A question keeps coming up in Geri Eisenman Pell's client meetings.
Instead of focusing on their own retirement, clients are flipping the conversation around and starting to ask Ms. Pell, 59, about her retirement plans.
It's a question the 26-year financial services industry veteran has been asking herself recently, too. But before she can trade her day-to-day duties as president of Geri Pell & Associates for a beach chair, Ms. Pell has to come up with a succession plan to ensure that the firm she founded continues on.
The succession plan in which Ms. Pell is most interested is one that keeps her clients happy. That means selling out wholesale to another firm is most likely out of the question.
“It's not just going to go to the highest bidder,” Ms. Pell said. “That'd be almost a last resort.”
With a sale off the table, for now at least, Ms. Pell's ideal solution would be to transfer ownership to the junior members of the firm.
“I'd rather home-grow people,” she said. “I believe in giving opportunities. Leading and developing people is something I enjoy.”
Ms. Pell's Rye Brook, N.Y., private-wealth-advisory practice, which is part of Ameriprise Financial Services Inc., has a dozen advisers on staff and is looking to recruit more.
“I think we have a huge opportunity,” Ms. Pell said. “We're actively recruiting advisers from both wirehouses and independents.”
Ms. Pell's optimism stems from the rapid growth the firm has enjoyed in recent years.
Geri Pell & Associates manages about $800 million in assets and has been growing at a rate of 25% to 30% a year, Ms. Pell said. Her goal is to triple revenue over the next five years.
“We're growing into a midsize firm. It's morphing to being less about Geri Pell and more about the firm,” she said.
Recruiting new talent is essential, since Ms. Pell doesn't believe any one adviser will be able to afford ownership of the firm when she retires.
A few of the advisers on staff already have expressed interest in becoming partners. To get them prepared, Ms. Pell has been bringing them into meetings with her clients. Over time, she's been shifting the conversation from herself to the junior adviser. If the client responds well to the switch, the junior adviser will take over as the client's main adviser.
Ms. Pell doesn't plan to transfer all her clients. While eventually handing over the reins as chief executive is the ultimate goal, walking away from financial planning entirely isn't.
“I don't ever see fully retiring,” Ms. Pell said. “I see myself still working a day or two a week or month with the clients I like.”
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