July 21, 2022
Louis Diamond Quoted
by Hayley Cuccinello
For top financial advisors, switching firms can lead to a life-changing windfall, but it comes with strings attached.
Major wealth-management firms like UBS and Morgan Stanley recruiting high-earning advisors sweeten the deal through bonuses in the form of loans. Each firm structures these bonuses in a different way, but, essentially, if advisors stay with the firm for a certain number of years and meet performance goals, the promissory notes are paid off.
With wirehouses offering three to four times an advisor’s revenue over the previous 12 months, these loans amount to millions of dollars. The recruiter Louis Diamond, for instance, says a financial advisor bringing in $1 million in yearly revenue — which he calls a typical figure — can easily get a $3 million loan or more to go to another firm. Typically, half of the loan is given up front and the rest is earned over time.
It’s a win-win situation if the advisor stays at the firm until the loan matures while meeting performance goals, such as how much of their book they move from their old employer or book growth targets. Even though advisors get a chunk up front, the loans are forgiven in annual installments, so the advisors save on taxes and it looks better on firms’ balance sheets.
But employers get the most benefit from the arrangement, which motivates advisors to stay in their seats. These forgivable loans amortize over five to 12 years, and advisors who leave before the promissory note matures have to pay their employers back the remainder.
In the past few years, loans have gotten bigger as employers require longer terms, with most loans ranging from nine to 11 years, Diamond estimates. Many of his clients are loath to leave before their promissory notes mature unless they are miserable.
“If it was just salary, and someone is an at-will employee, they could leave whenever and there’s nothing tying them to the firm,” Diamond told Insider. “A forgivable loan means that if someone leaves before the note term, they owe back a bunch of money. It’s the ultimate golden handcuffs.”
Advisors who want to leave but don’t have enough to pay off the loan are left with few options but to find another firm that will extend a similar loan to pay off the first one, according to Brian Hamburger, a lawyer for investment advisors.
Demand still far outstrips supply, said headhunter Fira Yagyaev, and private banks aren’t just eager to hire more bankers.