As much as moving to a new firm is about you and your team, the most important constituency is your client base. Ultimately, your clients’ satisfaction is what drives your business and will allow you to meet the growth targeted in your 5 and 10 year business plan. You must control the message to your clients and position this move as the best option for them, their family and their investments.
Keep your client conversations in the back of your mind as you are evaluating the firms and negotiating the finer points of your deal. It will help as you ask your clients to follow you to your new firm.
Talk About the Deficiencies in Your Current Platform
You likely speak with your clients regularly and know what their current issues are with: your current firm, your advice, their investments, and so forth. Keep track of their complaints and compliments and group them together. For example, if their reports are consistently late or inaccurate, determine if that is an issue at the firm level or with your team. If their investments are down is it the markets, your firm’s products, or your investment selections?
If you know you are moving, clearly explain where the firm is letting them down. Never tell your clients that you are moving before the move takes place. The only time you inform clients of the move is after you have made it and you are calling from your new employer. But do not hesitate to inform your clients during the process that you have their needs in mind, that you have concerns about the platform you are on and its ability to service them, and that you are always keeping their best interests in line.
How Much do You Really Need Your Brand?
If you win business based on your firm’s reputation and investment advice, it may be hard to get them to follow you. This is often the case with Asset Management firms. You may also find that you no longer need the brand of your firm like you once did. You may be landing business based solely on your reputation and referrals from clients. This points to a successful transition.
Hint to Your Clients You are Moving
Your contract likely prohibits you from soliciting your clients (certainly when you are with the firm, likely for a time after you leave). You are not advised to discuss any move with them, but it may come up if they are dissatisfied. As you deflect issues to the firm, they may read between the lines. Some Advisors will have a generic conversation with their biggest clients to assess their opinion of a particular firm. Be careful here.
As part of the transition your new firm will have prepared an account transfer package to be sent to each client after you have moved firms. You will have to decide whether to: 1) call your client under the guidelines of your new compliance department, 2) send an announcement or 3) send an announcement and account transfer package.
Most Advisors call or visit with their clients personally. If you have hinted to clients of your dissatisfaction with your prior firm over the past few months, the conversation is much less shocking to clients and will go far more smoothly. Still, assume nothing until you receive back the signed transfer forms, and be specific about the issues they had with your last firm. Identify the areas in the new firm that you looked into to address those deficiencies and explain how it will benefit their investment experience and returns. You will have to sell your new firm the way the firm sold you.
Understand This is a Big Change for Your Clients and Help Them Get Through it
So, the actual impact to your clients should be an overall enhancement to their investment options and ultimately to their returns. In the short term, they will see an administrative headache.
Pros: (identify what will benefit each client based on your experience with each client)
• Enhanced reporting
• On-line functionality
• Expanded product offerings
• Expanded HNW services
• Office location
Cons: (be sure to have these sorted out and streamlined)
• New account documentation
• You may have to do this annually anyway with your clients – make sure the paperwork is filled in by your team
as much as possible so the clients are not writing their name, address and Social Security number repeatedly.
• New contact information
• Be sure to send a business card and moving card for their files.
• New administrative contacts
• If you did not bring your Sales Assistants, be sure to introduce (with great confidence and admiration) your new administrative team.
• New reports
• Ask the firm to include any “How to read this report” inserts with the first reporting cycle. Also, be ready to have your AA walk your key clients through the reports after the first mailing.
• New investment products
• You will have mapped out the products that you will be recommending for your clients so be prepared to review all of them in detail with them. Some client meetings will take more time than others.
Remember that the actual shift of firms will quickly become a distant memory for your clients. They may put you through hoops and their headache may become yours, but you are getting paid to do this. They are not. Plan ahead, tie it all back to the benefits to them and it will go smoothly.
You spend so much time and energy negotiating your own transition package. Negotiate just as hard for your clients. You’ll find negotiating as their Proxy will serve your interests as well as theirs.
A client has $25MM with you and their fees average out at 75bps or $187,500 annually. Get the firms bidding for your business to throw your clients a bone and cut the fee to 65bps for 2 years, a savings to your client of $25K annually or $50K over two years.
When you go to your client and explain why you are moving firms you can show them significant savings, a value add to them, plus increased client support and a superior investment platform.
The hardest part about moving is bringing your clients; this gives them a major incentive to do so. The reduction in fees will help you bring the clients to the new firm. Plus the backend portion of your transition package probably has a performance metric based on moving clients and assets. A garden variety deal on a $5MM business will pay you $1.25MM if you deliver the requisite clients/assets at the first measuring point. By negotiating a fee discount for your clients you’ve just made hitting that first $1MM bogie that much easier. It’s a “triple-win,” your clients save money, you hit your bonus and the new firm gets the assets!