Choosing the Right Firm Partner: The Key to a Successful Transition to Independence

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As a financial advisor, you have a lot to think about when making the decision to go independent. You’ll need to determine who would make the best firm partner, how this change will affect your business and clients, and why you want to go independent. As you plan for this transition, you’ll want to consider how to structure your business, as well as your communication strategy, staffing, office space layout, and other factors. And in the end, you’ll be looking for a firm partner who fits with your new company culture—one that will be by your side each step of the way to ensure a seamless experience for you and your clients. 

Getting Past Your Fears

The thought of transitioning your book of business can feel scary. While some advisors shy away from making the move, I have seen many tackle this fear with great success. The transition is challenging and requires a lot of work, but with the right planning, support, and firm partner by your side, you’ll look back on this experience and wish you had made the move sooner—a comment I’ve heard from many advisors. Below are key points and questions to consider to ensure that this move is right for you.  

Support
During the transition to independence, it is crucial to have resources and a dedicated support team with a reliable track record. It’s important to recognize that each transition is unique. Your team should provide you with expertise gleaned from past transitions, hold you accountable on what tasks need to be completed, develop a process customized to your needs, and guarantee ongoing communication and collaboration. 

So how do you ensure that you have the help you need? The answer is simple: meet with the team who will be supporting you and ask them pointed questions. Don’t hold back on communicating what is important to you and what your concerns are in making this change. Ask them how they assisted other advisors from your former firm and what challenges they faced, and see if you can talk to these advisors to learn firsthand how their experience went.   

Onboarding clients is one of the most involved processes when moving firms, and it’s important to understand what services are available to you and for how long. Will a team be sent to your office or support you virtually, and for how long? What happens after they leave? Do you still have a point of contact, or are you now required to call into a service queue? No matter what your question is, you’ll want to be sure you have the level of support that’s right for you. Your firm partner should be by your side from the beginning, guide you through the entire process, and introduce you to the community once you are fully acclimated.   

Planning
Planning is an important component of a seamless transition to independence. The more time advisors put into research and preparation at the start of the process, the more ready they will be to tackle anything that comes their way later on. The most successful transitions we’ve seen, from the independent side as well as wirehouse, are when advisors give themselves plenty of time to prepare and plan. Some advisors try to rush through this process and find it difficult to balance client needs while setting up their business. You should expect your firm partner to play a role in these discussions, strategize on what needs to be done, and recommend what is best for you and your business.  

One of the first things to identify is the time frame in which you want to make the move and what you need to do prior to that date. In essence, you’re starting a new business, so you will need to develop a new business name, entity structure, logo, and website. Logistically, you may need to secure a new office space and purchase technology. During the due diligence phase, you’ll want to ensure that your firm partner informs you of exactly what needs to be done and any resources you can utilize. 

Training
As you continue to plan your transition, your firm partner should do a deep dive into how to run your practice. This information is critical to building out your customized training plan so you can efficiently run your practice early on and during the transition. Taking that information and developing a plan to meets your needs will help you learn the most important systems at the right time. It’s also helpful to know and understand how the training will be conducted. Will training be done via e-learning? Will you have a dedicated person to provide you with one-on-one training where you can ask questions? Does the training take place before or after you join? You’ll want this training plan to meet your business needs and provide you with best practices and learning opportunities. 

Partnering for Success
A lot goes into this transition, and having the right firm partner should be at the top of your list. When you have the right partner by your side who is aligned with your goals, you can rest assured your move to independence will be a successful one.  

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Comments (1)
  • I moved my practice from Merrill to Commonwealth almost 3 years ago. They are truly the finest group of people that I have ever met within our industry. You would be lucky to partner with them.

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