I have spent most of my life either working as a financial advisor or helping other advisors take their businesses to the next level. And over the years, I have heard every excuse imaginable from advisors at all model firms on why business is slow.
However, the excuse that comes up most often is from my clients in the bank channel and it goes something like this: My production is low because I don't get enough referrals. They usually go on to elaborate on how the bank is horrible and/or their territory is the worst. It may be true they don't get many referrals, but it is not the only reason their production is low.
There are advisors at all firms with varying degrees of production. I have worked with many large producers in below-average programs. I have also worked with small producers in strong programs, and some even had territories in high-rent districts. The point is, it's not necessarily your bank or your territory that is the problem. Although I would agree that your company and territory can help or hurt you significantly, it does not deserve all the blame. I have found the blame usually resides with the advisors and what actions they are or are not taking.
Look at the big picture for an industry comparison. I break the industry down into three groups of firms: hunters, gatherers and skinners. At hunter firms, the advisors go out and find their own clients. The firms give them only a platform of technology and product offering. The advisors' success lies in their ability to go out into the world and convince individuals to become clients starting from a cold relationship. This group is made up of wirehouses, independent firms, insurance companies, RIAs, hybrid firms and boutique firms in other words, the majority of the industry.
The second group is the gatherer firms, which is made up mostly of banks. The bank has a large audience of existing customers for the advisors to prospect. The advisors get the same type of technology and product offering as the first group, but with the addition of "warm" to "hot" leads.
The last group, the skinner firms, is made up of the discount firms. They usually give advisors a salary and bonus structure, but also give them clients to work. This group only cross-sells and up-sells to customers.
If a newcomer were to look at these groups, he would probably make some assumptions that would turn out to be wrong.
He may think, for example, that since banks have a captive audience that they would have the largest producing advisors. But, in fact, average production at wirehouses is at least 40% more than at banks. Why is that?
The answer is multifaceted, but one important part is that hunters in the wirehouses don't wait for business to come to them. They have to go out and get the business if they are to be successful.
Hypothetically, if I were to tell an advisor at a hunter firm that his institution was going to give him thousands of potential customers to call, he would be elated. Advisors in this model would love to have existing customers to call on and would work evenings and weekends to do so.
In fact, when I work with a low-producing advisor at one of these firms, the conversation usually gravitates to the bank model. These advisors usually go on to do very well at a bank. They are like the proverbial kid in a candy store they're so used to having to hunt for the business, they seldom just wait for referrals.
Many bank advisors would tell you that they're at the bank for the referrals. But I would argue it is more about your access to customers than it is about the referrals.
In a bank, you not only have access to existing customers, but you also have banking partners to call on. The biggest producers in a bank model have many relationships outside the branches. Many even choose to give up their branches all together.
It is all about retraining yourself. You must first have a plan of attack. Start by forging strong relationships with commercial lenders, private bankers, mortgage originators, merchant services salespeople, insurance agents and upper management.
Plan on having a quarterly meeting with your manager to discuss your marketing plan. Have her help you determine who to call on to get more referrals from outside the branches. Next, ask her to provide you with as many lists of existing customers as possible, including those with large deposits, high balances or maturing CDs.
You should allocate at least 10 hours per week to call on these customers. If possible, ask the branch employees to look at the list prior to calling. If they know any of the customers, ask them to highlight the names. Get the banker's permission to use their name as a referral. It is always better to name-drop when possible. The goal of your calls should be to get a meeting with the bank customer. You don't need to sell them over the phone, but rather in person.
Not all bank programs are made equal and many don't truly understand how to run a successful wealth management program. If your bank does not allow you to have any of these lists it may be time to find one that will. Good bank programs allow you to have at least some access to customers. They want you to close more business they don't fight you for the deposits. They like all income whether it comes from fees or the spread.
It is also important to market yourself to the bank customers. Your bank should be able to help you do a biography slick to send out. You can create a marketing letter as well. Again, speak with your manager about what is available at your firm to help you with your marketing plan.
It will be helpful if you get your sales assistant involved with these projects. Don't try to do everything on your own. Your time is best spent in client meetings, not stuffing envelopes.
If you are not growing, you are dying. You must have a growth plan and stick to it. Many advisors get bogged down in activities that don't generate revenue. But remember, your time should not be spent with paperwork and administrative tasks.
If you feel many of the suggestions in this article would never work at your bank, then it is time for a change to a better one.
Rick Rummage is the founder and CEO of the Rummage Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.