Commonwealth: The Breakaway Advisor’s Guide to Choosing the Right Firm Partner

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For a financial advisor, there may be no decision as important as working with the right firm partner. The arc of your career might hinge upon your choice. That especially holds true when you’re considering leaving the wirehouse for the world of independence. After all, while every competent firm can help provide back office support and practice management functions, only the best will take the time to partner with you in every facet of your business. If you’re looking to transition and take your practice to the next level, that’s the kind of relationship you need to find.

Unsure where to start? Ask yourself the following questions to help you decide if a firm partner is the best choice for you, your business goals, and your clients.

Does the Firm’s Way of Doing Business Align with Yours?

Start by examining your personal and professional goals. Do you want more trust and freedom from your partnership so you can provide your clients with more creative solutions? Is your focus on holistic financial planning instead of chasing the index? Is having the autonomy to make business decisions a new priority? 

Ideally, the right firm partner embodies a corporate philosophy and culture supportive of the kind of business you’re building and who you are as an advisor. Your firm partner should also have the flexibility to work with you in a way that suits you best—whether you choose to operate as a fee-only or dually registered business.

Do your due diligence. If you have an opportunity to visit the firm’s home office, pay close attention to how you and your staff are treated and how staff interact with one another. Look for the little intangibles—prompt and transparent replies to your questions, open access to leadership, and a collegial environment—that reveal whether what’s touted in the marketing brochure is true. Talk to other advisors—both recently transitioned and those who have been around awhile—to get to know the community of professionals you’d be joining.

Will the Firm Anticipate Your Evolving Business Model—or Just React to It?

Financial advisors want a firm partner with the heft, scale, and tools to help them run and grow their business. At the same time, the ever-changing landscape of the financial services industry has created a need for institutions to be able to adapt as regulations and technology evolve. As you’re interviewing potential firm partners, ask how changes are examined and implemented. This should give you a good sense of how nimble the organization is. Perhaps most important, find out how advisor feedback factors into important firm decisions. 

Do your due diligence. Look for opportunities for affiliated advisors to provide feedback, and ask how their observations are triaged and acted upon, as well as who is listening. Are you sending an email to a general delivery inbox, or do you have direct access to the firm’s CEO? How much input do advisors have with the technology tools and resources offered? Look for a firm that values your suggestions and builds infrastructures with advisors in mind. In other words, you want a firm whose associates are proactive in their thinking.

Can the Firm Provide Service and Support to Fuel Your Growth?

From day-to-day operations such as opening accounts, communicating with clients, navigating compliance questions, and handling technology issues, how does the firm’s advisor support stack up? How will its policies help you run your business more efficiently and put time back in your day?

Do your due diligence. Although it’s a must to find someone who can deliver seamless execution, the right firm partner provides something more—the ability to consult with you on strategic matters that can influence the long-term growth of your firm. When you’re able to share the same vision and operate on equal footing, you’ll know you’ve found the firm with the right fit.

This post originally appeared on Insights, a blog authored by subject-matter specialists at Commonwealth Financial Network®, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser.

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