Top bank advisors want to fly the coop? Bump them up to the second floor
Updated: Mar 6, 2020
By Margarida Correia Published August 09 2017, 2:46pm EDT Bank program managers worried that they might lose their top advisors to wirehouses or other rivals may want to offer them a different type of work arrangement. Restless advisors might appreciate the opportunity to work more independently as second-story advisors, focusing exclusively on their books of business without having to deal with branch traffic, according to industry observers. Many advisors in branches today "don't want to ride the circuit and go to three other branches and have smaller-dollar clients," says Peter Bielan, managing principal at consulting firm Kehrer Bielan Research and Consulting.
They'd rather put all their energy into building relationships with their existing clients and engage in financial planning and other activities that would help their clients in a more holistic way. MOVED UPSTAIRS In return for being spared from the rigors of providing branch sales and administrative support, second-story advisors give up branch referrals and their lower-tier clients to younger advisors in the early stages of building their books. No longer formally attached to the branches, they're often relocated to a corporate office or simply moved "upstairs" from the ground floor of a branch. Advisors who get bumped up to "second-story" roles have to have significant books of business or risk "starving to death," says Marc Vosen, president of Key Investment Services. They typically manage $50 million to $75 million in assets and bring in $750,000 to $1 million, the bulk of it coming from fee-based business. Because they forego referrals, second-story or "book-based" advisors get a slightly bigger payout, typically 5 percentage points higher than advisors in the branches, according to Bielan. MORE MONEY NOT ENOUGH That higher payout and greater autonomy and independence, however, may not be enough to retain advisors determined to leave. "It's not enough to pay them more," says Bielan. "You have to show that advisor that they'll be at least as successful or more successful by not moving." That often means providing them with a higher concentration of sales support, including more sales assistants. "They can't have a pooled group or share sales and support with multiple other advisors because that's not competitive or conducive to what their new role is going to be," Bielan says. Playing up the firm's culture is also key, particularly in instances where advisors are being tempted with upfront money that wirehouses often dangle before potential recruits. MANAGER'S EAR Most advisors leave because they lose confidence that their managers "have got their back," according to Bielan. Advisors need to believe the bank offers an environment where they have the "manager's ear for the issues that they have to have addressed," he says. When advisors are offered upfront money – let's say $1 million that's forgiven after nine years with the company – they need to understand that they lose their bargaining power because they are essentially "under contract" and "off the radar," according to Bielan. If the environment at the rival firm is not right for them, "the money is not going to be worth it," he says. To build a favorable culture for second-story advisors, banks need to expand the number of products available to them. They need more managed money options, more money managers and digital platforms and perhaps more than one firm to clear through, according to industry experts. The banks may even want to slip second-story advisors a few leads, says Rick Rummage, founder and CEO of the Rummage Group, a career consulting firm. Banks can make their advisors "never want to leave" by allowing them to call bank customers who aren't being called on by the branch-based advisors, he says. In short, the managers running bank wealth management units need to show that they care about their advisors and not view them as a "number that produces a certain amount of business," according to Bielan. "That's going to keep an advisor," Bielan says.