Striking a happy medium with advisor empowerment

Clients, advisors, and upper-level management stand to benefit from balancing independence and support

Striking a happy medium with advisor empowerment

At a certain point in their careers, many financial advisors reach a critical crossroads between two professional paths: working at a large firm, or going independent. Each approach has its advantages, with greater support through training and resources available from the former, and greater freedom to make decisions in the latter.

Choosing can be tough, and the downsides to each option make it even harder. “Independent advisors often find that it’s easy to get bogged down in the daily minutiae of running a business,” wrote John Pierce, head of recruiting at Stifel, in a piece for Firms at larger firms, on the other hand, may feel smothered as they are “forced to conform to a certain mold and mode of doing business without much personalized attention or assistance.”

With that in mind, Pierce recommended that large firms take a best-of-both-worlds approach — empowering advisors — to attract top talent and boost their entire business.

Firms that want to recruit the best and brightest advisors, he argued, must be prepared to treat them like entrepreneurs. They must be provided with support and resources, along with the freedom to choose who they work with, the products and services they’ll recommend, and when they should bring in talent from other parts of the organization to address a client’s needs.

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“Advisor empowerment doesn’t appeal to just the best and brightest advisors; it also benefits the entire organization,” Pierce continued. Garnering clients’ trust can be difficult when advisors aren’t given carte blanche to recommend what they believe to be the best financial path. Removing requirements to cross-sell or use proprietary products, Pierce added, allows for more genuine recommendations.

Accessibility is another critical piece of the empowerment puzzle. By encouraging conversation between advisors, senior leadership, and home-office professionals, firms can foster quicker fulfillment of clients’ needs. Immediately answering questions about financial products for a given client, seamless approval for sound-but-unconventional financial plans, and other measures that support the creation of tailored approaches can lead to improved client retention.

Minimizing the layers between upper-level executives and client-facing advisors, Pierce added, ensures that senior leaders are in tune with the pulse of the organization. That heartbeat, he argued, is dictated by the advisors and their clients, and every administrative level that stands between them and decision-makers can have negative repercussions on the organization’s health.

“In fact, senior management can only stand to gain by listening to and learning from the unique perspectives of experienced advisors,” he said. “Listening to advisors means listening to clients, and meeting clients’ needs means growing a business that’s built to last.”


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