Mike Quattrini spent 40 years working at the Corning Credit Union, the last 20 of them as a financial advisor in the investment program that he helped launch. As he approached 60, he started thinking about retiring. “As I thought about it, I realized I’d have to figure out how to separate from the credit union.”

Leaving an advisory business in the bank channel is generally quite a different proposition from leaving an independent advisory firm or a wirehouse.

The traditional strategy is for the departing advisor to leave years before they want to retire and hang a shingle, hoping that clients would decide to follow him or her. But there was always a possibility of a messy lawsuit by the bank, or clients might prefer to stay put with the bank.

Luckily for Quattrini, about the time he was contemplating all this, the credit union hired a new program manager, Nick LaPuma, who came from the main Florida office of Raymond James, which serves as the TPM for Corning. LaPuma says, “Mike told me upfront that he’d like to leave around 2014. He was about 58 at the time, and he’d be about 62 by then.”

Corning Credit Union is unusual in that its advisors are all on salary. Their compensation isn’t based on fee income or commissions they generate. This meant that instead of finding one advisor to take over Quattrini’s book of 200 clients and their $100 million in AUM, they could more easily divide those clients among five younger advisors, focusing on one big issue: which one was the best fit for each client in terms of personality.

“My biggest fear was that my clients would be left with a certain angst about the new advisor relationship,” recalls Quattrini. “When you’re managing the life savings of clients, they put a lot of trust in the person who’s handling their money, and it takes a long time to earn and build that trust.”

A DISCERNING PROCESS

Quattrini and LaPuma came up with a two-year phased handover process. Initially, the new advisors, who were chosen partly based on personality match with clients, would sit in on client meetings with Quattrini, taking notes and occasionally asking or answering questions themselves. Over time, Quattrini moved to a chair at the side of the room and each of his five successors would take the lead in discussing the client’s finances, with Quattrini taking notes and occasionally commenting. “During that time, I remained on salary,” says Quattrini, with his working week and his salary declining to three days in the waning days of the process.

He says, proudly, “By the end of the process, only one of my 200 clients had left the program, and that was because he moved away from Corning and preferred to have an advisor who lived nearby.” 

Quattrini says only a couple of people asked to change to a different advisor from the one he and LaPuma had selected for them. “I’d figured probably 10% would want a different advisor, or might choose to move their money,” he says, “but it ended up being more like 1%.”

LaPuma says Quattrini’s smooth succession ensured that his clients and their assets stayed with the credit union. But he also says he’s unsure how it would work in the case of an investment program where advisors are compensated based on production, instead of salary. “We were able to divide up the book among five advisors without considering how much fee income clients were generating,” he says.

As for Quattrini, he says he’s happy with his decision to retire which he did last year. He convinced his wife to retire too this past June, and says, “Now I’m driving my sports car, doing some boating and I’m playing more golf than I ever have.”

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