How to Accelerate Transitions to New Advisors
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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We have our elder advisor transitioning out of the practice next year and we have a clear succession plan in place when she leaves. She (“Ellen”) handpicked the female advisor (“Sarah”) who will replace her, and they both have a good camaraderie.
We’ve known about the transition for three years, but suddenly we are running out of time. We are so busy every day that we haven’t done as much as we should to promote Sarah to our clients and let them know how good she is.
Sarah holds several credentials and has been doing most of the work on client accounts. But they don’t see her and interact with her as much because Ellen is a very effusive and outgoing person. Clients love Ellen because she is very caring and intelligent. Ellen knows every single child and grandchild’s name and interests and where the family took its last 10 vacations. She is a people-person whereas Sarah is more of a serious, quiet person.
Without a lot of time for long-term planning, what works best when advisors are making this transition? Are there some best practices we could be using to support Sarah’s success and ease the mind of the clients once Ellen departs? Ellen has made it clear that once she is gone, she is gone. She does not want to linger or have her hands in anything so it will be a clean break from the firm.
It’s amazing how time creeps up on you even when you know well in advance what you need to do! I hear this from our advisor firms every day. They know what they want to focus on and they are determined to get it done and even committed to the outcome, but finding the bandwidth to step back and think critically about how best to get there and then implementing the plan can be elusive when clients, markets and the internal team needs attention every minute of every day.
Even amid of the demands you are juggling, there are some key things you could do to get Sarah more exposure and position her for success. Do this because, as you point out, when you have someone like Ellen who is vivacious and personal and very outgoing, it leaves a big hole and clients will notice. You don’t want to position Sarah as “replacing” Ellen at this point, but rather as partnering with her on the client account. I wouldn’t talk succession quite yet if you haven’t addressed it so the clients do not get alarmed by the differences in the two. It would be better to position Sarah as a complement to Ellen and show how they will work together on the client’s behalf.
I cannot tell from your note whether Sarah has had a client-facing role, but just not as a lead or senior advisor with these clients. It would be important to create messaging that highlights Sarah’s credentials and talks about how focused and thoughtful Ellen has been about adding the “right” person to the client team. Sarah should be brought into meetings, but not just as an introduction but as having a role to play wherein she can show her strengths and knowledge.
Then, as time goes on, Sarah should be the one to follow up with clients when they contact Ellen and see if she can answer something on Ellen’s behalf. Ellen is still there at this point, but Sarah is playing more of a lead role. If Sarah is fully engaged, the clients will come to trust her and know her.
In one of our client firms the newer partner gets actively involved right away and they recently had a very sudden and unexpected departure of a long-time senior advisor and because the clients knew the others so well, it barely caused a problem at all. You never know – even with the best plans and expectations – what is going to happen so it would behoove the firm to get Sarah well integrated sooner rather than waiting closer to Ellen’s departure.
We hired a second-career advisor last year. “Tina” is a little over 40 and not new to the professional world but new to our profession. We have three other younger advisors who work alongside our partners, all of whom range from 45-72 in age. My role is sort of chief operating officer even though I don’t hold the title. But one of the duties I am responsible for is employee engagement and employee development.
I’m concerned about how to provide support to Tina. She doesn’t go out for lunches and drinks with the 20- younger team, but she doesn’t seem to fit in with the more seasoned advisors due to her lack of experience. Is there a way I could facilitate integration for her so it is more comfortable?
I’m sure that Tina knew this might be a challenge for her when she switched careers. Have you spoken to her directly about it? I think about the many undergraduate and graduate classes I have taught over my 13 years of teaching where I have a student, or maybe two, that are much older. They might have a family and be returning to school late in life. They still participate on teams as assigned with younger students and in many cases they forge relationships. I have many professional and personal relationships with people who are decades older than me and decades younger. I’m not sure that age is the sole deciding factor when it comes to who’s company we enjoy.
To be effective as you hope, there are a few things you want you consider:
- Have you defined what “integration” means for Tina? In other words, does she feel left out right now and she is seeking a way to belong, or are you concerned in watching how others get together and Tina seems left out? Some people like social engagement at work and others like going to work and getting the work done. Make sure this is Tina’s objective, and not yours.
- Are there full team opportunities for everyone to meet together, work together and maybe enjoy some social time together? This could be a nice area of focus for you in your role where you make sure the entire team is coming together to learn and engage with one another. This way no one is left out and Tina gets to learn about everyone.
- Have you reached out to Tina to ask her how things are going and what she might need from you in this role? Be careful about making assumptions (back to my point #1) because she might be enjoying the work and the team and you could be making a problem where you don’t have one.
It’s common to project our own thoughts and feelings onto others. When I teach managers coaching techniques, I focus on this quite a bit. For you to grow and evolve in your role, continue to check your own emotions and make sure you are seeking to confirm and understand rather than acting on assumptions. That said, of course you may very well be right and Tina may feel left out or isolated so in order to confirm one way or the other, please try taking these steps and see what makes the best sense for both of you.
Beverly Flaxington co-founded The Collaborative, a consulting firm devoted to business building for the financial services industry in 1995. The firm also founded and manages the Advisors Sales Academy. She is currently an adjunct professor at Suffolk University teaching undergraduate and graduate students Entrepreneurship and Leading Teams. Beverly is a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA) and Certified Professional Values Analyst (CPVA).
She has spent over 25 years in the investment industry and has been featured in Selling Power Magazine and quoted in hundreds of media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC.com, Investment News and Solutions Magazine for the FPA. She speaks frequently at investment industry conferences and is a speaker for the CFA Institute.