Bank investment programs and their managers are facing significant management challenges. Compliance headaches (mostly the fiduciary issue) and robos top the list, but there are other concerns to be sure.

We asked two of the program managers from our list to spell out some of those other issues that they're facing and how they're managing those challenges.

Bremer Bank eliminated its referral fee program a couple years ago, yet saw an increase in referrals. Steve Kruchten, program manager from Bremer, says he has always stressed that if advisers want more referrals, they need to earn them. Although referral revenue is a part of most bankers' scorecards, they could just as easily generate that referral revenue through other sources, such as the mortgage, trust or insurance departments.

Referral revenue is part of most bankers' scorecards, but they could just as easily generate that revenue through other sources, such as the mortgage, trust or insurance departments.

"We strive for joint meetings so both the client’s banker and the adviser are meeting with the client," he said in an email. "Our bank fully supports this strategy, each region has asked their bankers to conduct joint meetings when referring a mass-affluent client to the adviser."

That said, sometimes this isn't handled as consistently as he would prefer so advisers have to be proactive. "We ask the adviser to invite the banker into his or her annual review meetings with their A-clients and B-clients. During these annual reviews, we are either reviewing the financial plan or creating a new financial plan. Either way, our bankers get to see our process, organization and knowledge of the business which makes it easier [for them] to refer to us in the future. We need to lead by example."


Lou Mastropietro, from Astoria Bank, spoke about the acquisition deal announced late last year that saw Astoria bought by New York Community Bank. A major deal like that requires strong leadership, he says, as it "was clearly going to be a distraction." Keeping the sales force focused was his top priority.

To be sure, there are always new distractions, he says, such as the markets, floor traffic, DoL and so on. But during the past year, Mastropietro helped his team keep its eye on the big picture while it grew advisory revenue by 13%.

At every step, the sales force presented what they had been hearing about the bank that was acquiring them, and the information often proved to be inaccurate.

He outlined some of the components of leadership that he says helped provide clarity and focus in times of distractions. One is open communication. The merger announcement was "a prime example of how honest communication can be a difference maker," he said in an email. "An announcement like this is fraught with inaccurate information.

Indeed, at every step, he says, the sales force presented what they had been hearing about the New York Community Bank program, and the information often proved to be inaccurate and in some cases was the reason an adviser was thinking of quitting. Openly discussing the inaccuracies and "then replacing it with accurate information went a long way in establishing trust between management and the sales team, which was not an easy accomplishment," he said.

Another aspect of leadership is focusing on those items that can be controlled and blocking out those that cannot. He says they especially focused on their platform program. And the plan was simple: If they increased the productivity of the platform, they would reward not only the program but the advisers as well. Increased activity by the advisers and the platform translated into solving more customer needs and kept everyone busy which left less time to wandering thoughts about things that were out of there control.