As the recruiting wars among independent wealth management firms continue to heat up, Digital Wealth News caught up with Jeff Nash, Founder and CEO of BridgeMark Strategies, to discuss the evolving role of technology in financial advisor transitions from one firm to the other.
It’s a subject that Nash knows well, having served for 15 years as a senior in-house recruiting executive at industry giant LPL Financial. In 2013, Nash decided to take the guidance he offered to so many financial advisors by launching his own independent business. Since then, BridgeMark Strategies, headquartered in Charlotte, North Caroline, has become one of the wealth management industry’s fastest-growing consultancies focused on delivering comprehensive support for financial advisor transitions.
(DWN): When independent financial advisors transition to a different firm, there seem to be “push” and “pull” factors involved. In your experience, what are the top technology-related frustrations that feed into a financial advisor’s decision to switch to a different broker-dealer or RIA?
(JN): One of the single greatest technology-related frustrations that can generate more pressure on independent financial advisors to switch firms is when an advisor feels that his or her firm’s outdated technology is inhibiting the ability to communicate and engage effectively with clients.
Generally, advisors are looking for tech-enabled resources that help them win new business, serve existing clients and cut costs without raising compliance and other risks. Firms that can’t deliver on both sophistication and ease of use with technology in support of these goals will likely face higher advisor flight risks in the coming months and years.
(DWN): What are experienced and successful financial advisors increasingly demanding in terms of technology resources from independent broker-dealers and RIA firms?
(JN): Advisors are seeking technology that eliminates, automates or delegates the repetitive, manual, non-revenue generative “grunt work” that can distract from serving their clients. Data aggregation, e-signature capabilities, fully digitized client onboarding and account opening – These are all increasingly table stakes for the wealth management space.
Firms that can clearly and credibly connect the dots with prospective advisor recruits on precisely how their technology investments are helping advisors build wallet share and capture new clients are going to have a much stronger pitch to experienced and successful advisors. Among other things, advisors are increasingly looking to join firms that offer technologies that enable the personalized presentation of client financial plans and other data on a virtual yet sophisticated basis.
(DWN): How can independent broker-dealers and RIA firms successfully use technology in the advisor recruiting and onboarding process?
(JN): The most forward-thinking firms are building their advisor recruitment and onboarding processes to be a fully digital experience for both the advisors themselves and for the recruiters working to bring them aboard.
They’re implementing digital systems that look a lot like a CRM, with tools to track status of and touchpoints with potential recruits, collect all relevant recruiting and transition documentation in one place and generally reduce much of the duplicative, time-intensive work that bog down the process.
(DWN): Are there elements of the traditional advisor recruiting and onboarding process that have gone virtual during the pandemic that will likely remain virtual over the long run?
(JN): The most significant aspect of the “new normal” in advisor recruiting is the virtual home office visit experience. In the past, advisors and home-office teams believed it was critical to get together in person, look each other in the eye, shake hands and get a feel for one another.
Now, virtual home office visits have become not only acceptable, but commonplace. Yes, there are many advisors and home office executives who are clamoring for a return to in-person home-office visits as soon as big picture circumstances permit.
But overall, advisors and home-office staff have realized over the past year that you can accomplish so many things in the recruiting process on a virtual basis with less logistical complexity and more efficiency. So we should expect virtual home office visits to continue to exist for the long run.
(DWN): How do successful third-party financial advisor transitions firms like Bridgemark Strategies leverage technology to more effectively and efficiently align advisors with the right IBDs and RIAs?
(JN): We use a CRM system to manage our relationships with advisor clients, and it truly has helped us become more efficient. I would add, however, that the real advantage of technology for BridgeMark is that it liberates us from spinning our wheels on tasks that an app could do in a fraction of the time.
Instead, we can maximize using our time to serve as strategic consultants for our clients. The best long-term matches between firms and advisors meet both parties’ ideals in terms of feel, fit and financials.
The last two criteria can be addressed through technology, but fit is way too subjective for an algorithm to handle. That’s our sweet spot, and we view technology as an enabling resource that empowers us to provide our clients with that value.
As CEO of BridgeMark Strategies, Jeff leverages his 25+ years of industry experience and over 20 years of experience coaching and consulting with financial advisors to help them navigate major transition decisions such as Broker/Dealer changes and succession planning.