2021 is just about behind us, and 2022 is knocking at the door. What are the 2022 trends in the financial planning advisory space that we consult? We had an opportunity to ask our experts what they see in their respective crystal balls...
Topics: Selling Your Practice, Acquisition, Multi-Generational Ownership, M&A, Business Value, Deal Structure, Financing, Bank Financing, Buying & Selling, State of the Market, Mergers, Tax Regulations, Building Your Team, Valuation & Appraisal, Transactions, Trends
The search for new talent can be time consuming and intimidating. As with any company, online job boards like Indeed and Monster are good starting points. There are other resources to supplement these tools, and as a financial advisory firm there are some unique tools you can leverage. Whether you’re looking to recruit experienced advisory professionals, or fresh, new talent, the following are 11 more resources for finding new talent.
As an owner of a successful financial advisory business, you understand that the team you’ve built is vital to that success. Taking the next step and giving your top talent the opportunity to become owners can increase your growth and ensure that the business will continue to be successful–for generations to come.
Assembling this successor team and committing to a long-term partnership are important and weighty decisions. How will you know who will make a good partner? What traits and behaviors suggest that someone will make a successful owner? Much of that depends on your own values and priorities as the majority owner of your firm.
The term “synthetic equity” refers to a set of compensation tools that is commonly used to provide key employees some of the economic benefits of ownership without actual stock changing hands. While existing owners may benefit from synthetic equity by capitalizing on employee performance without relinquishing ownership, there are key benefits to next-generation advisors, too.
Reduced Financial Risk
One of the most beneficial aspects of synthetic equity for a next-generation advisor is that it does not require a financial investment in the firm. As a younger professional, you may already be juggling the financial obligations of a new family, a recent home purchase, or student loans, and you may not be interested in taking on the added burden of ownership buy-in–yet.
It’s hard to keep secrets in a small office. The rooms are tight, the walls are thin, and it’s just a matter of time before everyone knows everyone else’s business. Even when an owner has quietly decided to sell their practice, they should assume that staff members will eventually find out (if they haven’t already). In our experience, it’s best that employees hear the news from someone they trust: the owner.
Prospective sellers are often reluctant to speak to staff members about their exit plans because they aren’t sure how the selling process will pan out and they don’t know how the staff will feel about the change. While it’s important to be sure of your decision before announcing your plan, looping your staff into the process can increase your success and can even help shape the structure of your sale.
A large percentage of advisory businesses use some form of revenue-sharing arrangements, or an eat-what-you-kill system, that rewards sales and production tied to the top line, not the bottom line. This is true of small practices as well as larger businesses. “Fracture lines” are built into the practice model as individual books or practices are built in an environment that starts out collaboratively but most often ends up creating competitors.
It’s important that independent advisors move away from obsolete practices and improper building tools held over from experiences in the wirehouse world. Creating a sustainable and valuable business should be the goal of every advisor. Building efficiently and effectively takes the proper tools, the proper structure, and the proper team.
Advisors need to embrace the most powerful and lucrative tool they have: equity. Equity is the value of the business separate and apart from the cash flow and compensation paid for work performed.
The foundations for FP Transitions were laid in 1999, and that makes our company officially 20 years old this year. I founded this company thinking that I knew a lot more about running a business than I actually did at the time. Armed with a law school diploma and a lot of energy and drive, I thought I was ready to conquer at least a small corner of the business world. Turns out that running a business takes experience and business knowledge.
Along the way, I picked up an important axiom from a local legend who said, “Don’t confuse activity with achievement.” He was right, but it took me a long time to understand the difference. In retrospect, the first ten years of our company were characterized with a lot of activity; the last ten years is where the achievement took place. The difference maker for us was hiring an outside CEO, Brad Bueermann, to come in and help us turn our activities into achievement on a national scale. Until then, I confused being very busy with being very successful, or at least constantly being on the verge of success. Everything revolved around me and the lawyer in me silently rejoiced. But this wasn’t a good, long-term model because eventually I ran out of time and energy. And I got older!
