Today’s financial advisors are in the driver’s seat in many ways. Not only are the transition deals to move among wirehouses at a high water mark, but regional firms have significantly enhanced their value propositions. The independent space has expanded exponentially to include new models and ways to affiliate and even monetize one’s business.
Where does an advisor have the best chance for professional satisfaction? It depends.
Here are the most common traits of advisors who are best suited for each model:
• Have a big transition check listed as number one on their list of wants. For those who have never monetized their business, the lure of a big check is hard to resist. And these days, wirehouse deals are at a high water mark.
• Value a plug-and-play environment with the easiest transition and support at their fingertips.
• Need a name brand for client comfort.
• Have either already monetized their businesses at least once in their careers, or don’t see the check as the overriding motivator for a move. Regional firm deals are generally less than half of wirehouse deals.
• Thrive in a smaller environment and can’t see themselves as one of a behemoth advisor force.
• Value the smaller firm culture but still want a robust platform.
• Have a high- or ultra-high-net-worth client base, exclusively.
• Prefer a much smaller firm and environment. (Firms like Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank and Barclays have advisor forces of less than 500, versus Merrill Lynch with more than 17,000.)
• Are located in major cities as these firms are very limited in their geography.
• Are looking to create a legacy and build a brand.
• Have entrepreneurial DNA and want to build an enterprise.
• Can look beyond the short-term gain of a sizable transition check and see the longer-term benefits of business ownership and building equity.
For the most part, advisors leaving wirehouses are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Either they have not been successful or are very successful and believe that they could grow faster and service their clients better in a different environment (possibly even another wirehouse).
Take the case of Randy, a lifer at UBS who, after the latest LIBOR scandal and other public relations hits, came to the realization that it was time to move his sizable book of business elsewhere. Randy’s due diligence process was lengthy and thorough; he was offered more than $15 million in transition dollars from competing firms, and he felt his high-net-worth clients could be served in virtually any model. Because he perceived the other wirehouses to be too similar, he eliminated them from contention rather quickly. While Randy liked the idea of being one of an elite few as opposed to one of the masses and having more direct access to senior leadership, he came to the conclusion that his hugely loyal client base would follow him anywhere and that at 48 years old, he had a lot of years left to build a legacy and transfer it to his son. Most of all, Randy loved the idea of building an infrastructure and subsequently recruiting disenfranchised advisors. He chose to go independent.
The expanded landscape of this industry ensures that there is a model designed to meet the needs of just about everyone. The problem with more options to choose from, however, is that it’s easier to make the wrong choice. Be strategic, be smart, and be guided by what you know about yourself personally and professionally to make smart choices.