From the minute an advisor hangs out a shingle in front of a new financial planning office, he or she should be thinking about how to get out of the business 20 or 30 years down the road, said estate planning attorney Rob Strauss.

“From the inception—that’s when you should start thinking about an exit plan,” said Strauss, an attorney at Weinstock Manion in Los Angeles. “But that seems hard for most advisors to do.”

Indeed, according to the Financial Planning Association, 73 percent of advisory firm owners do not have a written succession plan, and 60 percent of those owners five years away from retirement don’t have a plan.

Another survey showed that 40 percent of planners are “ill prepared“ to turn over the reins of their practice to someone else.

“This is the proverbial shoemakers’ kid with no shoes,” said Mark Schoenbeck, executive vice president and national sales director at Kestra Financial in Austin, Texas.

Financial advisors spend their days helping clients plan for the "what ifs," but they seem to have little time left over to do the same for themselves, planners said.

“This is a huge issue for successful advisors,” said Strauss. “Most advisors do not focus on succession planning until it is much too late. As a law firm, we have lunch once a week and succession planning is one of the things we talk about, but for many financial planners, they seem to work in their business and not on their business.”

Weinstock Manion works with financial advisors to set up succession plans. One option is to bring in strong people who have the capability to take over the business when the principals want to retire, which is happening more frequently now that the first wave of advisors is getting older.

“But there is a tension between populating the firm with strong people who could take over and being afraid those same people will take their clients and leave,” Strauss said.

Selling a business can be approached in two ways, Schoenbeck said. “Either you are selling a list of clients who will be merged into someone else’s business or you are selling your whole business so that it lives on after the founder leaves.” But either option has to be planned, he said.

First « 1 2 » Next