Growing by stealing advisors from other firms sounds like a terrible thing to do, but those who balk at the idea may be surprised to find that competitors have no compunction about going this route.

“Stealing is a harsh word. I would instead call it ‘presenting ambitious advisors with growth options,’” says Katie Gampietro Burke, a planner at Wealth by Empowerment in Jacksonville, Fla.

“Asking another advisor to coffee to discuss their current experience and what they’re trying to achieve should not be perceived as malicious,” she said. “I do not think it happens as much as it could due to the potential of burning relationships.”

Tips on how to best do it should include educating the potential new advisor about how to approach their situation, Burke says.

One way, for example, would be recommending that they talk with their supervisor about where they fit in the plan now and in the future.

“This is a better approach than saying ‘go turn in your 30-day notice’ because it gives both parties additional time to think and not take it personally,” Burke says. “The firm may not have recognized that the advisor wanted more, or maybe it presents the opportunity for the supervisor to recommend the advisor for either a promotion or give the advisor a great recommendation for a different company.”

There is a massive shortage of advisors, and the problem is even worse if a firm is looking for younger talent, says Alan Moore, founder of Serenity Financial Consulting in Milwaukee, which is part of Abacus Wealth Partners.

“I think attracting advisors to your firm is definitely possible and a great way to grow, but you aren't going to be able to simply outbid other firms for talent,” he says. “If you are getting planners just because you pay them more, they will leave for another job that pays even more; you will never win simply based on price.”

Instead, firms should focus on designing a career path for advisors to become partners; building a service model to serve NextGen clients, as advisors want to work with their peers; creating a firm that allows for a true work/life balance, including flexible hours and the ability to work from home; and promoting a culture that is reflective of 2016, not 1986, by having an office that is fun, with relaxed attire and updated technology.

Firms looking to build their base can certainly expand quicker by hiring advisors with transferrable books of business, says P. Jeffrey Christakos, a planner at Westfield (N.J.) Wealth Management.

“However I am not sure that you are building a firm. In my eyes, you are just collecting independent businesses under a single brand,” Christakos says.

“The clients may just as easily leave if the advisors find more fruitful opportunities for themselves,” he says. “The client referrals might be advisor-biased instead of firm-biased.”

Katie Kuehner-Hebert is a freelance writer in Running Springs, Calif. She has contributed to American Banker, Risk & Insurance and Human Resource Executive.

This story is part of a 30-day series on smart ways to grow your practice.

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