Whatever your reasons for exploring your options, the process is a serious one. There is no such thing as a “simple cup of coffee with a manager.” First, the manager is far more experienced than you about the nuances of recruiting, and will ask you softball questions that can and will affect the offer. If you begin to have repeated meetings, even if you view them as exploratory, you will notice that the process has taken on a life of its own. It is one thing to meet the competition, but a whole different commitment to spend a half day with them or visit their home office. Soon they will be asking for production verification and client information.
If you begin to doubt your commitment to make the move, it is absolutely fine to put a stop to your search. Managers and firms lose deals all the time. They are used to it. You can even cancel a meeting scheduled for this afternoon; it happens all the time. It is much better to tell your prospective firms that you are putting things on hold than to drag it out and have them keep calling you.
Recruiting is a serious business for the wealth management firms. They have a formal process allocating senior management time for meetings. It is their job to spend time with you and they are compensated for it. This is primarily due to the firms’ desperate search for new assets, and oftentimes, headcount. As you go down the path with a firm, you will find that you are committing a lot of time meeting with the firm and doing your internal research to produce the documentation that they require. It will distract you from your real job of managing your clients’ money. You don’t want your production to fall because you are distracted looking at firms you may not join. The farther down the road you go, the harder it is to bow out gracefully – in other words, without burning a bridge.
Hiring managers are good judges of character. They will know if you are simply kicking tires or if you truly want to make a move. They will also know if you are moving for the check, or seriously evaluating a platform where you can grow your business over the next ten years. Many Advisors go to a meeting with an attitude that they are doing the firm a favor, that they don’t need a job, and the firm is lucky to be speaking to them. Always check your ego at the door. In general, it is a buyers market and firms have their pick of Advisors. Be respectful and understand that you are the seller and the person across the table is a potential buyer. Treat them like a customer.
Many Advisors go all the way to the end of the road and don’t move. They sincerely believed they were ready to move and then could not pull the trigger. That is going to happen. We suggest that you be fully aware of the time commitment on both sides and do your best to evaluate your intent. It will put you in a better place in the future if you do decide to move. You may want to have that bridge back at some point.