Building your practice: Position yourself as a preferred clientele successor

Why assuming another advisor's clientele can be an excellent opportunity to grow your practice

Building your practice: Position yourself as a preferred clientele successor
Christine Timms

Assuming another advisor’s clientele can be an excellent opportunity to build your practice. However, you need to be aware of the additional time, work and financial commitments you will be undertaking.

A successful integration of the new clients into your practice should have no impact on your pre-existing clients. You need to be willing to sacrifice your time and aspects of your personal life during the transition period (probably for at least a year).

Clientele referral opportunities

Opportunities for group referrals will arise when an advisor is retiring or reducing their clientele. An advisor will consider reducing their clientele when they change their approach to investing, change their approach to fees or commissions, seek to modify their work-life balance or for many other personal/business reasons.

For example, an older advisor may wish to reduce travel to out-of-office appointments. I have also seen a case where a retiring independent financial planner chose a successor in a different advice channel (a full-service bank owned brokerage firm) to handle clients’ investments while continuing to provide tax return preparation services.

I was involved in several client referral opportunities. I took over part of the clientele of a retiring advisor 15 years into my career. Five years later, when I decided to stop picking common stocks, I referred a group of clients to another advisor. When I retired after 33 years as an advisor, I transitioned my clientele to my two associates.

Positioning yourself to be chosen as a successor advisor

Advisors generally choose successors that they know, like and trust. If you would like to be thought of as a potential successor to another advisor’s practice/clientele, consider doing the following:

  1. Mingle with and get to know other advisors at firm gatherings, branch meetings, parties, etc.
  2. Be willing to share and discuss business ideas with other advisors.
  3. Maintain a good reputation for treating your clients, your team and fellow advisors well.
  4. Maintain a good relationship with your branch manager.
  5. Develop and maintain a good relationship with higher levels of management when possible.
  6. Work to understand and empathize with the issues and feelings of advisors who are contemplating retirement.
  7. Work to understand and empathize with advisors who are considering significant changes to their practice, such as investment strategy, fee structure, service model, etc. They may consider referring a portion of their clientele to you if some of their clients are not compatible with the changes they plan on making to their practice.
  8. Be prepared to provide a potential referring advisor with a document describing your unique business model in detail. This description of your business model will help the referring advisor assess your compatibility with their clientele and your compatibility with what the advisor thinks the clientele will need in the future. A fully articulated business model should include a description of your existing clientele and the services you provide to those clients including the methods of client contact, your approach to investing and financial planning, as well as how clients are charged. The successor will be able to use the comparison of their business model to the retiring advisors’ business model to prepare a plan for integrating new clients into their practice. To enable advisors to create their own business model document with minimal cost and effort, offers a customizable Excel spreadsheet checklist process to help advisors quickly identify most, if not all, aspects of their business model.

Attention to all of the above items, especially the articulation of your unique business model, should build the referring advisor and the firm’s confidence in the potential successor’s professionalism and ability to successfully transition the referred clients.

This article is intended to be the first in a series discussing transitioning clients between advisors and issues faced by advisors approaching retirement.

Christine Timms is the author of three Handbooks for the Professional Financial Advisor including “Transitioning Clients and the Retirement Exit Decision” (available in paperback, ebook and audiobook). provides descriptions and testimonials, as well as written and audio versions of the introductions of each book.