The Seller’s Perspective: How to Find the Right Professional Partner to Help Your Advisory Practice Succeed After You Sell

Written by Kelly Straub

We have seen a swift change in the RIA landscape in recent years, as an increasing number of independent advisors are opting to join forces with larger firms. The benefits of working under a larger corporate partner are many. Not only does it offer a chance for a firm to improve the client experience; it also can provide a better personal and professional life for its employees.

There is a lot to consider when searching for the right buyer – one who is the right fit now and well into the future. Here are four of my key takeaways that can help you achieve a clear vision, putting your business on a successful path to a new chapter for your clients and staff.

Ensure your new partner is the best fit

I have a close, personal friendship with Merit CEO Rick Kent. Our staff also had a working relationship with some divisions of Merit in the years leading up to the acquisition. While that helped me formulate my decision over many years, not every company will be in that position. That’s why it is pivotal to have a strong understanding of what the prospective buyer will do for your employees. Have an ongoing dialogue with the prospective firm’s leadership over the course of months or even years. Make it a priority to keep your staff up to speed on how those talks are developing. Most importantly, when the time comes, be prepared to explain to them why a move to a larger firm will be in their best interest.

A mutual commitment to growth

A key to finding the right professional partner is making sure that the larger firm has a plan in place and that it can be customized to your business. Additionally, it’s vital that the leaders of both businesses have shared goals for future growth and success.

For me, it was not about personal success. I wanted to make sure each member of my team was able to reach their personal goals in the immediate and long-term after we joined Merit Financial. I was able to make this happen because Merit was in the position to invest in my top talent. This is something many independent advisors are not able to do on their own.

I knew a merger would make my firm more dynamic and diverse, providing exceptional growth opportunities for my employees. Merit reviewed every advisor’s performance and made sure they were being compensated similarly to competitors around the country. That resulted in an instant raise for most of my staff. Over time, this dedication to investing in our talent and providing them with the tools, resources, and support to succeed has allowed all of our advisors to see tremendous growth in income and wealth.

Prioritize technology

As the late Ford Motor Company Chairman and President Lee Iacocca said, “You either lead, follow or get out of the way.” In my discussions with the firm’s leadership, Merit made it clear it was of greatest importance to invest long-term in technological platforms and environments that simplify the processes for its advisors.

In addition to using the best and latest technologies on the back and front ends of the business, Merit not only established a technology advisory board but invited two members of my staff to join with the goal of overseeing the use of current and future software responsible for helping us manage our clients’ assets.

Be transparent and over-communicate with your clients

When you know that an agreement with a partner company is on the horizon, it is important to be transparent and honest with your clients.

Be as forthcoming as possible with your clients about the transition to your new company and how it will – and will not – affect them. Our team had many conversations with our clients to communicate the transition and clearly outline how it stood to enhance their experience with our firm. We first mailed an announcement letter, outlining the benefits of joining Merit. Then, we held a town hall-style meeting with Merit leadership to answer many of our client’s questions. Lastly, every adviser held a private call with each of their clients individually to follow up on the plans. This made us sure that everyone was on the same page about this important decision.

The top question I was asked had to do with my status as Managing Partner. I acknowledged that I am beginning to think about retirement but that I won’t be going anywhere in the near future. I have been open with my team about my plans to eventually retire and have already started the dialogue about one day transitioning a successor into my role. I told my clients the same thing.

At Merit Financial Advisors, we are focused on helping advisors grow their businesses, as well as implementing strategies and ideas that elevate client satisfaction and drive long-term success. There are a number of ways to join us, including our Independent Advisor Partners program, acquisitions, and ongoing coaching and mentorship. If you’re interested in speaking with us, set up a confidential meeting here.