Many wirehouse advisors have expressed concern that their firms will stop honoring the Protocol for Broker Recruiting in the near future. Their sentiments – ranging from issues surrounding mutual respect, the expressed bond of trust, and the strong negative message that it sends – are captured in an “open letter” to firms using the collective voice of the advisors.
Dear Protocol member firm:
Please don’t pull out of the Protocol, the seminal accord among brokerage and advisory firms that some 11 years ago gave financial advisors their freedom of choice. When enacted – and our firm and now approximately 1,000 others signed on – it sent a message to me and all financial advisors that you trust us: trust us to do right by our clients, to make all decisions relative to our businesses without pressure from you, and to be loyal to our firms as long as we are treated with respect and equanimity. When our firm joined the Protocol, it proved to me that I didn’t need to go independent in order to feel ownership of my business. It proved I had the freedom to choose how I served my clients, the loyal people that verily believe I am making decisions on their behalf, governed solely by what I think is right for them and NOT what I am forced to do by my firm.
I am not necessarily looking to leave our firm. In fact, despite the bureaucracy, imperfections, and numerous changes in management and advisor compensation, as long as I am free to choose how I live my business life and serve my constituency, I’m happy enough. I love my clients and the good work I do for them, I make a very nice living, and I’m also able to be present for my kids and exercise regularly (things that make me feel as though I have some work-life balance). My plan has always been to finish my career here and I’m incredibly grateful that our firm has instituted a “sunset” plan so that I can monetize my life’s work when I’m ready to call it quits. The bottom line is that I feel content enough as long as I have freedom of choice.
If our firm pulls out of the Protocol in order to protect itself from further attrition, I am pretty sure that I will be forced to leave—NOT because I think I can necessarily serve my clients better elsewhere, but because I will feel as though I have lost my right to choose where I serve them. And, to me, that would be a deal breaker.
Consider this: When my children were young and they asked to go to a party, although I didn’t think they should, I allowed them to make their own choice because I wanted to send the message that I trusted them. These were “low stakes” opportunities to do so, and the result was almost always better than I ever could have hoped for: They chose to do the right thing and by coming to their decisions on their own terms, it empowered them, strengthened our relationship and fostered much greater trust and open communication between us. Sticking with that analogy for a moment, I am pretty sure that in almost every instance with my children, had I robbed them of their right to choose, I might actually have forced them to make decisions I didn’t want them to make, simply because they needed to assert their independence and feel free.
Like our right to choose who we think should be our next president, what car we drive and what cereal we eat for breakfast, it is freedom of choice that’s at the cornerstone of the American experience. My greatest hope is that our firm will not take away my inalienable right to decide whether I stay or go and where I am best able to serve my clients.
In the end, shouldn’t the barometer of what is best for the client be the rule by which we live anyway?