The story you are about to read is true. Only the names have been changed to protect their confidentiality.
Bill Fisher remembers the straw that broke the camel’s back. He was driving to his last weekly client meeting one Friday morning a couple years ago, and afterward planned to start an early weekend. His plans were to go deep-sea fishing with his buddies, who were already at the boat getting ready.
It was a beautiful spring day and Bill, a former college football player with a “go get ‘em” attitude, had spent the past six years working as a bank advisor.
He had to attend five meetings and at least two conference calls per month. Bill didn’t like his manager (or authority in general, for that matter) but had tolerated him for longer than his friends thought possible. He always butted heads with Compliance, which constantly asked him to redo forms or go back to customers to obtain more information.
He thought this was normal operations at all institutions, but was about to learn otherwise.
Bill felt he was an ethical advisor who always put his client’s best interests first. He never understood why he had to complete so many forms or fight with compliance officers so often. As he compared notes with advisor friends at other firms, he slowly realized his bank was more overbearing than others.
He was completing forms and going through operational steps his friends didn’t have to. Bill’s only experience as an advisor was at a bank and therefore he didn’t know how other types of firms treated advisors when it came to operations and compliance. But he often felt his destiny was being controlled by others and he would sometimes complain to other advisors. But not all shared his frustrations.
Many of them would tell him they didn’t mind the sales meetings or driving to several branches. This was more of a problem for Bill, because of his opinionated and no-nonsense personality. He hated feeling controlled and micro-managed.
His Friday morning epiphany came in the midst of a great year for Bill. He was exceeding his goals in every category. He managed about $80 million in assets was doing about $550,000 in production, up about 20% from the previous year.
And as he was driving to his last appointment, his “overbearing” manager called. The manager wanted to meet with him in two hours to go over some of his previous paperwork.
Bill told his manager of his personal plans and asked if they could meet on Monday morning. This request did not sit well and Bill found himself meeting with his manager at 2 p.m. At 5 p.m., still in this meeting, he decided he needed to make a change.
That’s when Bill came to see us at the Rummage Group to see what else might be out there for him. After putting him through a thorough two-hour consultation, it was clear that Bill should have never been employed in the bank channel.
He is the type of advisor who can prospect on his own and close a deal. He didn’t particularly gain from one of the main advantages of the bank model: warm leads.
Most weeks Bill spent at least 15 hours with non-sales related activities (operations and compliance).
In addition he liked to work unconventional hours including many evenings and weekends. This was difficult at a bank because his branches were closed weekends and evenings.
It became very clear that Bill needed to go independent. And after spending time to learn about what it meant to go independent, he fell in love with the idea. In fact, Bill was so cut out to be an independent advisor, even a bad independent firm would have been better for him than a bank. After setting up meetings for him to meet a handful of independent firms, he selected the one liked best.
Since Bill had worked hard to develop and maintain great relationships with his clients he felt he could take at least 90% of his good clients with him. He planned on leaving the small and high-maintenance accounts behind. His target was to take at least half of his $80 million book.
Bill made the move in the summer of 2012 and although his life was turned upside down for about six months, it was the best thing that ever happened to him.
He told me that having “a jerk as a manager” was the best thing that could have happened to his career because it was the real catalyst that prompted him to look for greener pastures elsewhere.
Unfortunately, he didn’t move as much of his book of business as he had hoped initially—about $28 million in the first four months.
However, over the next eight months, another $5 million trickled in. He has been able to grow his assets to over $45 million, and his book is now 100% managed by third-party money managers. He is getting about a 1.2% return on assets and chooses to keep his expenses low and not employ anyone. This allows him to keep about 75% of revenue as income.
He maintains a small, 200-hundred-square-foot office, but you won’t find him there most days. He uses a laptop and iPhone to conduct all of his business and meets his clients at their office or at a restaurant. He’s not trying to kill himself in the business—he works about 15 to 20 hours per week and has not worn a suit in months.
And he couldn’t be happier. Many of his clients have become good friends and even enjoy him showing up in shorts and flip flops.
He does a few big client appreciation events each year. They’re a good combination of personal (they usually involve fishing) and professional (they also usually bring in a couple million dollars in new assets.)
I recently asked Bill, as a joke, if he was ready to go back to the bank. He told me he’d sooner leave the business altogether.
It’s all about personality and temperament. For someone else, the bank model can be a great fit. For him, it was torture.
I would agree he was truly a fish out of water and now gets to spend most of his time fishing on the water instead.
Happy hunting (or fishing, if you prefer).