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5 Questions Every Advisor Should be Asking (And It's Not About the Money)

In an industry where firms are offering transition packages at high water mark levels, it’s easy for advisors to get caught up in the economics surrounding a potential move.

While a transition package may be among the top things on an advisor’s mind when contemplating a move, bringing up economics on a first meeting is often considered taboo—especially with the new Broker Disclosure Rule on our heels.

In a recent article, we shared four reasons why “ moving for the money ” is likely to leave an advisor and his client short-changed. And while the monetary temptation may be there, it’s more important than ever before to ensure you’re making a move for the right reasons.

The questions asked on a first meeting not only provide the firm with a glimpse into what’s prompting an advisor to consider a move, but will also ensure you make a move that’s in the best interests of your clients and the business at large.

Consider these 5 at the top of your list:

1. Given my business model and the resources required to serve my clients, what would the benefit be to my clients in considering your firm?

Any potential opportunity needs to move the needle more than marginally in terms of improving the service you deliver for clients. Determining how the client experience will be enhanced requires thoughtful due diligence and an in-depth vetting of a firm’s platform and capabilities. This could translate, for example, to offering expanded banking and lending capabilities enabling you to become your clients’ CFO or a superior technology platform that improves upon the online experience for clients.

2. How will the firm support my goals for growth?

Growth is central to any advisory practice and changing firms or business models in order to leverage superior thought leadership, platform and technology can increase the size and scale of a business. There’s also leverage in being recruited so understanding what a new firm can offer, at their expense, in terms of coaching and marketing or even hiring additional staff is fair game when it comes to vetting a well-timed move.


3. How would you describe your culture on both a national and local level?

Culture is far from a commodity and these days, many firms tout their culture as a defining feature. On a local level, culture is driven by both branch and complex management. Understanding a branch manager’s background and experience can often provide a glimpse into how they manage their branch. Be sure to ask what they do to support their advisors. What’s the chain of command at the firm and how well are they connected to senior management? Is their management style proactive or reactive?

On a national level, a firm’s macro culture drives the firm’s strategy including its compensation structure and compliance attitude, as well as its continued investment in platform, technology and the business at large. What is their commitment to wealth management? How is the advisor viewed throughout the organization? Asking these questions will help to find a firm with a culture that is the right fit for both you and your clients.


4. What would you suggest as the due diligence process given the nuances of my business? Who should I meet with?

If you’re seriously contemplating a move to a new firm, engaging in a home office visit will allow you to see the face of the firm while also getting answers directly from the source. A branch manager should craft an agenda specific to your business and, in order to make the visit productive, be prepared with a checklist of key questions to ask product and technology representatives. In addition, many advisors find it valuable to speak with advisors who have recently moved to the firm. This can be done anonymously and can often provide insight on the transition experience, as well as the overall value in having moved.

5. What resources can I expect in terms of transition and onboarding assistance?

The most successful transitions are well planned, and preparing to move an advisory practice begins long before your actual move date. To start, it’s important to review your current employment agreement while also understanding the terms of the Protocol. A new firm can provide you with access to in-house counsel, but you may also want to consider hiring outside legal counsel. From the moment you commit to moving, you’ll work closely with branch management as well as a transition team who will guide you through every step of the process. Ask for a timeline of the process and understand what you can expect in terms of both local and corporate resources.

While a first meeting serves as the beginning of the due diligence process, it’s an important initial impression for both the advisor and the firm. Like a “first date”, that impression is a lasting one. Driving the conversation towards these topics will enable both sides to set the stage to focus on what’s most important for the long term: building a relationship where serving the clients in the best way possible is the priority. From there, the money will follow.