When Alexander Lewis joined Blackbridge Financial in Irmo, S.C., in 2016—the message from the firm’s founder, Reggie Boan, was clear. “From day one, I knew there was the potential that I was his succession plan and I worked hard to get that right,” said Lewis, now 33.

Flash-forward to 2019, and Boan, who put Lewis through the paces of getting both his CPA and his CFP certification, told Lewis he wanted to sell his $150 million practice. “I am so tired of taking tests, but I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I purchased the firm January 1, 2020,” Lewis said. Boan stayed on until March of this year.

“It took that long for clients to understand how our succession plan was going to work and we haven’t lost one client,” said Lewis, who credits both Boan and their broker-dealer, the Independent Advisor Alliance, with creating a smooth transition.

“Independent Advisor Alliance helped us come up with the economic and financing strategy and helped me value the business. There’s a very fine line between making the buyer and seller happy. Reggie was happy with the sale and I was happy with the purchase.” Lewis also said that the CEO of Independent Advisor Alliance, Robert Russo, has been of great help, and “instrumental in keeping us networked and connected with other advisors regarding what has worked and what didn’t.”

Lewis has gone on to hire two “junior” advisors himself—a 21-year-old and a 39-year-old, and is onboarding a licensed female para-advisor. In addition, he’s retained the firm’s largest client—a business owner with $100 million in assets.

Blackbridge was named one of Forbes’ “Best in State Wealth Management Teams” in 2023.

Russo said Independent Advisor Alliance, which custodies $17 billion for 140 firms, has been working for five years to perfect its “junior advisor” program and even offers a plan where it does hiring and human resources for junior advisors and rents them to lead advisors. The cost for HR is $12,000 per year, broken out into a monthly fee. There is also training and a robust study group of senior advisors who have or want to hire younger partners.

 “We think there are plenty of benefits to getting this right, and the reality is [that onboarding] a junior advisor is really hard to do,” Russo said. “Our role is to help them be as proficient and entrepreneurial as possible while providing the programs and services they may have been used to in a wirehouse environment.” Boan himself came from LPL and launched his career at Wells Fargo.

One way to help a senior advisor is by helping them hire a junior advisor who can free up their time to prospect and serve existing clients, help implement technology, work with and attract younger clients and become integral to the senior advisor’s succession plan.

Making sure expectations between lead and junior advisors is clearly communicated and aligned is critical to success, Russo said.