5 Ways Wholesalers Can Help Build Your Practice (and Your Career)
Written by: Mark Peterson
It’s no surprise wholesalers are important resources for your firm. And their role in your success can extend far beyond their ability to serve as effective product vendors. During my career, I’ve learned wholesalers can be one of your most vital sources of information, guidance, and professional support. The key is identifying those wholesalers who are dedicated to helping you thrive. Here are 5 surprising ways your wholesalers can help build your practice and your career:
1. Wholesalers can help expand your network
Like salespeople in any business, a good wholesaler knows how to build a great network. They meet with advisors every day, work with all the broker-dealers, and talk to (or have worked with) other wholesalers—competitors or otherwise. Better yet, most are more than willing to provide introductions that can offer great value to your practice. Whether your goal is to partner with other specialists (CPAs, estate planners, life insurance specialists), other peer advisors, or simply start new and meaningful conversations, your wholesaler can pave the way.
2. Wholesalers can offer product expertise
Sure, they know the specifics of their own products, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Part of a good wholesaler’s expertise is to stay on top of what’s happening across the industry. Even though fixed-income products are top of mind, don’t hesitate to ask for recommendations for a great alternative fund to balance out your portfolio. They will likely know not only what’s new in the market, but also what products are working—or not—for other advisors.
3. Wholesalers can tell you what’s working for your peers
Earlier in my career, when I worked as a wholesaler, my goal was to walk through every advisor’s door with a basket of ideas. New marketing tools. Emerging practice management techniques. Advisor success stories for everything from getting referrals, to deploying new technologies, to marketing a new product. Wholesalers spend all day, every day, talking to advisors like you, so they hear the good, the bad, and the ugly. And because their goal is to help you succeed, they’re usually happy to share their insights.
4. Wholesalers can help your staff be more effective
A good wholesaler should be willing to come on-site to help train your staff, answer questions about product suitability, and show you how to leverage your “closet” of offerings to better serve your clients. They can also ensure your product materials are up to date, verify that only currently available products are being represented, and that you’re providing the latest version of each prospectus and collateral materials to your clients. As a bonus, your wholesaler is often chock full of real-world tips to help your staff be more efficient across the board.
5. Wholesalers can be your broker-dealer matchmaker
If you’re like most advisors, the time will come when you want or need to switch broker-dealers. Whether that change comes about because the BD is closing their doors, stopped carrying preferred products, or you’ve decided it’s simply time to move on, a wholesaler can serve as a matchmaker to aid your search and help you find an ideal fit. Of course, just like people, every BD has strengths and weaknesses. That’s why when advisors ask my advice, my response is always the same: “Tell me what characteristics help you thrive – and also what shortcomings you’re willing to put up with – and I’ll point you in the right direction.”
It’s been awhile since I’ve been a wholesaler, but I still get a call or an email from an advisor at least once a day asking me for advice. I’m happy to help. In fact, after nearly 30 years in the business—including 15 years as a wholesaler and another decade managing wholesaler teams—helping advisors has been one of my key priorities, and I’ve witnessed first-hand the fruits of strong advisor/wholesaler relationships.
In my early days in the business, I met with hundreds of advisors across the country. I quickly realized they all faced many of the same challenges, and many of the advisors I spoke with told me they often felt extremely isolated. My solution was to set up a series of lunches to get local advisors face to face to share their issues, brainstorm solutions, and simply connect. Every time I visited a particular city, I would arrange a lunch with a small group of advisors, and I’d ask them to bring someone who had never joined the group before. The response was fantastic. Soon advisors were calling me to ask when the next lunch was scheduled, and what I used to view as “sales calls” became think tank forums. I was thrilled to learn that a group of advisors who attended these lunches over a decade ago went on to start a study group together and, years later, it’s still going strong.
Of course, every relationship is a two-way street. Your wholesaler’s willingness to help isn’t completely altruistic. But every salesperson knows that relationships are everything. Most sales decisions are bound to default to the vendor with the strongest relationship – and nearly always, that is the wholesaler who has provided not just a great product, but a heck of a lot of additional value along the way.
Mark Petersen has over 25 years of experience leading distribution and sales efforts in the financial services industry. His background includes managing retail and institutional securities sales as well as national accounts, and he has forged strong relationships with broker/dealers and financial advisors throughout his career. Currently Executive Vice President at GWG Holdings, Inc., Mr. Petersen is also a registered representative of Emerson Equity. His previous roles include co-president of Behringer Securities LP and executive sales and marketing positions with CNL Fund Management, Franklin Square Capital Partners, and Madison Harbor Capital. He holds an MBA in finance from Baylor University and a B.S. in business administration from the University of Texas at Arlington.
