In 2006, Annie McQuilken, a registered investment advisor (RIA), began meeting regularly with about three other female planners for coffee in Boston.
The goal: an informal discussion of practice management issues.
After about a year of meeting casually, it turned from a meeting of business professionals to one of friends, McQuilken says. "We didn't start off being friends," she admits. "We'd talk mainly about the challenges of managing a practice when you have so many factors going on in your personal life."
The casual meetings eventually turned into the Money Women -- a group in which they formally agreed to provide coverage for each member of the organization should a certain member become temporarily disabled or permanently incapacitated. In other words, as "solo advisors", each running a relatively small firm, the group aimed to serve as a type of succession plan and cushion for one another should a health-related disaster strike.
Today, the Money Women continue to talk and meet regularly, and the group serves as an example of how many RIAs -- essentially small business owners -- can network with their peers to provide support for one another in times of hardship.
Having such a network provides two main sources of support, according to McQuilken:
- Guaranteed coverage for clients, which she describes as an "ethical responsibility"
- Preserved value of existing businesses
For RIAs that decide not to form support groups with their peers in order to help guard against temporary or permanent leave, the use of third-party consulting groups are popular. "But we decided not to go for a consulting firm, such as FP Transitions, largely to avoid legal fees," McQuilken says.
The trust factor is another explanation.
"Advisors need to network with other advisors they trust -- that's much easier said than done. I think an agreement with industry peers gives the best of both worlds," she says.
According to McQuilken, there's no online matching website that could replicate the trust and assurance she has with the Money Women -- which came out of four women just meeting for coffee.