Why advisor team model is gaining steam

Are more traditional lone-wolf advisors joining a pack? How social dynamics are driving this trend

Why advisor team model is gaining steam

The pandemic crisis has caused plenty of soul-searching across the industry, and that includes long-time lone-wolf advisors; in the end, many decided to join or start a pack. And as advisors across the industry reap the benefits of the team model, many others are warming up to the idea as well.

“During webinars and different online events, a lot of advisors see the leaders and members of these teams are growing their business. They seem happier and more engaged,” says Corey Ferrier, Head of National Sales at Raintree Financial Solutions. “There’s a social aspect to the increased adoption of team models: advisors see a positive lift among those earlier adopters, and they want it too.”

Advisors who become part of a team, Ferrier says, tend to enjoy the business more as they collaborate with other professionals. Beyond learning from the leader or their colleagues, Ferrier says it’s a way for them to get re-motivated and get re-engaged with the business.

Traditionally, the genesis of a team is when an advisor decides they want to lead a group, and then start talking with potential members in their local network or community. According to Ferrier, they’d be springboarding off loose relationships with some advisors within the same firm, which is an initial list of less than 10 prospects – which often isn’t enough.

“They often talk to me in my role as head of national sales,” Ferrier says. “I’d get questions like ‘Who should I be talking to? Do you think there's some people that might be a good fit for my team?’ and I point them in the right direction.”

It’s up to the advisors to have conversations and decide if they’re a good match. Going from zero to four members, he says, tends to be the high-growth stage of a team’s development; the road from four to eight tends to be more uphill.

Occasionally, Ferrier says he also receives calls from independent advisors who are considering being a team member rather than a leader. The conversations are similar in many ways with those involving would-be leaders, though those thinking about joining teams might ask more questions about what they’d give up, and what they’d stand to gain.

“I help them understand the systems and processes, and what changes they could expect,” Ferrier says. “I also coach the leaders on how to be a leader, how they can provide value for their team and build that community, which I’ve had experience with multiple times.”

When someone graduates into the branch model and becomes a leader, Ferrier says they’ll need to allocate time towards establishing and growing their team on an ongoing basis. They’d also need to scale their client support team by getting additional administrative support, or potentially a licensed associate to help as well. Offloading their marketing to a third-party agency could also make sense for some.

“We do see that they need to scale their own practice so that they can continue to spend the same amount of time directly meeting with their clients, but also have additional time to allocate towards their advisor teams,” Ferrier says. “Once you start forming that team, you do often get in touch with more professionals in the industry, whether it's associates looking to come in or administrative staff for advisors that have some additional capacity.”

Over time, Ferrier says lone wolves who become team leaders also tend to elevate their client service. Aside from learning additional knowledge from their team members to improve their own capabilities, he says they’re able to better appreciate the different strengths and weaknesses of the support network of experts they’ve built around themselves, giving them the type of situational awareness needed to be better financial quarterbacks. 

“If you don't have that kind of close relationship, you don't really know what they're good at, what they could help you deliver to your clients, or what situations might make sense to pull them in,” Ferrier says. “But when you work so closely together, it's a lot easier to leverage your team members.”