What separates a small, growing advisory shop with two people from a massive firm with 30 employees and a billion in assets, and how do firms get from point A to point B without being drowned in overhead, partnership fights or the morass of tasks for which not every pro is suited?
A team at Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services has been wondering the same thing, and today they’ve launched both a book and a website, BeGreater.com, that shares the stories of executives at the top firms to ask them how they negotiated those career points and what their mistakes and successes were.
According to Fidelity’s RIA sales head Bob Oros, the book and site have been incubating for about a year. He and others at Fidelity who consult with advisors realized that many of those clients thought the same thing: “To be competitive, you have to be great at everything.” He recalls working with one client firm with $400 million in assets that wanted to put its chief compliance officer on marketing.
“I think that’s a bad idea,” Oros said. “It can’t be a part-time job if you’re serious about it.”
Fidelity announced the launch during its Inside Track conference, which is being held in Midtown Manhattan. The firm sponsored a panel discussion on Wednesday afternoon with four executives whose stories are recounted in the book: Russ Hill of Halbert Hargrove Global Advisors in Long Beach, Calif.; Marty Bicknell at Leawood, Kan.-based Mariner Wealth Advisors; John Augenblick at Rockwood Wealth Managment in New Hope, Pa., and Jane Williams of Sand Hill Global Advisors in Palo Alto, Calif.
The book, whose full title is Be Greater, Why Being Good Enough Is No Longer An Option, is structured around five perennial themes that emerge when advisors talk about growing, said Michael Durbin, president of Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services, who also spoke on the panel. The first chapter deals with a firm’s business model and finding the best structure. Chapter 2 deals with having a plan for the firm, including a succession plan. Chapter 3 deals with the ways firms must embrace technology, while Chapter 4 talks about finding clients who are the best fit and most lucrative for a firm. Chapter 5 deals with hiring the right talent.
A lot of times, advisors who own small start-up shops don’t know when it’s time to start thinking long term—hiring people with specific talents for specific jobs and delegating—or when to start forming shares and dividing up the ownership. Some start thinking that way when they’ve got $90 million, while others are still too squeamish when they’ve reached $200 million, because that means making investments in technology, say, that might eat into revenue.