Published Articles

The Right Questions Will Get You There

SuperUser Account posted on October 15, 2012

Monday, October 1, 2012

There you are driving home one Friday after a long, first week at your new job. And upon reflection, you realize it was a terrible week and maybe a terrible decision to make this move. During that first week you learned several things about your new firm and manager you wish you knew before you made the move. But you decide that it's too late and you will just have to make it work.

This is a scenario that happens all too often. Many financial advisors make several mistakes when they change firms, but it does not have to be that way. There will always be things you learn about the new firm after the fact. But you can certainly save yourself a lot of heartache by doing a little more due diligence before the move. I will discuss four very common mistakes and what you can do to avoid them.

One simple thing an advisor can do is ask more questions in the interviewing process. In the brokerage world an interview is usually the opposite of a typical salaried job.

That is, the advisor is the one who is interviewing the firm more than the firm interviewing the advisor. Of course the firm is interviewing them too, but it is the advisor who holds most of the cards. Let's face it, if you are a $400,000 producer or higher and you have a clean U4, just about every firm on the street wants you.

Since this is the case, you need to ask a lot of good questions so that there are not too many surprises if you choose that company. Asking questions up front is just one manifestation of the old saying, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

Imagine if you end up at a firm that does not have selling agreements with your favorite products. Or what if your firm has good technology but the new firm is still in the Dark Ages. With just an once of prevention (good questions), you may have been able to alter that situation.

Here at the Rummage Group, we have created a list of over 60 questions an advisor can ask (the list is on our website). Obviously not all questions apply to all advisors, but our list will help inspire good questions.

There are more than 1,000 potential employers for financial advisors. There are nine different models (wirehouses, regional firms, banks, independents, RIAs, insurance companies, boutique firms, hybrids and discount firms.) You can also break these nine models into three sub-models. I like to break these into hunter, gatherer and skinner firms.

The hunter firms expect you to go out and bring in your own business; they do not provide you with clients or even referrals. These firms include most of the nine models.

The gatherer firms give you warm leads/referrals and a client base to call. These firms are mostly made up of banks.

Finally you have the skinner firms. This type assigns clients to you and they just want you to up-sell and cross- sell to them. The discount firms mostly make up this type.

Each company in any model is unique. There is much to consider, such as culture, technology, product offering, operations, compliance, support and management.

Some companies look great on the surface, but when you dig deeper you find their definition of great technology is very different from yours. Most will never tell you if they have an overbearing compliance department or that their operations department loses paperwork regularly.

The only way to learn these things is to speak with an unbiased expert or a trustworthy advisor who has worked at the firm. All advisors owe it to themselves to do the research up front, so they don't make a big mistake.

Many advisors wait until things become unbearable at their current company before they start looking. Sometimes it is a manager they dislike that's the problem. Other times, unpopular changes have occurred at the company. These issues don't usually spring up overnight. It just seems to be human nature to wait until it becomes painful before an individual decides to make a change.

This causes many problems for the advisor. Most firms take between six and eight weeks for their hiring process. As mentioned in the previous section, there is a lot to learn regarding options and questions that need to get answered. This all takes time and you don't want to rush the process.

Furthermore, you want to be in a position of strength, not weakness. You always want the hiring manager to be more eager than you are. This will ensure the best deal possible.

Most of the strong offers that we have helped negotiate have come in situations when the advisor has taken their time to commit.

Lastly, if you are thinking about moving to a bank program, they have limited territories. A territory you want may already be taken. However, if you had started looking a few months earlier, it may have been available.

Don't wait until you are miserable to discover your options. The smartest advisors we have worked with are always weighing their options to make sure they are at the best firm to help them grow. Keep your company on its toes by having other options.

This seems like a simple idea, but ignoring it can have a devastatingly negative impact on an advisor. Make sure you keep a printout every month of your production numbers and assets under management.

You should always be able to prove quickly what you have done in the last 12 months. No firm cares what you did prior to those last 12 months. They also want to have each month's totals - not just a year-to-date total. You are only as good as the last rolling 12 months of production.

We have worked with many advisors who had just been fired and didn't have printed proof of production and assets. Instead of getting a huge upfront check, they got nothing.

Many of the firms will not even take pay stubs as proof of production. Every advisor thinks it won't happen to them. The truth is, all advisors are just one bad trade or recommendation away from termination. In addition, often times institutions will change their systems so it becomes harder for the advisors to print their numbers.

When the time comes to actually need the numbers, many advisors are worried they will get caught printing them. This is why you want to keep them even when you're not looking to make a change.

In summary, your career is too important to leave anything to chance. Be proactive instead of reactive. Make sure you are aware of your career options, ask good questions, don't wait until you become miserable to interview firms and make sure you have paper proof of your production.

Rick Rummage is the founder and CEO of The Rummage Group. He can be reached at