When I speak to advisors in the industry, our conversation usually breaks into two broad camps: the hundreds of banks that use an outside broker-dealer, or the handful of banks that do not. Or, the way a layperson would view it: small banks and big banks. And whenever a comparison has come up in the past, the big banks usually get the nod due to better technology, name recognition or higher pay grids.
But as contributing writer Carol J. Clouse discovered, the small banks have a lot of fans. Much of that has to do with the idea of less stress and better work-life balance. And as Clouse told me, there is a lot of angst over the turnover at larger banks, which leads to a tough environment for referrals. Who wants to refer their client to a colleague who was just hired?
One aspect that small bank fans should bear in mind, however, is the consolidating industry. Its not just the number of banks that are shrinking, but the number of branches as well. Theyve been declining since 2009, according to a recent report from research firm Aite Group. You can see the highlights of that research on our Data Center page.
While our modern mind-set is to rank and compare everything, one point we can easily forget is that our opinions are the result of our specific situation instead of something that can be quantified. That point comes through in the Careers column, in which contributing writer Rick Rummage explores the advantages that big banks offer advisors. One advisor he spoke to had a bad experience at a small bank, but he realized that his opinion today is the result of that specific bank, and not necessarily symptomatic of small banks in general.
His story encapsulates the issue. Its not necessarily a matter of choosing one camp over the other, but rather finding the best fit for you.