Life planning is often touted as a great way to get clients to identify priorities in their lives and organize their finances accordingly. As it turns out, financial planners could do a little more of that soul searching when it comes to operating their practices.

That was one theme that came out of a recent meeting with executives at Cambridge Investment Research, including Eric Schwartz, chairman and CEO, and Jim Guy, first executive vice president and chief marketing officer.  “Advisors [want] more opportunities to engage in practice management, to think about their lives,” Guy says.

This is true for all advisors, but even more so for brokers looking to go independent, because there are a litany of business models and management options available to them outside the structured walls of wirehouse firms. A lot of those changes have happened recently.

Cambridge, a Fairfield, Iowa independent broker-dealer, is considered a pioneer of the fee-based advisory model. Right now, the industry offers a lot of services to help advisors manage their newfound independence, and Cambridge is also always looking for ways to support those who go their own way, according to Guy.

Cambridge’s Roadmap to Revenue program, for instance, prods advisors to make choices in areas that they sometimes neglect, like outsourcing and technology, including CRM systems. Cambridge also runs an internal email discussion group, where advisors can freely exchange practice management ideas. Guy says the firm is developing plans to convert the email discussion group to an internal social media format.

If advisors want high-level advice, they can tap into its Executive Consulting service. The firm’s own leadership, including Guy, Schwartz, Amy Webber, the firm’s president and COO; Dan Sullivan, senior vice president of marketing, plus the firm’s vice presidents make themselves available to advisors to work through some of their practice management issues.

So advisors who take the leap to independence can get answers to their practice management questions, if they are proactive. Mapping out a firm’s life agenda will also come in handy as younger planners take over, according to Schwartz.

“Junior advisors are not so fiercely independent as older advisors,” says Schwartz. They are more inclined to consider mergers, buyouts and other forms of consolidation.

That might sound counterintuitive to the reigning generation of independent (or would-be independent) advisors. But if today’s principals put a little extra thought into why their firms exist, they have a better chance of leaving something for younger planners to take over.



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