In today's economy, the whole is often not worth as much as the individual parts that comprise it. Is your unit up for sale and your manager just isn't telling you?
Truly savvy advisors always have a "Plan B" and usually don't wait until their units or firm are being sold off to start thinking about their next step. Alternative career paths just don't happen overnight and they most certainly don't happen on your exact schedule.
Whether you're a 15-year wirehouse senior vice president managing 75 advisors or a 20-year financial services veteran with a million-dollar book, the time to understand your career landscape and develop a Plan B is not when you're faced with a change—it's now. Exploratory meetings and relationship development should be essential components of your own career path and the foundational elements of any Plan B strategy.
Take, for example, the situation that John found himself in. With 14 years in the industry, John's business had been on a steady decline for the past four years. In fact, in his tenth year, John had reached his production pinnacle. He was producing just over $500k, with about $55 million in assets and working at a wirehouse. The idea of becoming affiliated with his employer was never a consideration for him—that is until the financial crisis turned the industry on its head and found John transferring his book three times, while steadily losing what he thought was his very loyal clientele. So where did John go wrong?
Affability aside, John had never even considered a Plan B before the crisis and was totally blind-sided when the economy went into a tailspin. Even though John was a decent producer, by New York City standards, where he was based, he was no superstar. By the time of the turmoil there were a slew of Johns running around trying to find new homes and rival firms had stopped taking new meetings with advisors if they weren't already known.
Even the best recruiters had a hard time getting a guy like John in the back door and at a lower-than-competitive deal. In John's case, though, he took matters into his own hands. He reached out to every independent firm with ads in the back of every trade rag. He was sold a bill of goods while in a frantic state. The average producer of his new independent firm was probably $100k at the time. He quickly followed suit. He lost clients because of a lack of due diligence. John hadn't checked whether all of his managed money would transfer. Plus, most of his money managers were not approved by the independent firm, so they couldn't transfer properly. Because of a lack of platform and overall poor transition team who overlooked the "fine print", John ended up with three formal customer complaints. Suddenly, John found himself with not only half his client pool, but also a disciplinary record. Fast-forward to today—and three employers later. John's book is approximately $50k and he's debating "one last change."
While half of me thinks that the unemployment line should be calling his name, the other half hopes that he finally makes the right decision for himself and the few clients he has left. If he puts his head down at a decent little shop that is known for keeping their employees happy and gives it one last try, he should be able to rebuild. However, that shouldn't be the case for a 15-year industry vet.
What's Not to Love?
Then there's Dan, an advisor for 10 years, who transferred into management. He's run offices at two different wirehouses in the same town for about 20 years.
His last gig had about 45 financial advisors on staff. In a city with a population of slightly less than a quarter of a million, Dan was pretty convinced that he was the best and only game in town at least when it came to being a wirehouse manager. His "I run this town" attitude prevented him from meeting new people. He actually was convinced that he knew them all.
Unfortunately for Dan, times change and so do people. Whenever a recruiter would call him to introduce him to a new or even an old contact, he would refuse and insist: "I already know him."
Truth is, he may have known someone 20 years prior, but his overall lack of communicating with everyone led to the ultimate demise of his management career. Had he maintained close contact with recruiters and peers alike, Dan would be in a different position today. Instead, his ego and narcissism killed his career. Today, he is a lower-than-average producer working out of an office he once managed. There had been a couple of positions that popped up in his area when Dan was still in management but nobody bothered to contact him about them.