and salaried advisors/planners create the profit.
- Key employees may receive incentive-based bonuses, or even become company shareholders over time.
Finding a financial advisory firm that functions as a true enterprise and is innovating after multiple years in business is like finding a needle in a haystack. They are rare. Why? It is harder to create, staff and bankroll the company than what meets the eye. But when properly executed against a well-defined strategy, this business model clearly works — and has legs.
Now, let’s take a closer look at Simply Money Advisors.