Wirehouse Advisors Are More Than A Number

How Firms Can Stand Out In The Search For Top Wirehouse Talent
Amanda Dolan, Head of Advisor Recruiting, RBC Wealth Management - U.S.
Amanda Dolan, Head of Advisor Recruiting, RBC Wealth Management – U.S.

Modern wealth management has come a long way from its Wall Street, wirehouse roots. Once the gold standard for the industry’s top financial advisors, wirehouses have been seeing a steady outflow of professionals who choose to leave for smaller or independent models.

The world of regional and independent wealth management welcomes these breakaways with open arms. But as wealth managers grow larger and more professional, we see a new problem arise: How is a breakaway supposed to tell the difference between one destination and the next? Or, to look at it from the recruiter’s perspective: How do you attract the talent you want when your competitors are all saying the same thing?

The firms that want talent from wirehouses focus on the obvious difference-makers: sophisticated service platforms, supportive culture, flatter organizational structure and entrepreneurial autonomy. Our industry has correctly identified the motivations to break away, but describing these traits to would-be recruits loses some of the impact when they hear nearly the same words from everyone else. These traits have become table stakes.

From my perspective, firms win when they can dig deeper and demonstrate these traits to prospective wirehouse recruits.

A Supportive Culture Of Autonomy

I’m proud of the culture at my firm. You’re proud of yours, too. (Or at least I hope you are!) But it’s not easy to describe exactly what culture is to other people. The ability to show how your firm expresses culture is one of the most impactful ways to stand out from the crowd of options facing a potential breakaway. I can say that we have a family-like culture that supports our financial advisors as independent entrepreneurs. But how would I show that to someone else?

How do you attract the talent you want when your competitors are all saying the same thing?

Think about the interactions that would make an advisor feel like a partner, not an employee. If you have a smaller headcount, talk about it like the advantage it is – show that your size makes it easier for people to get to know your advisors as individuals and make the connections that will help them grow professionally.

Ease Of Transition

There’s no denying that changing firms is a stressful and disruptive experience for financial advisors and their clients. It can take months of discreet preparation as the advisor works up the nerve to leave behind a large, successful financial institution for something entirely new. It is the ultimate gut check for every client relationship that an advisor has built, as they announce their new destination to their clients. And the hard truth is that not every client will choose to follow them to their new firm.

I think it’s worth acknowledging how hard the transition is, even under the best of circumstances. There are ways for firms to minimize the hassle and challenges that come with leaving the wirehouse environment.

Breakaways want to know how you’ll support them. Be as specific as possible. Show exactly how an on-site, dedicated transition team will support every aspect of the advisor onboarding process, from license transfer to client account opening. Bring up the little things – all the inevitable tiny details that no one ever thinks to consider until they have already made the leap of faith.

Show that you’ve done this before and you’re thinking a step ahead. I don’t mean in the sense that you have to be the smartest person in the room. But a breakaway’s entire world will be focused on transitioning their book of business and building trust with their clients in the midst of a major change. They want to see how you have their back, whether that is with hands-on support or digital relationship management tools that will make their lives easier.

Where You Differ

The great thing about the wealth management industry is that we all have different approaches to the way we work, different specialties and different cultures and values. In my experience, wealth management firms struggle to find talent when they try to be all things to all people.

Instead, find where you differ from others, and wear those differences right on your sleeve.

Find where you differ from others, and wear those differences right on your sleeve.

After all, someone who wants to transition out of a financial institution that aims to be everything to everyone may not be in a great hurry to join another business that talks about itself in the exact same way. There is room enough in our corner of the industry for everyone to win – and you will, as long as you focus on what makes you stand out.

Amanda Dolan is Head of Advisor Recruiting at RBC Wealth Management – U.S., an RIA and a division of RBC Capital Markets.

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