China's Push Toward Excellence Delivers a Global Robotics Investment Opportunity
Written by: Jeremie Capron
China is on a mission to change its reputation from a manufacturer of cheap, mass-produced goods to a world leader in high quality manufacturing. If that surprises you, you’re not the only one.
For decades, China has been synonymous with the word cheap. But times are changing, and much of that change is reliant on the adoption of robotics, automation, and artificial intelligence, or RAAI (pronounced “ray”). For investors, this shift is driving a major opportunity to capture growth and returns rooted in China’s rapidly increasing demand for RAAI technologies.
You may have heard of ‘Made in China 2025,’ the strategy announced in 2015 by the central government aimed at remaking its industrial sector into a global leader in high-technology products and advanced manufacturing techniques. Unlike some public relations announcements, this one is much more than just a marketing tagline. Heavily subsidized by the Chinese government, the program is focused on generating major investments in automated manufacturing processes, also referred to as Industry 4.0 technologies, in an effort to drive a massive transformation across every sector of manufacturing. The program aims to overhaul the infrastructure of China’s manufacturing industry by not only driving down costs, but also—and perhaps most importantly—by improving the quality of everything it manufactures, from textiles to automobiles to electronic components.
Already, China has become what is arguably the most exciting robotics market in the world. The numbers speak for themselves. In 2016 alone, more than 87,000 robots were sold in the country, representing a year-over-year increase of 27%, according to the International Federation of Robotics. Last month’s World Robot Conference 2017 in Beijing brought together nearly 300 artificial intelligence (AI) specialists and representatives of over 150 robotics enterprises, making it one of the world’s largest robotics-focused conference in the world to date. That’s quite a transition for a country that wasn’t even on the map in the area of robotics only a decade ago.
As impressive as that may be, what’s even more exciting for anyone with an eye on the robotics industry is the fact that this growth represents only a tiny fraction of the potential for robotics penetration across China’s manufacturing facilities—and for investors in the companies that are delivering or are poised to deliver on the promise of RAAI-driven manufacturing advancements.
Despite its commitment to leverage the power of robotics, automation and AI to meet its aggressive ‘Made in China 2025’ goals, at the moment China has only 1 robot in place for every 250 manufacturing workers. Compare that to countries like Germany and Japan, where manufacturers utilize an average of one robot for every 30 human workers. Even if China were simply trying to catch up to other countries’ use of robotics, those numbers would signal immense near-term growth. But China is on a mission to do much more than achieve the status quo. The result? According to a recent report by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), in 2019 as much as 40% of the worldwide market volume of industrial robots could be sold in China alone.
To understand how the country can support such grand growth, just take a look at where and why robotics is being applied today. While the automotive sector has historically been the largest buyer of robots, China’s strategy reaches far and wide to include a wide variety of future-oriented manufacturing processes and industries.
Electronics is a key example. In fact, the electrical and electronics industry surpassed the automotive industry as the top buyer of robotics in 2016, with sales up 75% to almost 30,000 units. Assemblers such as Foxconn rely on thousands of workers to assemble today’s new iPhones. Until recently, the assembly of these highly delicate components required a level of human dexterity that robots simply could not match, as well as human vision to help ensure accuracy and quality. But recent advancements in robotics are changing all that. Industrial robots already have the ability to handle many of the miniature components in today’s smart phones. Very soon, these robots are expected to have the skills to bolster the human workforce, significantly increasing manufacturing capacity. Newer, more dexterous industrial robots are expected to significantly reduce human error during the assembly process of even the most fragile components, including the recently announced OLED (organic light-emitting diode) screens that Samsung and Apple introduced on their latest mobile devices including the iPhone X. Advancements in computer vision are transforming how critical quality checks are performed on these and many other electronic devices. All of these innovations are coming together at just the right time for a country that is striving to create the world’s most advanced manufacturing climate.
Clearly, China’s trajectory in the area of RAAI is in hyper drive. For investors who are seeking a tool to leverage this opportunity in an intelligent and perhaps unexpected way, the ROBO Global Robotics & Automation Index may help. The ROBO Index already offers a vast exposure to China’s potential growth due to the depth and breadth of the robotics and automation supply chain. As China continues to improve its manufacturing processes to meet its 2025 initiative, every supplier across China’s far-reaching supply chains will benefit. Wherever they are located, suppliers of RAAI-related components—reduction gears, sensors, linear motion systems, controllers, and so much more—are bracing for spikes in demand as China pushes to turn its dream into a reality.
Today, around 13% of the revenues generated by the ROBO Global Index members are driven by China’s investments in robotics and automation. Tomorrow? It’s hard to say. But one thing is for certain: China’s commitment to improving the quality and cost-efficiency of its manufacturing facilities is showing no signs of slowing down—and its reliance on robotics, automation, and artificial intelligence is vital to its success.
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