Advisors often mistake activity for achievement too, thinking that their one-owner practice that is 90% or more fee-based and that grows steadily at 10% or more every year is proof that they have built a business and that success has been achieved. I see a lot of independent advisors building what I call “books” and “practices,” but not very many building sustainable businesses. What I’ve learned over the past twenty years is that, while it is incredibly satisfying to have a practice that revolves around the founder, that isn’t a durable model, and it is not “a business.” At some point, if a practice is to outlive its founder and provide services to the clients for their lifetimes, and not just for the length of the founder’s career, significant changes need to be implemented, and the sooner the better.
Early on, we grew fast and I became totally focused on our top-line success and growth rate. But there came a time when it was clear that without strengthening the foundational aspects of our business, it would never grow past a certain point. I had to move myself out of the center of operations and learn to build and run a business like a shareholder, not like the star attraction. Making myself a part of a stronger, more diverse, and younger team of professionals was hard, but very necessary – more than just changing my leadership style, we had to change the culture of our operation and, frankly, that was beyond my skill set. So, we brought in outside help – people who knew things that I didn’t – and that made all the difference.
Looking back over the past few decades, you can easily spot the trends and physical changes in our industry. Since 2000, when FP Transitions formally opened its doors, I’ve seen our profession, especially in those working under an independent broker-dealer or hybrid model, steadily shift to fee and advice-based solutions. Early on, most practices that we represented were made up primarily of transaction or non-recurring revenue; today advisors build businesses with a focus on fee-based income streams. Independent insurance companies are evolving as well with a sophisticated and wide array of recurring revenue.
Along the way, these practices have become not just more valuable, they are also physically larger and stronger. This requires more qualified people to analyze, give advice, produce revenue, as well as the adjunct talent to support these professionals. Looking forward, we see an ever increasing need to recruit and retain the best talent in the industry to support not just where your practice is today, but where that growing business will be ten years from now. Everyone has read about the need for recruiting; but the story has shifted in the past few years and will continue to do so going forward. Rather than simply hiring next gen talent as the need arises, this could well turn into a fierce competition to adequately reward and retain that talent as more and more advisory businesses reach the next level of success and draw upon a talent pool that has scarcity written all over it.
In my work, I’ve become a “professional traveler,” so I spend a lot of time in airports, and I get to talk to many of the pilots. Airline pilots are adventurous souls who enjoy finding ways to go faster, fly higher, and see things from a level that others cannot. They are also very methodical and go about everything with a checklist mentality, a clear purpose, and as much knowledge on the subject matter as they can muster. I find a lot of our entrepreneurial advisors to be cut from the same cloth. The goal of building something bigger, stronger, and better, helping clients with a different view of the financial world, and then sharing what they’ve built with others is woven into the very fabric of their being. Entrepreneurs like to grow, and they like to do things right.
Growth, of course, can mean many things. You might want to grow your top line revenue and assets under management. Maybe you’re looking to hire and build your team in order to improve client experiences. Perhaps you want to acquire a practice–or two–to quickly grow revenue, assets, the client base, and your own income. But, just like a pilot who wants to go faster and fly higher, eventually you’re going to need a larger plane, a stronger engine and airframe, even additional skills that maybe you don’t have–or don’t necessarily have a passion for developing.
Over time, we’ve seen that independent advisors don’t naturally build large, profitable, sustainable businesses. The ambition is there, and recurring, fee-based revenue certainly helps, but the skill-sets that prompt most of you to hang out your own shingle and start gathering clients who entrust you with their financial goals and assets are different than what it takes to run an organization of professionals and create scale. For these reasons and others, this is still more an industry of book builders than it is of business builders.
Successful, ambitious, and conscientious advisors ask questions like: How do I create next-level growth? What will it take to build a firm that delivers an extraordinary experience to my clients and their families? How am I going to achieve my own next-level life?
The answer starts with another strategic question: What has to happen to give you the freedom to focus on precisely those aspirations?
Your catalyst for growth in all three areas lies in the talents of your team. Make your A players your #1 priority and you’ll have an alchemy that expands your available time and transforms exhaustion and obstacles into more space and energy.
But it doesn’t come without a cost. The cost is personal sacrifice of current habits, beliefs, ego, and behavior, plus an investment of more time now to blend together the ingredients for that alchemy. Your results will come from your ability to:
- let go and stay focused on the big picture,
- place yourself in service to your team, and
- treat them like your best clients.