There was a time when many advisors would never have considered a move. Why would they? In the short term, there was nothing to solve for. But now they’re thinking differently.
Ten years ago, if I asked a successful advisor in the prime of their career to explain their succession plan and glide path to retirement, they likely would have looked at me like I had three heads.
“Why would I worry about that now when I have 15 years left in me? I’m crushing it, I’m growing like crazy, and I’m only focused on how to serve my clients, grow my book, and earn a fair wage,” they might have said.
Sure, it’s easy to keep your head down and “ride the wave” when the going is good. But even without the catalyst of recent market turbulence, we have seen a marked shift in advisor sentiment and mindset over the past several years.
Put succinctly, I would classify this shift as a move from short-term thinking to a more long-term worldview. Or, as I have coined it, “advisor farsightedness”: The change in advisor mentality from hyper-focus on the here and now (“Can I run my business today?” and “What deal will I be paid if I move?”) to looking at their business as a business in the longer-term (“I’m willing to give up short term upside in return for building lasting enterprise value.”).
Today, more and more advisors are asking themselves the hard (but critical) questions earlier and earlier in their careers.
Who will succeed me?
How will my business move beyond me?
Will my firm continue to be the best partner?
How can I protect and maximize the value of the business I’ve built?
So who really cares that advisors are starting to take a more long-term, big picture view?
For starters, it signals a more important fact of advisor sentiment. Namely, advisors are starting to think of their business as a business instead of merely a source of income during their working years. Of equal significance, though, is what this means for advisor movement.
It’s no secret that advisors have changed jerseys at near-record levels over the past several years, and the momentum has continued this year. And while many factors no doubt contribute to this phenomenon, I would posit that a major driver of such movement is a simple realization on the part of the advisor.
That is, while the status quo may be good enough for the short-term, it may not be for the long-term.
This is assuredly not to suggest that all advisors should nor will make an imminent move. It simply means that advisors are, at the very least, picking their heads up and asking the pressing questions. The answers to such questions often inform the “should I stay, or should I go” debate that most advisors struggle with in their careers at some point or another.
Take, for example, a sole practitioner wirehouse advisor in their mid-40s, averaging double-digit growth over the last three years. This advisor makes a great living, and while certainly there are things that frustrate them at their current firm, for the most part, things are good enough. Said advisor obviously has no trouble growing their book, take-home comp is robust, and their clients are largely content.
In the past, an advisor like this never would have considered a move. Why would they? In the short term, there was nothing to solve for.
But in today’s environment, this same advisor is likely forced to face some difficult realities despite, or perhaps because of, their current success. And while they have built a book of business, they haven’t really built an enterprise—and they’ll be leaving a tremendous amount of chips on the table without having a long-term plan at the ready.
Again, I reiterate that I am not suggesting this advisor must make a move to solve for the above concerns. They may very well decide that staying put best serves them. Plus, their firm may be able to help them find a successor while providing the opportunity to take advantage of a retire-in-place program. And certainly, staying put is the path of least resistance and the least disruptive for clients and advisors alike.
But most advisors, even those who feel well-served at their current firm, are at least curious about what their options might look like.
For instance, many firms have shown a real willingness to allow advisors to customize their path to retirement (regardless of how many years away that might be). Or an advisor may be able to “move once and monetize twice” by capitalizing on a recruiting deal upon transition and then again via their new firm’s retire-in-place program. And others may be able to find a natural buyer for the business at a new firm. They may even be able to sell equity, thus taking chips off the table before retirement.
The new mindset under which advisors are operating – where advisors are forcing themselves to think long-term about their business – will become more entrenched, not less. As the “seller’s market” rolls on, and buyers are willing to pay top dollar for wealth management practices, there is simply too much to lose by being complacent. While the status quo may be good enough for now, it assuredly may not be in the near future—and it’s a good thing that advisors are refusing to ignore this reality.
As seen on WealthManagement.com…