By Barbara Herman and Allison Brunwasser
Why so many advisors are unhappy—and what they can do about it.
We’re accustomed to having advisors speak candidly and confidentially to us, sharing the things that frustrate or disappoint them most about their firms, the industry and sometimes, even about being an advisor. But over the past year, advisors have become more vocal about areas of discontent. That is, more seem to openly admit that they’re not happy with their firm.
What’s behind the discontent?
There’s no doubt that a changing landscape has affected every advisor and firm. In turn, certain realities have been brought to light:
New and increasing sources of frustration: Intensified bureaucracy, more nuisance oversight, changing regulatory processes, diminished support, added administrative burden, decreasing flexibility and compensation changes certainly play a part in dismantling morale.
Ongoing lack of control: A lack of autonomy over the client relationship is often at the heart of this. Some advisors may find that the workarounds they created to get things done no longer get the results they need or are subject to greater management scrutiny.
Growing awareness: Advisors recognize they have options—legitimate, quality alternatives outside their firm that could, in fact, provide better support for their business.
What can be done about it?
While this changing landscape has made many advisors question their happiness, it also has a bright side: Expanded potential. No matter the level of frustration, no advisor is “stuck”—there are choices.
Can you be unhappy with your firm and yet choose to stay there?
The short answer is YES. Some advisors may be frustrated, yet not “unhappy enough” to justify a move, especially as they get closer to retirement. For this community of advisors, as much as they may say they no longer like their firm, they dislike the thought of disrupting their momentum and unsettling their clients even more. Recognizing this is the reality you have chosen can allow you to stay put with a different and more positive mindset.
Can you be happy and feel good about your work, despite the challenges and imperfections?
We all know that perfection doesn’t really exist, so maybe it’s not critical that you love your firm. Rather than allow negative feelings to consume and distract, channeling the emotion in a more positive and productive direction, and using it to fuel what you can control and change, often leads to greater levels of contentment. As long as you can insulate clients from the issues, it’s much easier to live with the status quo—and it’s the path of least resistance.
Can you be happy enough with your firm but still want to get educated?
Of course: Knowledge is power. Some advisors will be empowered by the decision to get educated—either to test their assumptions that nothing better is out there, or to determine if something is better enough to consider uprooting their business. Performing some due diligence can be an antidote to negativity. Armed with newfound information, advisors can choose to stay from a position of strength.
Can you be unhappy enough that you want to consider a change?
Leaving your firm is always an option and may seem like an obvious solution when an advisor is in serious enough pain, but we know it’s not that simple. An advisor typically must believe that his firm no longer serves him, his team or his clients—and that belief needs to come from a clear understanding of what needs to be solved for. Make sure you can articulate what is most important.
So as you consider what’s making you unhappy, consider this: Happiness is relative. In reality, what keeps most advisors in their seats – fear, inertia, lack of familiarity, disruption of momentum – can be more powerful than the unhappiness they are experiencing. That is, until it’s not. The good news is that no one is ever “stuck” unless they choose to be—there are always options.