You’ve spent a professional lifetime building a thriving business. You worked hard for your clients – many of whom are friends and family – to both protect and build their assets. Now it’s time to think about the legacy you want to leave; not only who will replace you as steward and who will go on to serve your clients, but also how you will monetize your life’s work.
Knowing that advisor retention is largely predicated on these very questions surrounding succession planning, almost every financial services firm – large and small – has begun to address the issue in earnest. They’re coming up with ways to prevent their top people from changing firms as the only way of monetizing their businesses.
To be sure, many firms have done an outstanding job of creating “Sunset” programs that allow an advisor who has a successor or partner(s) in place to determine how much time he wants to devote to the business once he enters the program and to be paid a very fair sum as remuneration for a professional life well lived.
Are the percentages offered to a retiring advisor as much as he could get by way of a transition package from another firm looking to recruit him? NO! But, are they enough (or even more than enough) to make someone feel as though he has been paid fairly for selling his business? The answer is a resounding YES! In fact, the wirehouse plans offer a retiring advisor up to 2x his trailing 12 months production—and we have heard of plans that go as high as 2.5x.
“Carla”, a long tenured top financial advisor at a national bank and the sole breadwinner for her family, is an example of someone who works for a firm without a “Sunset” plan and whose spouse has been hounding her to consider changing firms so that he and her children would be protected when she decides to retire. Truth be told, Carla is incredibly happy where she is. She loves her firm, her colleagues, and her clients and couldn’t feel more supported in every possible way. Yet the issue around economic protection for her business enterprise is such a big “elephant in the room” for her that she may be forced to change jerseys anyway. What a terrible thing: to disrupt her life – and the lives of her clients – to potentially move to a firm that could be less ideal simply because she needs financial protection.
Carla’s firm is an exception in that most firms have some sort of a retirement program in place. Although that plan may not be adequate as what is considered to be enough is entirely in the eye of the beholder.
By and large, the decision to finish your career where you began it – or to take your marbles and go elsewhere midstream – should be made based on a variety of factors. A look at the “big picture” – including level of efficiency, how happy you are, how happy your clients are, how much your business is growing, your goals and how they can best be achieved, – and not solely on the need to protect your economic interest in the business, is in order.
A walk off into the sunset doesn’t indicate an “ending”; it should be the next chapter of a well-lived – and worked – life. Weighing where you are now and where you want to be tomorrow alongside of how you define your “best business life” should help define your next steps.
This is your chance to design your future—it’s up to you to decide the color of your sunset. What will it be?