Putting a Succession Plan in Place

When a retiring advisor’s clients know their advisor’s plan for retirement and have started to build a relationship with the successor, success that the book will transition and stay with the successor is much more likely. On the flip side, if an advisor is nearing retirement, and clients are left wondering what will happen next, the retiring advisor is sending a message to the clients that they should start looking for a new advisor. This is precisely why having a clearly-defined succession plan helps to ensure that advisors maintain both business and personal relationships as they transition.  

Succession Timeline
The development of a strong succession plan can have a long lead time. It can take at a minimum of 3 to 5 years to make sure all systems are in place.

Five Considerations To Make When Transitioning:

  • Finding a successor that fits your business model
  • Determining which financial institution you feel comfortable with
  • Deciding what you want from retirement
  • Developing a formal contract
  • Letting go

Step 1: Find The Right Successor
One of the most difficult steps of succession is finding the right advisor to take care of the clients for whom you have been responsible throughout your career. These are people whom you have been helping to achieve most of their life’s milestones.
 
Whether you look outside the firm or end up handing your clients over to someone at your current firm, be sure to give yourself enough lead time. This part of the process always takes longer than you expect. The goal should be to find an advisor with a similar style and personality as yours. This will make it easier on the client and will likely lead to lower attrition.
 
Step 2: Determine Which Financial Institution You Feel Comfortable With 
If you decide to stay associated with your current broker-dealer, there will likely be less issues, and this is—by far—the path of least resistance. However, if your future successor is at another broker-dealer, it is very important to work with the new broker-dealer’s transition team to make sure that your current book of business will map over properly and that clients will not be impacted negatively by the move. This will help to minimize the fallout potential.
 
3. Decide What You Want From Retirement 
Not everyone feels comfortable completely shutting down a career and letting go of countless long-term relationships. So consider whether you want to continue to work part-time for a few years and slowly shut it down or if you would prefer to make your plans known far in advance and walk out with no strings attached.
 
Just as you have coached your clients on the many different investment options, you should start thinking about what you want the next phase of your life to look like. Once you have made some personal retirement decisions, you can begin putting the timeline of your plans in place.
 
4. Develop A Written Contract 
It is imperative that all of the verbal agreements and informal arrangements become part of a formal, written contract. Not only does this offer clarity and a solid understanding for all parties, but it can also serve as a blueprint for your succession plan. It’s best to work with a legal professional, in order to make sure that you and your potential successor are on the same page. Eliminating any gray areas is essential.
 
5. Let Go 
At this point in your career, most of your long-term clients are like family members. The relationships that advisors create with their clients are what makes them come to work every day. Advisors really struggle, wondering if the next advisor will always be there for their clients in the same what that they have been all along. At this point, remember that you picked your current successor for a reason and that it is now their time to take the reigns.