As we enter the first weeks of February, New Year’s Resolutions can start to become less resolute. Trips to the gym, sensible eating and other self-care promised may give way to the comfort of calcified habits and demands on our time.  Yet, in the waning days of this new year period, we still can call on our best intentions in making lasting changes for the year ahead. 

Change is not something that happens at the stroke of midnight in winter. Change takes commitment, time, effort and persistence. And in our ever-evolving wealth management landscape, we must commit to these changes so we can provide the kinds of support advisors and their clients need – a resolution of resolutions. 

Looking out on the year ahead, I see three major areas where our industry can make meaningful changes and commit to them for the foreseeable future. 

Successful Succession Planning 
According to the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, there are more advisors over 70 than under 30. While a testament to the longevity of those in our industry, this fact puts at risk the very core of the financial advisory service model and will diminish the quality-of-service advisors can deliver to clients and firms can deliver to advisors.

Wealth management firms should serve as match makers between early and mid-career and end-of-career advisors. This is especially true of firms with a more refined and boutique approach to advisor service. There is an incredible amount of value available for firms and advisors to secure if they work together in this process. 

Creative solutions to these problems should be piloted by firms, but proactive engagement from executive home office leadership should top the list of priorities in the coming decade. Over the past several years, we have worked to find the right kinds of partners for advisors looking to retire and those looking to expand their practice. This approach has been beneficial to all parties. The period of firm passivity in succession planning should be over. 

Providing Real Equity Value For Advisors 
An advisor’s most valuable asset is their own practice. Building this kind of business takes a tremendous amount of time, effort and capital. The same can be said of wealth management firms. 

However, the omnipresent threat of private equity takeover, with its short-term demands for returns and focus on the bottom line can hurt the long-term value of a firm and that of the advisors who affiliate with them. Providing advisors with a way to invest in the firm as a true equity partner has proven to be a useful tool to drive engagement, provide enhanced value, and continue to build on a strong capital base for the future viability and growth at LaSalle St. 

Over the past year, we have seen meaningful growth and increased engagement with our advisors who are also equity owners in the firm. While not the right choice for all advisors or firms, we have found this strategy to remove uncertainty about the future of our firm and how we will continue to serve advisors and clients in the future. 

Remaining Steadfast During A Period Of Increased Change
So perhaps this one is not so much about the changes we need to make but rather what we need to preserve. In the face of rapid consolidation and proliferation of technological enhancement, firms must take the time to ensure they understand their values and value. 

Culture is a buzz word, but it must be foundational to the way you operate your business. Growth for the sake of growth is only one model—often not a very good one. Building something that drives value for your advisors and clients is a better model. But how do you know which is right for you and your firm?

By taking the time now—or any time a firm hits an inflection point—to ensure they have the foot forward, will only serve to accelerate their growth in the future. A review of what a firm stands for and challenges it faces is a worthy investment of time both in the long- and short-term. 

A focus of continuous improvement will yield success not only in our so-called New Year’s Resolutions but also how we can run our firms with a focus on a better overall wealth management industry in the future. 

Mark Contey is chief marketing officer of LaSalle St., an independent wealth management enterprise that supports more than 300 financial advisors across the country with approximately $12 billion in assets.