Finding Advisors Who Want to Retire

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

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Dear Bev,

I have been in the advisor industry for almost 13 years and I have a solid grip on what I am doing. I have changed employers a few times during that period and I am now the owner of my own small RIA. I love the autonomy and unique approach I offer, but I would also like to make more money. There are many large advisors looking to retire, but they do not have a successor lined up or even know where to look for one. As such, how could I identify those advisors and position myself as a worthy candidate for their succession needs?


Dear B.G.,

Market to them in a similar fashion as you would market to new clients! I see this issue with a number of my client RIAs – they believe they can offer a retiring advisor, or advisor who wants to align with a firm or seeks better infrastructure support, some great options. But they aren’t sharing their ideas in the same way they would if they were trying to attract new high-net worth clients.

For example – think about your messaging. Why would you be a good choice for a retiring advisor? Why might their clients feel safe and think positively about the experience of working with you? Do you have a clear niche market and a repeatable process for working with clients that you could describe to an advisor who needs a place to go?

Next think about where these advisors might be found. For example, if you were targeting a niche market for HNW services of dentists in private practice, you might attend a dental convention. Where do advisors go to learn more and meet people? Consider speaking at industry events, going to networking events for financial professionals and blogging or writing about topics that might be of interest to other advisors.

Focus on what a transition would look like to an advisor when they shift their clients to your firm in retirement. What’s the client experience like working with you? What communication would you send to introduce yourself? How would you work with the advisor who is retiring to make a smooth and effective transition? And include the business aspects, too – would you want the retiring advisor to stay involved at all? Is this a pure purchase of the client book or would you consider bringing in some of the advisors’ team, assuming there is one? What business decisions could you help the advisor “see” in advance so they would know what will happen, when and how?

The more you look at this as a marketing opportunity, with clear focus and business-integration aspects, the better another advisor will be to say “I would be safe moving my clients there when I retire!”

On one last tactical note: Two places I’ve found that are very good to locate advisors making a transition are your current custodian (they are obviously interested in keeping assets within their walls, so can introduce you to other advisors), and, a site which links buyers and sellers in the advisory space.

Dear Bev,

What do you do when you have a great team of support people, but your lead partners are constantly changing the game around servicing? We have a system, process and clear way of doing things and our partners go to countless conferences to learn “the better way” to do things. This better way means we turn our current approaches upside down and start over about every six months.

I understand the emphasis on improvement and I’m all for finding better ways of doing things, but not at the cost of efficiency and happiness of the team. Our partners say, “Just get it done.” But they don’t understand that it isn’t this easy.

Is there a way to communicate the pain we are feeling without looking like we’re not team players and don’t want to succeed?


Dear Y.U.,

It’s impossible to read your question and not think about behavioral style. I can’t say how common this particular dynamic is, especially in small firms. The leaders are wired as entrepreneurial, think-outside-the-box, change-it-up folks who make decisions quickly and set new things in motion. But the people in the back office are the polar opposite. They are process-oriented, need time to digest new ideas, want to know the priorities and where new things fit, and want time to integrate a new way of doing things. They don’t speak the same language!