I spent 30 years at Morgan Stanley, helping clients, working with advisors and overseeing regions for the firm as it grew.
I don't regret it.
When I "retired," I spent a year contemplating my next move, and when I decided to "unretire," I came back to financial advice, but this time on the independent side.
Those who have only known independence have a tendency to take jabs at wirehouse financial advisors, lumping all into one convenient bucket, but that is an unfortunate position to take. The reality is that there are plenty of exceptional advisors at the wirehouses who are wondering about going independent.
My advice is that they take the plunge. I have found it extremely rewarding and challenging.
Four years ago, going independent was a choice replete with tough decisions: What custodian? What sort of practice? What fee structure? What is the rent going to cost each month? What technology is needed, at a minimum, to work with clients efficiently and effectively? How will the advisor report client activities? Which platform to use? Will it be captive to one custodian or agnostic across many? What basic office supplies and early day marketing elements are needed? Should it be a 1099 or a W-2 environment?
Let's assume for a moment that an advisor has reached a certain level of success and has built a strong customer base that the advisor assumes will be loyal to in any business move.
Congratulations! Such advisors qualify to pack their chutes and put them on and can take a few tentative steps toward the doorway of the plane.
But these advisors may notice that the landscape appears to be constantly shifting.
Keep in mind that technology is becoming more robust on a daily basis, begging the question of whether to partner with one, adopt one or white label one.
Segmentation of clients is another area to focus on, and that has been a learning curve for both me and the firm. When going independent, it is important to remember that you are starting a small business, and life as you knew it at the wirehouse will seem a distant memory in short order.
Yes, the landscape changes every day. There are more advisors in motion than ever before.
So jump. Whether it is with a team or alone, with a guide or without, the fact is that there is no "perfect" time.
Enjoy the ride, and may the landscape you find be one in which you can thrive.
Mag Black-Scott is chief executive of Beverly Hills (Calif.) Wealth Management.
This story is part of a 30-day series on going independent.
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