• Linda Willis

DIFFERENTIATION: THE GAME CHANGER IN GROWTH


Linda Willis

CAREER MANAGEMENT ADVISORS | CMA CONSULTING

April 1, 2020

Meeting with advisors daily looking to grow their businesses through financial advisor/RIA acquisition and hiring, the question asked is “What is your differentiated value proposition”? Often the response is “We put our client’s interests first.” This is not a differentiator in our business. Having met, led, managed and worked on behalf of scores of financial advisors over the years, with extremely limited exception, advisors put their client’s interests first. In fact, this is an industry axiom, the basic precept and expectation of our profession. So why would another advisor or business owner want to join you in your business or sell his or her business to you? What sets you and your firm or business apart from your peers?

With a crowded marketplace brimming with buyers and alternative independent platforms, the questions “Why you? Why your firm?” are pivotal. The answers do not have to be monumental or revolutionary. But having a strategy aligned with your objectives and the ability to articulate your strategy is paramount to success. It can be as simple as offering an entry point into the industry by providing mentorship and training to younger professionals and compensating with a salary and benefits. Perhaps, you offer a team approach with supportive infrastructure which affords AUM growth. Maybe you offer seasoned advisors a partnership opportunity to assist with cross-generational penetration helping to grow the seasoned advisor’s book value with a succession agreement to buy the book upon the seasoned advisor’s retirement. With a well-defined value proposition and strategy, it is far easier to identify and attract the opportunities if you have a clear understanding of who would be a good or complementary fit for your business, as well as to whom you and your business would be a good and complementary fit.

An additional aspect of the knowing who you are as a business is also execution and delivery. Having a value proposition alone is meaningless unless you and your firm live it and execute on it. For example, if you tout a seamless transition process with boots on the ground helping to orchestrate and facilitate client communication, paperwork and onboarding, it better be as represented. Relying solely on the custodian’s inhouse team is not a solution and is not a “seamless process.” Thinking through not only what makes you different but how you deliver on that brand promise in advance of the opportunities will help to ensure success and repeatable successes. Being able to speak to and demonstrate for a candidate what the transition on-boarding will look like is essential. Equally important, what will life post-transition look like within the new firm for both clients and candidates? Plan ahead. Have thought through and have the basics in place i.e. written agreements that a candidate can review in advance; a deck with an overview of the benefits package; marketing materials or at a minimum ideas about how you will go to market on the candidate’s behalf communicating the news once the candidate joins your business.

Know who you are – speak to it – execute and deliver on it. Be prepared before launching into the market. Have a plan – know your financial limitations and have your financing options arranged in advance. These things will differentiate your business and ensure an optimal transition glidepath to position you for more successful growth.

© 2016 by Career Management Advisors LLC.