The dos and don’ts of naming an RIA

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Sounds simple in theory, but when it comes to naming an RIA there are plenty of options to consider.

The challenge comes, in part, from the wealth of opportunity in the independent wealth management space. The marketplace is crowded and it can be difficult for your brand to stand apart from the competition.

In this highly commoditized landscape, it’s the people who run the operation and connect with your clients who will ultimately differentiate your firm. Your team creates the culture of the firm and their shared values and personalities help create your brand. The name of your firm should be aligned with that brand.

A common practice is using a surname or initials, or those of your partners, which conveys the importance of the key executives. This makes the relationships very specific, with the level of trust personal and heightened. Schmidt Financial Group is an example. Another is Keebeck Wealth Management, but this Chicago-based firm’s name translates as “to ascend” in Korean — an added facet to the brand alignment.

Descriptive or functional names no longer have the opportunity for differentiation in so crowded a landscape. But elevating the concept to create an experiential name has greater potential. True Private Wealth Advisors, for instance, expresses the integrity fundamental to that firm’s wealth management offering.

Another option, and one perhaps with the greatest flexibility, is to pursue an evocative name. This is a word or combination of words that evokes the brand positioning of your firm on either an emotional or intellectual level. Procyon Partners was very precise in the selection of their name, finding a navigational binary star comprising two closely orbiting stars — an ideal representation of the firm’s dual complementary focus on institutional consulting and private wealth management.

Another example is Regent Peak Wealth Advisors, whose name combines two metaphors for their business: the team serves their clients as a regent — a trusted advisor safeguarding a future legacy — and from the vantage point of a symbolic peak, which provides a clear line of sight toward the horizon.

RIAs looking for an evocative name are interested in sharing a narrative with their clients, bringing them even closer to full engagement with the firm.

And yet still other options exist. For example, Aaron Wealth Advisors chose the name of Moses’ brother and trusted confidant to symbolize the firm’s tenets of respect, humility and objectivity.

No matter which path you take to get to the right name for your firm, here are standard rules to keep in mind.

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  1. Avoid any name or word that might resemble or echo that of your former employers.
  2. Eliminate letters you don’t want to see and phonetic sounds you might have a hard time saying. Clients and prospects should be able to easily pronounce and spell your firm’s name — as should online voice assistants like Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa, which are quickly emerging as major search portals.
  3. Choose a descriptor to act as a suffix (or in very rare cases, a prefix) that tightly explains your business without limiting it. Common examples include Partners, Wealth Advisors and Financial Group. The options are numerous, but you should be cognizant of how the descriptor supports your chosen name.
  4. Remember: When speaking and writing about your firm, people will ultimately cut your name down to just the first few syllables. Think about how your team will answer the phone. At Dynasty Financial Partners, we expect to be called simply Dynasty. But if a shorthand name is awkward or cumbersome, people might assign an acronym or a set of initials. Keep that in mind when choosing your full name, so you can control how people use it. Also be wary of what the firm’s initials might spell out or suggest.
  5. Visualize your firm’s name on the logo. Picture it on your business card, on wall signage, on an engraved trophy — even on a golf ball. This isn’t about the graphic design, this is still a consideration about the name — the number of words, the number of letters and how they all work together.
  6. Don’t fall in love with one name before you do a competitive review (check an RIA database) and a Google search of similar names and their URLs. If your name survives that process, you must still have qualified lawyers do a trademark knock-out search to give you clearance to incorporate your name and ultimately coordinate the legal filing. (Note: the descriptor you tack on is usually not sufficient to make a name distinctive enough to be trademark worthy.)
  7. There’s much to consider when looking for the right name for your new firm. It takes patience, but is sometimes the result of a quick decision. It takes creativity, but often practicality wins out. It most certainly warrants help from an experienced resource partner, but in the end, it’s still your decision.

Remember, it’s your name. And you’re playing for keeps.

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