NOTE: This is No. 3 of a 3-part series on key considerations, tips and best practices for successfully going independent as a financial advisor.
Now that you’ve decided to make the jump to independence, we will show you the best ways to avoid common pitfalls, minimize unwanted attrition and leave you positioned for long-term success.
DOLLARS AND SENSE
During the transition, don’t neglect to account for all of your financial obligations. If you’re starting an RIA, make sure your coffers are sufficiently full. If you’re joining one, discuss these needs as part of your initial capital requirements. If you are contractually tied to a forgivable loan structure, it’s necessary to factor that repayment into your transition capital requirements, which can quickly deflate what would otherwise be a comfortable landing cushion.
You also want to carefully plan your compensation details, balancing the timing of your departure with the ramp-up of revenue expected from the clients you’ll generate.
Two key ideas can guide you to success. First, leave nothing behind. If your firm bills in arrears, or you have earned compensation not yet received, be sure that you’re going to get both by checking your advisory agreement and timing your exit accordingly.
- Read more: Is It Time To Fly Solo?
Second, make sure you’re clear on your revenue ramp-up plan so you can hold yourself accountable to weekly deadlines that will cumulate into a successful transition. By dotting your I’s and crossing your T’s, you won’t be caught short needing to pay your child’s tuition while also being without your year-end bonus.
The Broker Protocol was created to minimize wire house costs of litigation associated when their advisors change firms. Today that includes hundreds of firms, and has become a catalyst for advisors to seek independence. You’ll need to know if this protocol applies to you, and, if yes, how to properly adhere to it.
Check the site’s online list to see if your firm is listed. If it is, you’ll want to check if your prospective RIA is listed as well.
If you’re starting a firm, you’ll want to register it with the Broker Protocol to align with your departure date. The protocol’s rubric to ensure a litigation-free transition is broad, and you need to know its details. The protocol centers on five key pieces of information you can take with you to your next firm: client names, mailing addresses, emails, phone numbers and account titles, but not account numbers. Properly leveraging the protocol’s capability is an enormous asset to help retain your book of business. Following its parameters ensures that you won’t step into an avoidable lawsuit.
Discretion is critical, from the time when you’re exploring your options to the day you transition, and this often extends far beyond the obvious. Recruiting clients and colleagues or merely letting word leak out prematurely can spread news to unwanted ears, resulting in termination, or even expose you to litigation. Some advisors get so jittery that they don’t tell their assistants until they’re leaving.
PLANNING AND PREPERATION
You may or may not be bound to the terms of protocol while planning your transition and preparing for your new professional life, but you can use these tactics to streamline your transition and minimize attrition:
- Get brokerage clients onto fee-based billing using money managers you’ll have at your new home, reducing exposure to proprietary funds that are difficult to ACAT.
- Plan your first 30 to 60 days after the transition in detail before you move to hit the ground running.
- If you’re setting up your own RIA firm, consider and coordinate the timing of its state/SEC approvals and access custodial platforms, registering with the protocol.
Handled correctly, a transition can be a marketable event in which advisors retain clients and use their transition to build buzz and attract new clients. Explain the nature of a fiduciary, the reasons you made the change, and how this allows you to better serve your clients. Many clients are likely to relate your transition to changes during their careers.
You can seize the moment if you know your clients well and are a bit creative. Some transition events have been exciting and fun.
If you are going independent for the right reasons, if you tell your story the right way, clients will listen. In fact, they’ll do more than listen: they’ll want to be a part of this new and exciting chapter in your career. Don’t your clients love you instead of loving the firm you’re leaving?
Ron Briggs and Jasnik Parmar are CEO and president of Entry Point Advisor Network (EPAN), seven companies that help independent advisors and agents. For more information, visit www.epadvisornetwork.com.
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