Made the leap

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Backtothefuture's picture
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Joined: 2010-07-04

As a long-time observer, I thought it was time to join and contribute.  I decided a year ago (after a year or so of doing my homework) to leave the wirehouse I was with and go independent.  It was a difficult decision and I tried to talk myself out of it and into it many times before.  I was with the same wirehouse for more than a dozen years and enjoyed my time there and still have fond feelings for the place.  With that said, I am so happy I made the change for myself, my family and my clients.  Because of the amount of homework I did prior to leaving, I have not faced too many surprises.  I did leave 6 months ago and I am proud to say I have landed on my feet.  Most of the transition was done in about 3 months and there are still some loose ends (clients I am still working on).  The main reason for my post is to encourage those of you out there who are considering going independent to do your homework, think it thru, write out your plan, be realistic with who will come with you (who you need) and take the leap.  I must say that the only regret is that I wish I left sooner.  Of course nothing is perfect, there are some things I miss about the wirehouse (friends etc.) but I couldn't be happier with the move and the pride I have in it really now being my business.

llcoolj's picture
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Joined: 2008-11-23

I couldn't agree more. Well said. I came from a wirehouse to indy last year. It has been a blassing. Planning is essentilal prior to the move. Even with the research I did,  I was caught off-guard with the technology costs. CRM, Planning, Portfolio managments, etc. It really adds up.I still think it is the best thing I could have done. Peace, sanity, no one breathing down my neck. You can't put a price on that.

Amp2Indy2006's picture
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Joined: 2008-08-13

Ditto.  I had no surprises because I was thoughtful and worked a plan.  Celebrating the start of my 5th year as an INDY on 7/12...wish I had done it 10 years ago.

Prime09's picture
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Joined: 2008-08-18

I'm at the point where I'm kind of dying a slow death at my current wire. I'll never be one of the big boys at my firm and I understand that but trying to make a living with a 28-30 % payout is a joke. I'm one of the one's doing 250K five years in that the wires don't really want, so they squeeze your payout lower with small HH, etc. I've never left and gone to another firm (and received a big check) and to say it's not appealing (the money), I would be lying. Talked with Wells and at 300 they offer 100% but there's something inside me that just doesn't sit well. How do I tell my clients that I'm going someplace better for them, when in reality, all I went for was the check. Kind of like the new car smell that'll wear off and then I'm faced with possibly the same BS down the road.I've met with a few of the big indys and I do like what they have to offer. I would love telling their story when I meet new prospects and actually get paid something worthwhile when I bring them in. I'm just afraid of the transition money they give, being all used up quickly while I bring clients over. To me, this is a concern because I don't have much else in savings. All this worry has had a big stressful impact on me recently that has just been causing me to lose alot of focus and a big decrease in my current level of motivation and proactiveness. I guess I feel trapped right now and not sure which way to turn. Any ideas to help would be greatly appreciated.

Amp2Indy2006's picture
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Joined: 2008-08-13

First off you have to get out of the employee mantra if you can.  Indy is NOT for everyone.  If you are transactional at a wire, the latest FINREG combined with SEC mandate could make your job obsolete  sales vs advice.  Just saying, don't kill the messenger.  As for leaving for a check, well at the rate you are going, the firm will cut you as dead wood so you are truly leaving so you can continue to help your clients 10 years from now by "being in the business".  You should determine what you want for yourself, and which avenue provides you the flexibility to make that happen.  Costs, technology, ease of doing business, transition tangible and non-tangible compensation, equity....public vs private.  You have a lot of soul searching to do, and if you cannot pass the smell test, your clients won't follow if they can smell a lack of confidence in you handling of the future...yours and theirs.  Clients are with you, you are the intellectual capital they bought, not the firm on the paystub.  Never forget that! 

Backtothefuture's picture
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Joined: 2010-07-04

I agree with Amp2Indy2006.  First thing Prime09 needs to understand is that 250k is pretty good even though the wires have you believe that you are not worthy and penalty box material.  Obviously your goal is to produce more than 250k but until you believe in yourself and your firm you will probably just continue to come up with excuses as to why you can't grow.  I remember that one of the things that made me look at myself and ask "what am I doing and am I in the right place?" was when I was with the wire, received a referal from a great client, met with the guy, got along great and he wanted to start the account with $50k.  All that was running thru my head was how the account was going to be charged $150/yr, maybe an additional $35/quarter for low household fees and I wasn't going to see any of the money while I defended the fees to the nice new client.  Fast forward to now, the same client can start with any amount that he and I are comfortable with and my biggest concern is how I am actually going to invest the money.  I think this is how it should be and one of the main reasons I got into this business.As far as leaving for the big check, my thought was I will break even on the big check in the indy world in about 2 1/2 years as opposed to a nine year deal.  There has not been a moment that I regret the decision.  As far as the stipend you may receive from your new bd, I used the money to set up the office and cover myself for awhile.  I did have 8 months of living expenses put aside in case things didn't go as I had hoped...  I covered 3 ACAT fees in total- I had originally thought I would have to cover most but it was not an obstacle in the client's mind - just mine.  The most pleasent surprise has been the amount of new assets I have been able to bring in outside of my former bd from clients.  Maybe I would have gotten this money someday while at my old firm, but the move invigorated me and really focused me on why I got into this business-to invest my client''s money as well as I can and not be worried about where the penalty box may be next year or how long do I need to stay to get my deferred comp (my own money that I earned but agreed to not take for 8 years or so). 

