34 INVESTMENT ADVISOR MARCH 2018 | ThinkAdvisor.com
and eventually would pay off financially.
As Eleanor put it, “Greg hired me for
my potential not for my experience.
I decided to reciprocate that commitment.” After joining Greg’s firm, Eleanor
became a CFP to elevate her skills and
Eventually, Greg left the broker-dealer to form his own RIA, and he
took Eleanor and a couple other people
with him to create what is now known
as Sullivan, Bruyette, Speros & Blayney
(SBSB). Obviously, not only
did Eleanor demonstrate her
potential as a financial planner, she earned the right to
become a named partner in a
firm that is consistently recognized as one of the top RIAs in
A LEGACY PATH
Among the reasons SBSB is
a leading firm are their depth of staff
and the opportunities the partners have
created for career growth. Greg and
Eleanor learned a lot about the value of
hiring right, developing talent and preparing for the inevitable. SBSB now has
14 shareholders and an active program
to develop leaders and prepare for the
eventual transition of management, clients and other responsibilities.
Meanwhile, upon her retirement
from the practice of financial planning, Eleanor became a special adviser
on gender diversity for the CFP Board
Center for Financial Planning. She has
made a large financial and personal
commitment to attracting more women
into the business.
She asked the conference attendees,
“How will we ever attract more women
and people of color to our business if all
the employers require experience first?”
She exhorted the audience to begin evaluating potential as much as experience
when hiring. She also urged employers
to invest more time, energy and money
in a disciplined process of career development and job progression.
Through their words and deeds,
Unfortunately, the concept of “suc-
cession” has morphed into a focus on
the sale of the practice rather than on
the orderly transition of management,
employees and clients. Consultants and
consolidators are multiplying like rab-
bits to facilitate the capital investment
into advisory firms and the buy-out
of owners. Yet little attention is being
given to governance, culture and career
development once the founders of these
How often have we heard advisors
profess that they need an outside buyer
because their current employees can’t
afford to acquire the practice, do not
have the experience and maturity to run
the firm or are afraid to develop new
business. The number of objections that
advisors raise as to why an internal succession plan will not work is astounding.
It makes one wonder what percentage
of advisors feels more comfortable with
transactions over engagement, with
money over people and with short-term
reward over long-term success.
Interestingly, other professions —
most notably accounting, engineering,
management consulting and law — have
figured out how to expand and grow and
evolve. It seems the advisory business
is trying to answer the question, “What
happens when the dog catches the car?”
In other professions, there is no mystery
because prospective partners are put on
a track to take on more responsibility,
finance the purchase of their owner-
ship interest, develop their management
skills and prepare themselves to lead.
In the spirt of “physician, heal thyself,”
perhaps we should encourage advisors
to engage in some self-therapy: Let’s
begin with the end in mind.
Goal #1: Ensure that clients
get the best wisdom and energy that my firm has to offer.
Goal #2: Ensure that should
something happen to me, my
clients will be served with
Goal #3: Ensure that the
people I hire have an opportunity to learn, grow and flourish in my practice.
Goal #4: Reduce dependency on me
for bringing in new clients, managing
the business, tending to relationships
and performing all the tasks.
Clearly a divide exists between the
goals of advisors and their commitment
to reaching them. By putting clients
first, advisors may realize that monetizing the practice is not the definition of
success at all.
The lesson for other advisors
is that without a conscious
human capital plan, advisory
firms are failing to set up the
next generation for success.
• Ask the question, what will happen
to your clients when something
happens to you?
• Analyze what will happen to your
business when something happens
• Figure out if the sale of your business
to an outside buyer answers either of
the above questions with clarity.
Mark Tibergien is CEO of BNY Mellon’s
Pershing Advisor Solutions. Tibergien is also
the author most recently of “The Enduring
Advisory Firm,” written with Kim Dellarocca
of Pershing and published by Wiley. He can be
reached at email@example.com.