There are a host of reasons why advisers choose and then ultimately stay with — their firm, with geography, culture and product availability being among the most common. Perhaps no consideration, however, is as important as service.
While defining "great service" can sometimes be elusive, advisers clearly know when they are not getting the service they expect. When that's the case, the culprit is often poor communication. Whether it has to do with a new regulation or internal policy, advisers don't like surprises.
For instance, as business owners, advisers understand that market pressures could force pricing changes. What they don't appreciate is being in the dark when shifts like that occur. Indeed, when firms are open and honest about why they are making modifications to rules or policies, advisers are far more willing to accept them.
Conversely, when firms fail to communicate potentially business-altering changes properly, advisers are tempted to find a partner that will. Here are some key tactics to help ensure clear communication with advisers:
Go beyond email. Whenever there is an important regulatory or internal policy rule change, nearly every firm will deliver it via email. The problem with that approach is that advisers are busy people and can't (and don't) open every message they get. They prioritize clients, so correspondence from their broker-dealer has a way of finding the trash folder — especially if firms have a habit of sending email either too frequently or about frivolous matters.
If you know that a change will have a profound impact on an adviser, have a member of the home office call the adviser directly, letting them know what is happening and why, and to be on the lookout for an email that will provide further information. While this sounds like a tall task, firms that have insight into individual practices can pull it off.
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Host annual events outside national conferences. Annual conferences, no doubt, are great for relationship building. But let's face it: not everyone wants to attend a national conference, which can be costly and are often staged thousands of miles from home. Gatherings a couple hours away could be a different story.
As a complement, therefore, firms should consider holding regional meetings nationwide. Meetings like this tend to be more intimate, offering advisers genuine access to senior leaders and firms the chance to expand the number of touch points with advisers each year. The result is more open, respectful lines of communication.
In-house visits: One of the biggest adviser complaints goes like this: "I've been with you for 20 years, have you ever been to my office?" In-person visits not only show advisers you care about them and their businesses, but it allows them to learn how the latest firm news or offerings will impact their practice, whether it's asset management platforms, practice management support or policy updates.
Ultimately, firms should apply the same approach to service as advisers have with their top clients: You go to them, don't make them come to you.
Tammy Robbins is vice president of business development at ProEquities Inc. , a Birmingham, Ala.-based firm.