(Dow Jones) For brokers at the bottom of the wirehouse ranks, moving to a regional firm seems like a no-brainer, with its higher payout and greater appreciation for the $300,000-or-so producers.
But many of the smaller firms don't have the transition teams in place to help advisors move clients quickly and seamlessly to the new platform, causing them to lose a lot of assets in the process. And what's a higher payout percentage without the production?
The major brokerage firms have perfected the advisor transition process, considering the hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of moves they orchestrate each year.
"By the time you drive over to your new office, they already have a whole SWAT team there, setting up your computer and your phone, handling all the compliance stuff. You don't even have to think about it," said one advisor who moved between two wirehouses last year.
Smaller and regional firms aren't used to this kind of inflow. And yet brokerages like RBC Wealth Management, Raymond James Financial and Edward Jones began taking on thousands of advisors who were fleeing the wirehouses during the financial crisis.
Midsize brokerages didn't want to throw back good catches, but there wasn't enough support staff or expertise to match the transition assistance that wirehouse advisors expected.
Many regional firms have stepped up their transition teams now, or scaled back their hires to be in better proportion to their resources, but it's still something advisors need to think about when they're talking to a potential new employer.
When advisors have a team of experts taking care of all the work behind the scenes, they are able to focus on calling clients and leveraging their relationship with them to bring them on board at the new firm. But when they have to handle the technology set-up, the new account paperwork, and other formalities, they aren't going to have as much time gathering assets.
"It's really hard to generalize across the board. But, that being said, at the wirehouses everything is provided for you," said Sean Cunniff, brokerage analyst with TowerGroup. "When it comes to transitioning, there is a large amount of support that is built around that. And it is largely reflected in compensation model."
He said advisors are attracted to the higher payout at regional firms, but they don't realize its price.
"They think about the day-to-day aspects that they believe they can handle, but they don't think through the immediate transition plan, when they're going to be simultaneously getting a business up and running, and converting clients over," Cunniff said.