Numbers Game

Best Places to Work for Financial Advisers: The research and the data

Here's a look at five key areas where the best places and the firms that didn't make the list differed most

Apr 1, 2019 @ 6:00 am

By Ellie Zhu and Matt Sirinides

As InvestmentNews celebrates its second class of Best Places to Work for Financial Advisers, we'd like to use the opportunity to shed some light on the practices that play the biggest role in setting the Best Places apart from the competition by taking a deeper look at the data firms provide in order to be considered for the list. Below are five areas where the Best Places differed most from the firms that didn't make the list.

Where employees said their firms stood out

Participation required that 75% of a firm's staffers respond to a questionnaire containing a series of 78 statements, grouped into five categories, giving either their agreement or disagreement. The chart below illustrates the statement that saw the biggest gaps in agreement between winning firms — our 2019 Best Places — and firms that did not make the list.

1. Leadership: "There is adequate planning and follow-through of departmental objectives" +13%

We now have two years of data, and much the same as in last year's data, these two statements saw the greatest delta between winning firms and those that didn't make the list.

Adequate planning not only lends organization to processes, but also helps align expectations and strategy across the firm. Follow-through on planning sets a tone that execution is an expectation, and also lends credibility to firm leaders. When plans are made and then dropped, what message does that send?

Unkept promises can undermine leadership — and Best Places excel at fostering a follow-through culture.

2. Corporate communications: "Changes that may affect me are communicated to me prior to implementation." +15%

No one likes to be left in the dark, especially in the workplace — particularly when it concerns their own job function. This isn't even an issue of speed, as the statement indicates that communications simply need to happen prior to implementation. As a best practice, relaying crucial information around changes to roles and responsibilities are best done sooner than later — Best Places know it, and their staff approve by a sizable margin.

3. Training and Development: "The organization has provided as much training as I needed." +13%

InvestmentNews' compensation and staffing benchmarking research has found that just 50% of independent advisory firms offer employees formal training programs for client service, 32% for leadership and management and just 28% for sales and business development. So it's no surprise that best places differentiate themselves by having such programs. In fact, 83% of Best Places have formalized a succession plan, versus 58% of non-winners — which speaks to their outsized focus and dedication not only to the continuity in the business, but also toward ensuring the next generation of firm partners and leaders are prepared to take the reins.

Methods used to train staff
Source: 2017 InvestmentNews Compensation & Staffing Study

4. Pay and Benefits: "I'm satisfied with retirement plan benefits." +15%

About 11% of firms not named a Best Place don't offer retirement benefits at all, but not only did every Best Places firm offer retirement benefits, but 11% (versus 0%) offered employee stock ownership plans, allowing staff to buy into the firm's upside. The statement that "I'm satisfied with the amount of health care paid for" also saw high delta between the groups ( +12%), underlying the gap in sentiment for this other crucial benefit. About 65% of Best Places firms pay 50% or more of health-care premiums for their staff, compared to 39% of non-winners.

Firms paying 50% or more of individual staff healthcare premiums

5. Overall Engagement: "I feel this organization has created an environment where I can do my best work." +9%

Overall engagement, of course, relies on all of the above, and Best Places firms shine a light on how to create an environment where employees feel valued — one where they have a seat at the table, with ample training, competitive benefits and a future in which they feel vested within the organization.

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