Prompted by the graying of the financial advisory industry, plenty of ink has been spilt in recent years over the topic of succession planning. Yet despite all the attention, independent advisors are still not taking the issue as seriously as they need to. According to industry research from Cerulli Associates, nearly 100,000 advisors will retire within the next ten years, yet the FPA Research and Practice Institute notes that only 25 percent of that group has succession plans in place.
Why such abysmal preparedness? There are a few theories.
Many advisors, whether young or old, think succession planning is pointless because they plan to stay in business for years, if not decades, to come. Others find that putting together a succession plan is simply too tedious and time consuming. They would rather focus their energies on meeting with clients and growing their business.
And then there’s the psychological factor. As entrepreneurs with a passion for their business, many independent financial advisors find it too difficult to think about relinquishing what they have built.
But whatever the reason, these independent financial advisors are doing both themselves and their clients a great disservice by not taking this industry-wide problem with a greater sense of urgency.
To get started on the path to creating—or perhaps refining—your own succession plan, consider the following six questions.
1. What Are Your Goals?
Every advisor has different goals and expectations for retirement. Think about what your ideal exit from the business would look like. Do you want to sell your business outright or groom your successor gradually? Likewise, do you want to fully retire or does working part time seem appealing? Obviously, there are other important questions to mull, but once you get more comfortable discussing your exit strategy, it will be easier to put together a succession plan that reflects what you are trying to accomplish in retirement.
2. What Type Of Deal Structure Are You Comfortable With?
Client retention is perhaps the most important consideration when deciding what type of succession will work best for your business, and grooming a junior advisor typically yields the best retention results. Clients are more familiar with such professionals, making the transition more natural and seamless.
There are, however, other options. Selling to a like-minded colleague is common, but those transactions sometimes involve parties of a similar age, meaning the buyer’s own retirement could effectively shadow the seller’s. “Sell and stay” is another strategy. In such an arrangement, the selling advisor maintains a role in the business for a few years to help with client retention efforts, while receiving a salary or a share of revenue.