Career Moves: Looking Forward, Not Back

Career Moves: Looking Forward, Not Back

In the current environment, many advisors are not the producers they once were. And that will have an effect on the kinds of career moves they decide to make.

The market's swan dive last year plunged many former $1 million plus producers below that magic threshold. Such an abrupt change in status, compensation and perks can be hard to accept. But it can also have an important impact on your career options. If now is the time to move, you may want to cut a deal that gives you a greater share of your growth down the line. Alternatively, you may want to consider going independent, which can allow you to take home a greater percentage of your revenue. Or you may simply decide that you're best off staying put until your production numbers increase.

Larry, a West Coast wirehouse advisor of 15 years, was generating $1.3 million in annual revenues on about $140 million under management back in 2007. But as of early 2009, his book of business was down 25 percent to about $105 million and his new trailing 12 months production was just south of $1 million. When I first started talking with Larry, he positioned himself as a $1.3 million advisor and was looking to make a move to another wirehouse firm believing that he should be valued and paid at his prior production level. Unfortunately for Larry, the firms that he spoke with did not agree and offered him a transition bonus (200 percent in total) that was much smaller than he anticipated.

Larry wasn't pleased about the offer but was determined to leave his current firm. He was also convinced that given time at a new firm, he would be able to break back above that $1.3 million mark. As a result, he structured a deal with his new firm that paid him less up front and will provide him with a much greater backend component if his production and assets increase the way he expects. This transformed his transition package into a 240 percent deal, with 120 percent up front and the rest divided between three backend bonuses that are tied to his production and asset growth over time.

Roger and Peter, another wirehouse team, decided to go an entirely different route. Prior to last year's market bust, they were generating just over $1 million in production on approximately $100 million under management. But in the first quarter of 2009, their production dropped to just over $750,000. Tired of trying to hurdle back over the $1 million mark in order to regain the payout, prestige and perks that go with it, they decided to join an existing, high quality RIA firm closer to home. They now feel they are better able to focus on client relationships and to offer greater objectivity and transparency to their clients. Instead of the 42 percent payout they were getting at the wirehouse, they estimate that after expenses of 35 percent, they are taking home income equal to 55 percent of revenues. That is a nice step up.

For some advisors, making a move to a new firm just doesn't make sense. Such was the case with Ron, an 8-year advisor with a Merrill Lynch mid-west satellite office who had been producing around $750,000 in late 2007. Fast forward to November, 2008 and his production dropped to just below $500,000. He had a decision to make. Should he switch firms in an effort to get at least some amount of transition money or stay put and make the best out of his current situation? Ron decided to stay at his Merrill office where he was well liked and had a terrific manager who believed in him. When last heard from in April, 2009, Ron's book had started to grow (he is projected to generate about $600,000 in trailing 12-months production this year) and because of advisor attrition at his firm, he has been receiving a steady stream of new clients.

Look frankly and honestly at where you stand professionally so that you can base your career decisions on fact rather than fiction. Making a decision not based solely on the economics but on what you are looking to accomplish long term is a step in the right direction.

Writer's BIO:

Mindy Diamond
founded Chester, N.J.-based Diamond Consultants, which specializes in retail brokerage and banking recruiting.

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