Financial advisers may spend months, even years, performing the due diligence that leads them to their next best opportunity. Yet they still often overlook some of the finer points that allow for a better post-move experience.
When you’ve decided that this is the year to make a move and perhaps have even chosen your destination, there’s still work to do to create the most seamless of transition processes for you, your team and your clients.
Due diligence naturally focuses on comparing and contrasting the big picture criteria of other firms and models. It’s the transition process itself — what the experience will be during the initial few weeks and into the first few months at a new firm — that’s often overlooked.
Neglecting to anticipate and prepare for what could go wrong often leads to unnecessary business disruption and added stress. Follow these eight tips to better prepare for life during and after a move.
1. DO A DEEP DIVE OF THE BOOK
It seems like an obvious step, yet surprisingly many advisers mistakenly assume that their book can easily be replicated on another platform. Take the time to map the detailed components of the business, such as investments (both those managed in-house and by third parties), loans (including securities-based), checking accounts, credit card resources and any one-off client scenarios like non-domestic relationships, institutional accounts and trusts. When applicable, this review should cover pricing differences as well.
2. PERFORM TECHNOLOGY DEMONSTRATIONS
Participating in tech demos from both the adviser and client perspectives, as well as reviewing sample statements, is critical for the adviser and (where appropriate) the staff. There will always be differences to understand and adjust to, but taking the systems out for a test-drive ahead of a move reduces the stress of navigating unfamiliar terrain later — when your focus should be on bringing over clients.
3. DIG INTO THE ECONOMICS
Understanding the economics of your new firm or model means not only the upfront transition assistance offered but any back-end components of the deal and the ongoing economics of the payout grid and any fees and other charges. Be clear about the terms of the back ends — when they’re paid and what’s required to earn them. Clarity regarding client fees — pricing and how they’re billed — is also vital.
4. BE CLEAR ABOUT THE ACCOUNT TRANSFER PROCESS
Get clarity on the ACAT process and make sure you know who’s is responsible for what. Is it your team or your new firm’s transition or operations folks? Is it a paper process or a digital one? How much advance preparation is allowable? Do you know how long it should take for assets to move over and accounts to open?
5. CREATE THE CLIENT COMMUNICATION PLAN
Develop the plan of attack for contacting clients post-move, making sure you know what is permissible —whether you’re under the Broker’s Protocol or the terms of your employment agreement with the previous firm. If you’re part of a team, decide who’s responsible for communicating with each client and prioritize the order in which clients are contacted. Carefully craft the message you will deliver to clients, focusing on “what’s in it for them” in making the switch. Build out your website and other marketing resources (such as social media platforms).
6. DEVELOP THE NEW ‘GO-TO’ CONTACT LIST
When you move from your current firm, you’re likely leaving behind a well-established network of “who’s who” that took years to compile. This is a leading source of anxiety for many as a move date approaches. Ask for an introduction to critical team members and compile a new directory of key people whose roles will be indispensable, especially in the early days of joining. Learning how the organization operates ahead of the move does much to allay the fears around not knowing how things work and who to go to when you need to get things done.
7. HAVE STRATEGIES FOR AVOIDING ISOLATION
Whether it’s because of the new, more virtual work environment or because you’re launching an independent office, it’s important to anticipate some feelings of isolation, especially if you’ve been accustomed to ongoing local support. Even highly self-sufficient people may have a sense of isolation as they adjust to their new environment. Partners and other staff members can certainly provide support for each other — but only if they’re willing to be honest and vulnerable. For those who don’t have a team, establish a network of industry confidants and thought leaders both within and outside the new firm, and don’t hesitate to use it.
8. ABOVE ALL: PREPARE YOUR MINDSET
The biggest favor you can do for yourself in anticipation of a move is to be realistic about your expectations. It’s important not to expect perfection: Anticipate that there will be things that don’t go as planned. Every business is unique and some occurrences, despite all the planning and good intentions, are unpredictable. There will be surprises — and even a few clients who may not immediately follow — but every adviser tells us that these are balanced by the clients who, contrary to expectations, actually do.
Also be aware of any tactics to retain clients your former firm tries. While they’re typically ineffective, it’s smart to be equipped with an appropriate response. If you have your new go-to team of experts on speed dial when the occasional issue surfaces, you can navigate through the obstacles.
The goal shouldn’t be a flawless transition. The better objective — and the key to avoiding unnecessary stress — is to make sure you have the best support system in place to deal quickly and effectively with whatever arises.
You’ve done the work to identify an opportunity that is “better enough” to justify a move. Now you need to remain mindful that a transition to a new firm isn’t over once you’ve crossed the threshold to your new office. Moving is a process that can take a few months, and you may have to endure some discomfort during that time. But if you take these additional steps in preparation for your move, the only regret you should have when you look back at those early days with your new firm is that you didn’t do it sooner.
Andrew is half-human, half-gamer. He’s also a science fiction author writing for BleeBot.