All too often, advisors assume that all of the major wirehouses are the same and that moving from one to the next would be going from the proverbial frying pan into the fire. But, is that really the case?
It’s hard to deny that wirehouses share a lot of similarities in terms of platform and resources—and that is a good thing in terms of the ease of an advisor’s transition. Yet sometimes a number of smaller differences in platform, resources, culture, firm policies, support and local office environment can, in aggregate, make a big difference in solving the “big picture” problem.
Aligning capabilities with culture
Take Jill, an advisor in Miami who works for a big bank-owned wirehouse. Jill runs a $2MM HNW advisory business and leverages the bank for those clients that need it. Of late however, she was feeling that the push to sell bank products and the mandatory bank referral requirements had become overbearing and out of step with her client’s needs. Overall, it made Jill feel as if she was losing a degree of control over the business.
Initially skeptical that another wirehouse would feel any different, Jill determined at the end of a very complete round of due diligence that moving to a non-bank owned wirehouse – where wealth management represents nearly half of the firm’s revenue and where the investment-driven culture is preeminent – would be a big uptick. Not only had Jill’s new firm invested heavily in technology, which improved the efficiency of her business, it had streamlined management and empowered local branch managers to make decisions in support of her business. In addition to feeling like the new firm was more entrepreneurial and more aligned with her goals as an advisor, Jill also found that the firm’s investment and innovations in advisory, planning and trust services would be a springboard for building out the HNW business she was targeting.
In the end, Jill’s new firm moved the needle for her business and just as importantly offered an environment that aligned with her goals making it a win in terms of both capabilities and culture.
Support from the top
Sometimes the differences an advisor uncovers relate much more to the local office environment and quality of support at the firm. Take Greg, a younger wirehouse advisor on the east coast doing $500K in production, yet confident that he can hit the $1MM mark given the connections and network he has built. Unfortunately Greg’s administrative support was a huge drag on his productivity—he actually had 6 assistants over the course of 5 years. On top of the lack of administrative assistance, Greg’s firm greatly restricted the use of social media and his manager didn’t support Greg’s efforts to network with top producers to learn and leverage best practices.
All in all, Greg was left with ambitious growth goals and very little support. At first Greg ruled out the other wirehouses thinking that they would all feel very much the same. After considering a couple of high quality smaller firms and not finding the right combination of brand name, resources and transition assistance, Greg opened the door to one of his wirehouse competitors. What Greg found was a branch with a long-tenured, high-quality support staff, with a management team that helped support his growth strategy by connecting him to the firm’s internal marketing and social media group, and providing a marketing budget and an office environment that was highly collaborative. These were the missing ingredients that would help Greg execute on his plans for growth. He made the leap and has never looked back.
Many advisors believe that the day-to-day frustrations at their current firm are the price of doing business, that is, of not rocking the boat and not disrupting momentum. They choose to live with the imperfections at their firm and adapt, given that they believe that it is “all the same” out there. The good news is that if frustrations rise to a point where an advisor must make a change, there are solutions. Both within the wirehouse world, as well as outside of it, there are options that can produce a major uptick for the business and provide a solution that fits your best business life.
You really just have to look…closely.