Succession planning has become a huge topic of conversation among the swelling ranks of advisors in their 50s and 60s. But Joe Heider, 60, a former principal with Rehmann Financial Group, is doing more than talking. In January, he launched Cirrus Wealth Management, which aims to hire other veteran advisors who are contemplating exit strategies but are not yet ready to walk away from their business.
Cirrus, based just outside of Cleveland, aims to provide a glide path for advisors looking to slowly transition into retirement, Heider said. Those who join Cirrus can continue running their own businesses or operate out of Cirrus’ office. Either way, they receive support and tools to help them do their jobs. When affiliated advisors decide to dramatically slowdown or retire, their clients will still be serviced and handled by other Cirrus advisors.
Advisors will also be rewarded “for their hard work and the practices they’ve built up,” Heider said.
Those continuing to operate under their own name and in their own space will receive a modest down payment—typically 10 percent of gross revenues—on their practice. Once they retire, Cirrus will generally look to pay them 20 percent a year for the next 10 years. he said. So an advisor doing $1 million a year in gross revenues or gross dealer concessions would receive $200,000 a year for 10 years upon retirement.
If an advisor wants Cirrus to provide administrative support, office space and all the services one would expect as an employee, Cirrus might pay out 50 percent of gross revenue on a current basis. This percentage is based on an advisor with $500 million to $600 million in annual business, he said, but it could range from 40 percent to 65 percent depending on the advisor’s level of production.
Either way, the ultimate compensation is similar, said Heider, who thinks an advisor’s attraction to either arrangement will likely be tied to how they grew up in the business. The latter arrangement offers a lot of flexibility if an advisor decides after a couple of years that this isn’t what they want to do, he said.
Heider knows what it’s like when a merger isn’t a comfortable fit. In January 2010, he rolled his practice, Dawson Wealth Management, into Rehmann Financial Group when Rehmann bought several other Dawson companies. At the time, Dawson Wealth Management had about $450 million of assets under management. Although Heider describes Rehmann as a very good firm, he said its procedural and process-driven model didn’t mesh with the flexibility he sought.
“You have high-quality advisors that are trained as technicians rather than as rainmakers,” he said, adding that it resembles a bank model.
After withdrawing as a partner, he repurchased his practice and bought back all his clients—about 135 households. Although he declined to discuss the terms, “it wasn’t inexpensive,” he said. All his clients came from his efforts, not Rehmann referrals.
Heider brought an advisor with him to Cirrus whom he has worked with since his Dawson days, but hasn’t yet hired any other advisors. His top priority before actively growing, he said, is to get the new business settled and to put clients at ease with the transition. He will mostly look to engage hybrid and registered investment advisors whose businesses have annual gross revenue of $500,000 and up.