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Breaking Free: 8 Best Practices for Advisors Seeking Independence

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For advisors considering the RIA space, a few lessons learned on the client side are key to a successful transition.

Do your due diligence

At Dynasty, our most successful transitions were executed with advisors who had done exhaustive due diligence before deciding to move to the independent space. The due diligence allows time to mentally prepare for the change, consider whether the move is right for you and your clients, plus give you new perspective on various options. We encourage advisors to look at all the various options available, to learn the language of the RIA space and to talk to their peers or other advisors already in the space. In other words, doing your homework today may prevent regret tomorrow.

The battle is won in preparation

Any transition to independence requires a significant amount of work, which in itself can be chaotic. We developed a 150-item checklist and project plan that helps to provide order to the move, plus software to help manage the transition in a secure and confidential manner. The best transitions are led by advisors and teams who make sure all their work on the front end is done prior to their move.

Perform a detailed financial analysis

We spend a good amount of time helping to teach the language of independence from a P&L perspective. We work with advisors to run detailed P&L analysis on their new business. The best advisors know what their startup costs will be, fixed and variable costs going forward, and targeted gross and net margin levels before they launch. They then decide if they will self-finance, take a loan, sell a piece of equity or some other option. These advisors take a disciplined approach to managing their finances through the transition in order to be able to hit preset financial hurdles.

Tackle big items first

We tend to encourage teams to tackle the big items around the move first. In general, we find that picking a name, finding and negotiating real estate, determining equity splits, building operating documents, getting seed capital in place, building brand and marketing pieces, and getting ADV work done are some of the bigger items that can take time and slow down a transition. Get in front of these items first so they don’t slow you down later.

Map for success

It’s important to do detail capability mapping for your clients. Investing the time to map unique investment product needs, loan products and rates, manager access and pricing, research and trading needs, and any alternative investment needs will prevent any surprises for you and your clients later. The most successful transitioning advisors we work with were relentless on behalf of their clients, making sure they could do everything their client needed and, in some cases, more, on the move to independence.

Practice client communication

We have partnered with advisors on some of the fastest transitions in the RIA industry and have seen several transitions actually completed in as short a time as a month. In all of these expedited transitions, the advisors invested time in role-playing conversations with clients and media. Writing out talking points and rehearsing the conversations, creating an anticipated FAQ list and answers, and practicing it with your team will have you ready come transition time.

Be mentally ready for the administrative push

The best advisors and teams making the move to the independent space understand that it is going to be roughly six months of heavy lifting ahead of them. Often times we suggest adding some temp staff to help with paperwork during the transition. However, being mentally and physically ready for the administrative grind is important. We encourage teams to put proper rewards and incentives in place, to over-communicate with family around the transition time frame and to celebrate as family and involve them where it makes sense. We also look for ways to make it fun and keep energy up while encouraging employees to get proper rest as they prepare to make the move.

Don’t jump the gun

Almost without exception we hear from teams “I wish I had done this sooner.” While success breeds more success and it’s easier today than ever before to make the move to independence, it's important that advisors make the move at the right pace and time for them and their teams. Rushing things can have a negative impact on your new business; too much thoughtful preparation for your move to independence can never be a bad thing.

Shirl Penney is the founder and CEO of Dynasty Financial Partners.

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