FVDA_Trade-PMR's picture
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Joined: 2008-09-24

Great post Backtothefuture!  Well written.  An RIA Firm, like any independent business, is not for everyone.  One can be an excellent Financial Advisor but can you also be an excellent business owner?  A successful transition is never without a clear idea of where you want to go and I'm sure you'll hit your head at least several times as you go though the journey.  But in the end, for most, the journey is exciting and can be very profitable.  Our great land was built on entrepreneurs and each independent RIA firm should be congratulated in continuing the spirit of innovation our country has been based on.Good Luck to All!

Prime09's picture
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Joined: 2008-08-18

Thanks everyone for the advice. Curently, about 60% of my book is recurring rev in one form or another (I would like to increase that to around 80%) the remainder I do mfunds A-sh for small accts and annuities in the appropriate situation. I'm currently looking at all the famiiar indys: LPL, RJ, Cambridge, Comm, Cantella, Harbor. While I would like to spend alot of time on each of these firms, if I am looking for a firm that doesn't clip too much off of fee-based accounts and doesn't nickle and dime much on other things, are there any of these that I should automatically eliminate? Also, any that just have a hard time following through on their promises?Lastly, for those of you who went indy in a metro suburban area, what option did you choose: executive office suite, shared space with other indy advisors from same firm or rent own (non-exec suite) office space? If you could share any costs and what you experienced, that would be great.  

Backtothefuture's picture
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Joined: 2010-07-04

I think office space is a personal decision based on how you want you and your business to be perceived.  If you meet clients at their place most of the time maybe the nicest/most convienent space isn't necessary.  I chose office space close to home, reasonable rent, private parking lot with attractive office space but very nice conference room.  I've had several comments from clients regarding how much more comfortable they are meeting in my new office as opposed to the old stodgy wirehouse office.  I believe the office reflects how I want the public to perceive my business and also is a place I like going to everyday.As far as choosing your bd, you just have to do your homework and ask the questions that are most important/relevant to you.  After being with a wirehouse who couldn't get off the front page, I like the idea of being with a privately held company who does not have any intentions of going public.

Amp2Indy2006's picture
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Joined: 2008-08-13

Two schools of thought on an office:Executive suites IMHO are the way to go.  You get to use a conference room, professional answering your telephone, custodial voice mail etc for one fee.  Buy a commercial quality all in one digital laser, about 1500, or lease a sharp that does the same.  Both have encryption on their HD.One school of thought is get one window office that is a conference room as well that you meet clients in, use a smaller one for staff and storage.  DONT SPEND TOO MUCH ON FURNITURE.  Simple, clean and professional.  Dont impress yourself, you are your weakest client. 

Sportsfreakbob's picture
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Joined: 2008-08-24

Prime, you are getting great advice on this thread. Most of what i would have said has already been said.I would just weigh in as one of the guys who made the switch - a year and one month ago - like you, i am mostly fee based - 65-70%. And i can tell you, that i moved may 26th. Got my first decent size check at the end of July. So if you work your ass off from the day you start, it doesnt take that long. I'm also in an executive sweet. In my view it has its postivies and negatives, but for a first year, its perfect. It allows you to spend 100% of your time on ACATS, and no time at all on researching and buying phone systems, furniture, internet, office cleaning, and all the other crap that doesnt bring in revenue.Amp2Indy gave me some great guidance in my transition, listen to everything he says. I'm with one of the firms you mention so if you want to PM me with specific questions, feel free. I got a lot of help from folks on this board and if i can help in return, it would be great.One more thing - I was thinking, and actually talking to a collegue this past week - about my and his situation. Neither of us are huge. He made the move the same time i did. We are both amazed that we can make the money we do, with the production we do, and how we can do that with such an awesome lifestyle. If you are entrepeneurial, and don't need the wirehouse structure, this could be a great move.

LockEDJ's picture
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Joined: 2009-07-06

My .02 and some hard numbers from me (but you've got great advice above)I looked at most of the firms you mentioned and none were bad (although I was impressed with Cambridge and Cantella). For me, I went with a smaller firm that "fit" my personality and clientele better. They allowed me freedom to work as I wanted, gave me a better payout  than any of those firms, no haircut before the haircut (association fees/excessive technology fees), and they've been nothing but fantastic to me. PM for details.WIth regard to my specific situation: I pay $425 a month in rent for 500 square. I get access to a beautiful conference room (600 sq) and a huge area (2400 sq) should I need it. Connectivity costs me $130. Electric: $30. The landlord gave me a nice sized desk and chair as well. The walls are lined with law books, and I have three huge windows onto Main Street. I spent next to nothing on renovating my space.If there was a suite in my town, I might have gone that way but this worked out. Monthly fixed costs run $1800 (no office help yet), so I bled out $15000 in lost productivity [edit ]  

HumanRIA's picture
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Joined: 2010-07-14

Does anyone have any experience with being and RIA and working from home?  Is this possible - to travel to meet with clients at their offices/homes, and perhaps rent a shared conference room a few times a week for those clients that want to come to you?  I am aware that this may be perceived as less professional, but legally/practically is this possible?  Thanks.

ria in tx's picture
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Joined: 2007-11-20

I'm a RIA and CPA working from home.  All of my clients are small business owners/ranchers -working out of home is not a hindrance in any way.  My clients don't expect a fancy office nor do they necessarily keep regular hours.  All my meeting are conducted at my dining room table.I have recently undergone my first state audit and it went very smoothly.  The auditors were fascinated to see a newborn foal in the pasture as well as chatting with my parrot half the day.  It makes for a very relaxing atmosphere.I've been on my own for a little over 2 years now and can't imagine not being independent.  Granted my livelihood is my CPA practice but my advisory firm is growing.  

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