Want your RIA to grow? Put people first

Growth and success in the registered investment adviser business comes in many forms, and the Covid-19 pandemic has only underscored that fact as advisers and their firms continue to adjust to remote working.

Women advisers have assessed the new work reality, dubbed the new normal, and see plenty of opportunities for growth in the RIA industry, which is enjoying unprecedented interest from Wall Street and private equity investors. That’s according to a panel of advisers speaking at the InvestmentNews Women Adviser Summit, an in-person event held in New York last Thursday.

Heading the panel, titled “Growing Your Business,” was Mary Beth Franklin, contributing editor for InvestmentNews, who kicked off the discussion by noting that RIA firms lose 5% of their assets per year, according to InvestmentNews research. That reflects both clients who leave and those taking distributions and withdrawals from their retirement and other accounts.

How do you replace that, Franklin asked the three women on the panel: Sarah Baker, senior financial planner at Mason Investment Advisory Services; Eileen O’Connor, CEO and co-founder of Hemington Wealth Management; and Penny Phillips, president and co-founder of Journey Strategic Wealth.

For context, Franklin added that during the pandemic, everyone has been isolated and people have been desperate for some sense of community. That creates opportunities for financial advisers, particularly female advisers, who are so good at reaching out.

The panelists said that paying personal attention to people, both employees and clients, is part of a firm’s growth strategy.

“We always talk in terms of how many lives we’re going to change, not new assets,” O’Connor said. “It’s part of the subtleties at a firm, about how you get your team excited to reach for the growth.”

“Longstanding, healthy growth requires healthy teams,” Baker said. “Is your team engaged? Are they in there with you, or do they complain about doing all the paperwork?”

“I had a breakfast recently with a male, boomer adviser who had left the wirehouse to go RIA with partners, and he obviously thought that once you go RIA, everything gets solved,” Phillips said. “But no, it’s much more complicated than that, and he said he never realized that he would be feeling so tired at 60 years old. Basically, he was feeling that he was worried about what his day-to-day routine was going to look like.”

“And I found that to be such an honest comment,” she said. “And I do think in conversations we don’t ask advisers, how do you feel about this move to a new firm, what do you want, what does your spouse want, what do your kids want, more or less of you?”

“That’s why being a woman with three male business partners comes in handy because I have those conversations, and I think it’s OK to have those touchy-feely conversations with yourself and your business partners and your firm,” Phillips added.

Women in the advice industry

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Andrew is half-human, half-gamer. He’s also a science fiction author writing for BleeBot.

Andrew Vincent
Andrew is half-human, half-gamer. He's also a science fiction author writing for BleeBot.
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