Most advisors would probably agree that the no. 1 opportunity for organic growth in our industry is by being referable. Giving clients an exceptional experience such that they feel inclined to share with others is the best way to achieve this, since the level of service your staff provides can often be more of a driving factor in referrals than simply performance.
Achieving growth at scale empowers owners and their advisors with more time to do what is most critical to the success of the business — such as building and strengthening client relationships, managing investments, and developing new skillsets. With the team and resources utilized appropriately, current clients’ service levels should remain unchanged (or ideally improved), while also opening up the capacity to serve a larger, more complex client base.
For advisory firms that have successfully grown their client base to a point where they need to scale accordingly, below are four key areas for consideration.
One of the biggest hinderances to growth involves advisory practices understaffing their offices. When it comes to staffing, decisions need to be made from both a qualitative and quantitative perspective. Not only is having the appropriate number of employees crucial to scaling a business (in my opinion, the most successful firms have a 2:1 ratio of support staff to advisor), but they also need to be top-tier in their ability to maintain internal workflows and thoughtfully service clients.
Of course, if you want to hire the best, you have to be competitive in your employment perks — both monetary and cultural — since expectations have shifted so dramatically over the past few years. In addition to competitive compensation, consider some of these incentives to help attract talent:
- Sign-on and year-end bonuses.
- Annual raises.
- Employee and client referral programs.
- Tuition and training reimbursement.
- Work/life balance.
- Remote work.
- Flexible schedules.
- Paid and sick time off.
- Parental leave.
Yes, bringing on more people and offering these types of benefits will cut into your bottom line initially, but it’s necessary to invest in good people up front in order to continue to grow the business over the long term.
Advisors tend to drastically underestimate the long-term effects that smart technology-enabled workflows can have on scalability. Communications systems like landlines, cell phones, email services, intranets and customer-facing tech are all vital to daily operations, but additional innovations should be considered when attempting to scale more quickly.
Below are three key areas for tech implementation:
Customer relationship management (CRM) systems provide a centralized database to maintain current and prospective client data, track interactions, and help manage relationships with personal information like birthdays, anniversaries, family and hobbies. Some CRMs are built specifically for the financial industry to help streamline tasks like tracking required minimum distributions (RMDs), opening new accounts, and more. Having a single platform that keeps track of all client interactions and requests has huge organizational advantages.
Financial planning software
Financial planning software can vary in complexity, but at a minimum, platforms should have the ability to aggregate accounts from multiple custodians onto a single platform, allow you to easily review either the performance of the entire portfolio or isolate a specific account or strategy, as well as securely share information within the same platform. Additional benefits of financial planning software include reducing error rates, improving productivity, obtaining keen data insights, and improved compliance.
For advisory firms with more complex planning needs, integrating rebalancing tools to assist in portfolio management can help clients’ investments remain aligned with their goals, and eliminate costly mistakes associated with account rebalancing.
Ongoing employee development is crucial to your organization’s success. Increasing competition can make it difficult to hire external talent. Promoting solid candidates from within is often easier for businesses, especially since these employees are already familiar with company culture and operations. Below are five essential components for creating a winning employee development program.
- Orientation/onboarding. Introducing new employees to their team and the rest of the company at the point of hiring, as well as getting them familiar with their specific job processes and expectations, in an organized and enjoyable way.
- Training. Providing employees with the skills and tools needed to do their jobs most effectively at continuous points throughout their tenure.
- Coaching/mentoring. Mentoring employees through exposure to people with similar experiences and firsthand, specialized expertise so they can learn how to manage the development of their own careers and network effectively.
- Career planning. Giving employees a clear roadmap for potential career paths and defining the skills needed to get there.
In addition to building out staffing levels and tech stacks, those looking to foster scalable growth should also embrace marketing and allocate dollars to developing brands and boosting their reputations. Having an online presence is a necessity in today’s digital world, and developing a brand name and story to validate the firm and what you do is a fundamental element of this.
Find ways to encourage people to become familiar with your brand and engage with your content — either through original blogs, podcasts and social media, or even through earned or paid media like radio, TV and print. Not only does this help establish your brand, it also helps you establish credibility as a thought leader among current and prospective clients.
The way forward
Scalability does not come without its challenges. Aside from implementation considerations, the obvious question you may be asking yourself is, “How can we afford all of this?”
Again, these solutions should be viewed more as investments in the business, rather than as burdensome expenses. But one of the most potentially cost-effective ways to scale is to join an independent RIA network that provides access to a wide range of financial professionals with varying specialties and services. This way, certain operations can be outsourced to a third party within the network rather than having to bring on a new employee internally or implement a new piece of technology. Having access to such a roster of other talented professionals allows advisors to take on more (and potentially different types of) clients than they currently work with.
Regardless of your chosen path, the end goal remains the same: To scale your practice in a way that best services current and future clients.
After working for an industry broker-dealer, Alex Reffett broke away and co-founded East Paces Group to provide more customized money management solutions to his clients. As a visionary, he spearheads the company’s growth strategy, forging strategic partnerships and leading advisor recruiting and acquisition efforts.