Evaluate the Firms

The process often begins with meeting the manager of a local branch because of some connection that you may have with him. Further down the line, you will want to involve the manager’s regional or divisional director. Finally, you will want to make time to visit the home office for what is commonly known as either a “home office visit” or a “VIP trip.” Usually, these trips are highly organized, and they are highly recommended.

First Meeting is a First Date
Typically, this meeting is a casual “get to know you” event usually over coffee, drinks or a meal. You may have come to this meeting through a direct connection or a recruiter that you know casually or not at all. Any of these scenarios is fine.

This is not the meeting to discuss money. The firms know the Deal is a key component of your move, but they want Advisors who are seeking a better fit and who will benefit their clients the most. If you are offered money or asked about your expectations, brush off the question by telling them that you are here to see if there is “a fit.” This will help your financial negotiations at a later time.

You are here to see if you enjoy the company of, and can see yourself actually working for, the person on the other side of the table. Ask a lot of platform questions and conduct the meeting as if you are interviewing them. If you are currently employed, ask them directly why you should move and why they feel the grass is greener. How you present yourself is key. Finally, be prepared by researching the firm on-line and having your questions prepared.

This is also the meeting to discuss confidentiality. There are many Advisors out there who think that having a cup of coffee with a competitive firm is no big deal. It is a big deal, and in some cases, if discovered, is grounds for dismissal.

After this first meeting you may or may not be able to eliminate some firms from your list of choices. By all means, go with you gut. Finally, be enthusiastic, but not overly so. Don’t show your hand. Thank the person for their time and tell them their session had been productive. You do not need a “next step” plan. It’s like asking a first date what the next step will be. Let it be.

Second Meeting Gets into Product
If you agree to move forward with a firm, a reasonable next step is to dive into the platform. This can be accomplished locally if the branch has such departments, or perhaps you will simply want to sit with the branch manager or his regional manager to look hard at the platform. You are conducting this meeting to see if it is even possible for your business to fit at their company.

An important concept is, “the way you are being recruited is the way it is at the firm.” If it is difficult to get answers during the recruitment process, this will likely be the case once you join. If exceptions seem to be made, then you can expect this kind of treatment as well. See how well and timely the manager and his reports respond to you.

Be Open to a Home Office Visit
Depending on the size and complexity of your business, some firms will ask that you make a trip to their headquarters to meet with national department heads and senior management. Typically it will require a trip to New York City, for the larger wire houses and foreign owned firms. Prepare a wish list of who you would like to meet and review the agenda in advance. The quality of the agenda may be indicative of their interest in bringing you on-board. If it is not what you expected, ask if there is a scheduling conflict with the senior managers and ask to re-schedule.

Do not be alarmed if you are not asked to go visit the home office. Not every Advisor and team needs to do this in order to move their business and maximize their deal. You should feel confident with the local level department heads and in local management. If you are not, ask yourself if you are interviewing at the right firm for you.

Get to Know all Levels of Management
Local management is important to your daily life when you join the firm. Their primary job is to be your champion and allocate resources to you, such as T&E, staffing and deal flow. They also exist to smash down bureaucratic barriers in their own firm that are preventing you from servicing your clients. An important indicator to look for in your evaluation is the branch manager’s willingness to introduce you to his regional head. The recruiting process is your only opportunity to meet and impress all the parties prior to joining, and prior to them paying more attention to the next guy they are recruiting. Understand the organizational structure of the firm you are interested in and take advantage of meeting as many senior managers as you can.

Meeting senior management and involving them in your decision to join will increase your deal every time. Watch how available they make themselves to you. It is a key indicator of their willingness to solve your problems post-move. Understand that if the branch manager who is leading the effort is highly competent, he will be promoted out of the branch within a year. If he is less than competent, he will be removed. Senior managers, regional heads, and divisional directors are where the staying power remain. Focus on these individuals as you get to know the platform. It is the key to getting a higher deal.

If you are having trouble meeting senior management, contact us and we will point you in the right direction.