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The Right Way to Bring on an Associate Advisor

10 Aug 2017
The Right Way to Bring on an Associate Advisor

Bringing in the right candidate can help you achieve the next level in your business, find a suitable successor – or both

Whether you are focused on finding a successor to your practice or have been fortunate to have experienced growth in clients and assets that exceeds what you want to manage on your own, consider the reasons to add an associate advisor to your business.

Adding new advisors and providing the proper path to success are integral parts of industry growth. A 2013 report from consulting firm Accenture noted the average age of a financial advisor today is about 50, and 21 percent are over 60. Yet, of the estimated 300,000 financial advisors in the country, Forbes reported in 2012 that less than 5 percent are under age 30.

Associate advisors fill many roles in an office, from succession planning options to attracting younger clients, but awareness of all the implications growing your team
creates is essential. Some simple questions to consider before making a decision can include:

  1. Is this a good time to expand our practice? Are there any reasons this process should wait, or is it long overdue?
  2. Have I defined exactly what I am looking for so I can select the best candidate? Once interviews are completed, the question becomes – is this person truly the best fit or just someone to fill a role?
  3. Am I prepared to take on the shift in my role from advisor to trainer and manager? For groups looking to add an associate advisor, is there a designated person for those duties?
  4. How will I leverage the associate advisor’s talents to make the most of their role on the team?

Because the candidate you hire becomes a reflection of your practice, finding the best candidate and building a mutually beneficial relationship for success requires a
strong plan.

 

Starting the process to find the right advisor

Laurie Burkhard, senior business consultant at independent broker-dealer Securities America, often coaches advisors on successful ways to manage the entire process of sourcing and hiring an associate advisor. The map she gives to advisors follows this guidance:

Search for the ideal candidate

  • Double the amount of time you would normally allow for a hiring process. This position can be slower to fill than many other positions in your office.
  • Get creative in your recruiting. Beyond common sources like Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com, use your connections on LinkedIn to find candidates as well.
  • Consider outsourcing the hire. Ask if your broker-dealer has resources to assist, or consider a local agency.

Set a clear list of expectations for the role

  • Look for a team player who is willing to learn from you as a senior advisor.
  • Decide if they show enthusiasm for the role, while realizing that this is a fantastic opportunity for them.

Understand their strengths and weaknesses

  • Someone who knows the industry but is not strong at generating their own leads could be a valuable asset to a team that has more leads than they can manage. The associate advisor can follow up with leads and close the sale while providing a high level of service.
  • Candidates with no industry knowledge may be better suited for a sales assistant role where they learn your brand and philosophy while learning the industry.

 

An Advisor’s Perspective

For advisor Denise Fries, the decision to add an associate advisor hinged on the quality of service for clients and the quality of life for her team.

“We had too much in AUM per advisor to provide the level of service we wanted and still work a reasonable amount of hours,” Fries said.

Fries has been building a successful practice in Bryan, Texas, for the past 30 years. Ten years ago she brought in a second advisor to work with her, and the continued growth of her business led her to add an associate advisor two years ago.

At the time, Fries was participating in a coaching program at her broker-dealer, Securities America. She gained insight from Burkhard, a certified masters coach, on what to look for. Moving forward with a theme of “come grow with us,” they received many applicants from the ad they placed. The associate advisor they selected answered the ad on a local news station’s job site.

Fries was deliberate in her recruiting, addressing many common concerns faced while evaluating candidates to ensure they would be a good fit to join her practice and integrate well into the group. Although her goal was originally to consider two new associate advisors, only one candidate possessed the skill set and demeanor for her team.

“I knew I wanted someone with industry experience, so I did not have to provide training from the ground up,” Fries said. “I also wanted someone with community involvement – a servant’s heart, who would not just focus on themselves, but work towards the betterment of the whole team.”

In early 2012, Fries hired her first associate advisor and the transition was smooth from a team of two advisors to a group of three, with Fries leading the team. Having experienced onboarding an advisor earlier in her practice gave Fries a clear vision for the associate advisor's training. She said the first year of introducing clients to a new associate advisor can be challenging.

“It’s not a quick process. I still have clients who will only see me,” Fries added. “But our associate advisor takes on most new clients.”

She quickly worked to enhance the associate advisor's skills by having him accompany her on appointments to build relationships and handle follow-up matters for clients, a process that went on for a full year. That training aspect helped him connect with the firm’s current clients.

 

What to think about for your practice

Advisors who do not have a plan for training and integrating new advisors may have a bumpier experience than Fries.

Roger Verboon, director of practice succession and acquisition at Securities America, fields a lot of questions on the process.

“The main question advisors ask first is: how much do I pay them, followed by: how is that figure broken down,” Verboon said. “Yet, the two areas that advisors struggle with most in the process are knowing how to train and knowing how to leverage a new advisor in their practice.”

The decision to bring on an advisor usually stems from trying to solve a problem in the practice, such as no succession plan, too many clients to manage or scalability in growing the business, Verboon said. Advisors who focus on problem solving often overlook a crucial factor – is the senior advisor mentally prepared to take on the extra workload of the transition element and embrace the shift from being an advisor to a manager of another employee?

“One pitfall in the process is senior advisors who expect the junior advisors to be them right away and immediately know what to do.” Verboon said. “Many advisors are great at what they do, which is building relationships and providing excellent client service, but they are not managers by nature, so this process will take time.”

Verboon helped develop Securities America’s Associate Advisor coaching program, designed to provide a structured approach to training new advisors by providing the steps, tools and resources as an alternative for senior advisors who may not be prepared for this part of the process. This standardized approach allows every aspect of the transition to be addressed by industry experts who can provide guidance through this time.

Many advisors have successfully integrated new members onto their team and been able to enjoy the benefits to their business. The most essential part before you onboard an associate advisor is having a clear plan of how they will be trained, managed and properly leveraged in your business, so both of you can grow and succeed together.

Download our Associate Advisor Strategy and Decision Guide to help you make the best choice for your practice.

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