There's been an uptick of "warnings" and people being fired. If you think the ax is coming down on you, it probably is. But, there are certain actions you can take to help ensure you are prepared for the day it does or to avoid it all together. If you are quick enough, it just may miss you all together.
"Harvey" called my office not too long ago in a frantic state. His firm had just issued him an official written warning and the manager subsequently suggested that although nothing was official, he should probably start searching for a new home. Harvey produces about $1 million in gross production with $200 million in assets. We were on the phone for quite some time in which Harvey was able to review with me the specific infraction or two his current firm had cited. Without boring you with the details, there were no reportable offenses, it was more internal policy related. I was frankly surprised they wanted to get rid of such a good producer over nothing.
I named several places that I thought Harvey should look into. "'I just really have no interest in the last three,'" he said. But I remained persistent stating that it's better that you be safe than sorry and that now is not the time to be cherry-picking your favorite. Do it after you have met the various representatives at the firms. Within a couple of days, we were scheduled for six interviews at different firms.
He also hired a high-priced, well-respected attorney. After meeting with the lawyer, Harvey started cancelling a couple of meetings and blowing off a few managers. The lawyer had actually provided him with some very bad advice. "My lawyer said to take a wait-and-see approach and that I should just be patient and see what they say."
I couldn't really believe what I was hearing since the firm had already insinuated that if he didn't leave, they would make him. Head-strong Harvey believed the high-powered attorney over me. I, in turn, checked with a few managers. "Oh no, if you happen to know you may be getting fired, get out first." Well, yeah!
When it comes down to it, now is not the environment to collect a termination on your U5. And if you feel one is coming your way, run and run now. The attorney was being very self-serving by suggesting Harvey wait. Simply said, if the litigation goes on longer, the lawyer can bill more hours. Ultimately the attorney's bad advice can cost big bucks, while severely limiting your choices.
In Harvey's case, he finally began to actively interview again and was doing so at a pretty good clip when the ax came down. He called me from the office one day in a hushed voice but said everything seemed normal. A flag immediately went up with me. "What are you doing in the office? You should be out on meetings and interviews, definitely not there!" Not 10 minutes after we were finished, Harvey's manager came in and declared this day his last.
That changed everything. Out of the six firms Harvey had been interviewing at, two of them went from the offer stage to deciding to take a pass. It wasn't even a matter of waiting to see what the U5 stated. And this is where his attorney's crucial advice of taking that 'wait and see' approach became nearly fatal for his brokerage career. Not only did over half the players leave negotiations, the termination put a hold on anything for the next three weeks. And when half the players went, so did half the deals.
Harvey's six excellent offers went to one great one and that was fine. Numbers for the deal he ultimately took had to be reworked a bit for more on the back end compared to the front end to offset the risk of his termination. All in all, Harvey is happy at his new establishment but maintains that he wished he hadn't followed the lawyer's advice and accepted an offer before his termination.
That being said, Harvey did a lot of things right before the 'big day' as well. Now take some time and learn. First and foremost, keep a low profile and trust me, it isn't always easy to do. Keep your door closed when you are there and the chit chat to a minimum. Schedule as many client meetings as you possibly can to bolster your relationships and help you stay out of the office. If a firm flies you out to corporate headquarters, be sure to spend an extra couple of days and meet with any clients that happen to be in that area.