Ask any good manager what guidance they would give to an advisor moving to a new firm, and they would likely tell you: "Be prepared and plan, plan, plan!"
I can't stress how important it is to be very well organized when switching firms. But sometimes even the most prepared and organized advisors can run into some classic road bumps along the way. The bumps are real, but can be dealt with. Aside from the crucial issues of account due diligence and compliance (which should be the first thing you should think about when considering a move); preparation, having a quality sales assistant and an ace transition team are also critical.
Now, with your Blackberry in hand and protocol followed, get all your ducks in a row and don't leave until you have them in line. Make sure a real transition team has been hired for at least two weeks prior to your departure. Interview prospective sales assistants and find out how many account transfer procedures they've actually been through. Go even further and get references from others in the office. And finally, check all account transfers. Misspelled names, missing information or poor signatures in initial packages that go to your clients, is not only shoddy paperwork, but it's also a turnoff for a client.
The Book of John
I have been working with "John" for over a year to ensure that he found a good firm that was right for him and a good fit for his clients. John's trailing 12-month production is at $1.6 million, with $250 million in assets under management. After much wrangling, he moved from a well-respected international boutique to a wirehouse in New York City . And while his move was relatively seamless, he did encounter some hiccups along the way.
Now, several weeks after his move, he has settled in and has transferred 70% of his accounts. He expects that number to rise to 92% within six months.
In the world of account transfers, every day counts. Therefore, additional time should be allotted to account for unforeseen issues that may arise during the process. Case in point: John neglected to get pre-approval from the hiring firm for a couple of his international accounts. While one would think such accounts would be relatively easy to transfer to a firm with an international presence, this is not always true. And, the pre-approval process also applies to institutional and "delivery versus payment" (DVP) accounts as well.
John's transition team also neglected to obtain updated passport photos for each of his international account holders, which was roughly 15% of his business. These photos are standard in the opening of new accounts, and all the accounts were sent back due to no identification.
This oversight cost the team a week.
Despite the few unfortunate events, John says his move was largely successful. He was able to formulate logical reasons for why his clients should go with him to the new firm. He convinced them that it was the best action to take for their wealth. His transition team — after the initial hitch — knocked it out of the park. And his assistant Ashleigh, held the entire process together.
Ashleigh moved with John to the new firm and she is now solely focused on completing the transition. Part of her efforts lie in assisting John in "gently prodding" his remaining client base to make the move.
His advice on those hard-to-read clients: "Follow up, follow up and more follow up! Call, write and visit. If you're willing to jump through hoops, it's more than likely they'll move with you."
So there you have it. There is a reason why moving certainly isn't for everyone, since it is a lot of work. But I got a voicemail from John. He said he was "sitting in the exact bar seat where we always meet," in Grand Central Station; and he added: "Just wanted to let you know that everything is going wonderfully on my end" and that "this exact place is where really lucky things started to happen to me regarding my career, and it's because of you."
It's all worth it. Congratulations John on a job well done. I'm happy that I did my job well and now John is doing his. The stars were aligned in our favor. With a lot of help from some true professionals and ample amounts of preparation and planning, they can be aligned for your move too.
Carri Degenhardt-Burke runs Degenhardt Consulting
in Jersey City, N.J. For further information, call 201-395-0222
or, go online at www.degenhardtconsulting.com.