This past month, our content director Kristina chatted with Andrew Hodge, Team Coordinator for Custom Wealth Management in Syracuse, NY.
The topics ranged a bit, but more focus came in when discussing the importance of a well-oiled, fully-meshed financial advisor team.Check out the interview below for what Andy believes to be the 7 Key Factors To Build a Winning Financial Advisor Team.
Kristina: Andy, great to catch up with you.
Andrew: You, too.
K: I heard that you had a big anniversary last month?
A: Yeah, I did. It was my 6th anniversary with Custom Wealth Management.
K: Lots of cake?
A: (laughs) You know it.
K: Not to sound all poetic, but anniversaries are definitely times when we reflect on the past & look to the future. What was it like when you first joined?
A: When I joined the team, it was John and two supporting team members, me being one of the two.
K: Have things changed?
A: Quite a bit. We have since grown into a team of seven, including John. From my very first day, I got a sense that John was unique compared to other advisors in the industry.
K: That’s big growth. Since you’ve been around since the beginning of that growth, what would you say is the biggest key to success in a team environment that rapidly expands like that?
A: I think there are several aspects involved, to be honest. People come and go, but there are definitely some proven methods I saw enabled that help us weed out who weren’t a good fit and to determine who was.
K: What’s the first one?
A: You need a process for both acquiring and holding onto clients. The sooner an advisor learns this, the better. When everyone at the firm is on the same page, everyone has the same expectations and the same goals, no doubts about any of it. That builds team cohesion immediately. John showed me the firm’s 5 phase process on my first day and was told to become familiar with it as soon as possible.
K: That’s an intense intro.
A: It was & I think it was necessary. He provided me a full view of the process from start (prospecting) to finish (ongoing review), that clearly illustrated the different goals of each phase.
K: What were they?
A: He said no matter who the prospect was that they would start at phase 1, and if they were a good fit would move on to phase 2, and so on, eventually settling into phase 5. By breaking the process into phases, a new hire could easily identify where a specific client was in the relationship, and what the next meeting with the client would look like.
K: Super structured and what we expect from John!
A: For sure. Over the years, it made things a lot easier for us where I’ve experienced bumps in the road before.
K: So, a process. Makes sense. I know being organized is imperative, but even I get overwhelmed reviewing all the documents advisors and their support need on a daily basis. How do you keep it in check?
A: (laughs) Though he may never have a clean desk,, the way John organizes the firm’s files on the computer makes it easy for a new hire or anybody on the team to prepare the items necessary for an upcoming meeting.
K: Organized chaos?
A: Not even. It’s really well structured. Each phase had its own folder, within the folder there is a checklist for the items the advisor will need for the meeting, and below the checklist are all the documents in order of how they appeared on the checklist. What did this do for the team? It made it possible for all team members to put together the files for client meetings with minimal effort and time. What did this do for the advisor?
K: So essentially it gives the advisor one less thing to worry about.
A: Exactly. If the team followed the checklist, the advisor could ensure that everything that needed to be in the file was there and in the exact order that they wanted it. The efficiency of being able to put together meeting files quickly also allows the advisor to schedule meetings on shorter notice.
K: I’d imagine trust would also be a big component.
A: A team is nothing without it, especially in a small one. An advisor that trusts the team builds individual confidence for team members, confidence in other team members, and confidence in the firm’s future.
K: No wasting time in delegating.
A: Right, not between team members or between them and the advisor. Everyone knows their “post”, so to speak. Everyone knows their duty and what will be expected. And when an advisor can trust their team, they can spend more time out of the office doing what needs to be done.
K: Dynamic is so important, especially when not everyone does the same thing every day.
A: Huge. Most wealth management firms are small, so the addition of a new team member can have a huge impact on team dynamic.
K: Any specific examples come to mind?
A: Yes. We learned the hard way that when adding a new team member, each current team member should be able to voice their opinion about a potential candidate.
K: More open dialogue then followed, I presume.
A: Certainly did. And on the note of dialogue, language is an incredibly important factor as well. John is a strong believer that “the only things that stand between a person and success are words, and how you use them”.
K: Excellent advice, really.
A: An encounter I’ll never forget was the first time someone asked my advisor about their ‘staff’. John was quick to correct them saying “Staff is an infection; do you mean my team?”.
K: Wow! That is bold and humorous at the same time.
A: That’s John. The difference in psychology between the two words should be clear. If you had to choose, would you prefer to be part of a team or part of a staff?
K: Fairly sure I’ll always think of team moving forward, since the idea of “staff” makes me think of germs and a lot of pain (laughs).
A: Then it had the intended effect! At our firm, we work, learn, teach, grow, make mistakes, and succeed as a team.
K: Anything else you can think of?
A: Freedom to grow is a huge factor in developing a team, too.
K: In what way specifically?
A: At our firm, each team member has a specific area that their role and responsibilities revolve around. If a team member finds themselves caught up on their workload, our advisor gives us the freedom to spend our time finding ways to increase efficiency within our own roles, or spend the time learning about other areas of the firm.
K: So it strengthens the team’s overall knowledge of the industry and allows each team member to service clients in different areas when the ‘specialist’ is not available.
A: Precisely. We’re adults, not children and no one likes to be micro-managed. The freedom to grow also plays back to the trust factor. It illustrates trust between everyone.
K: You haven’t mentioned it yet, and I’m wondering if it’s because so much of your job entails these…
A: Kind of, but the key factor is not so much the frequency of the meeting, but just to schedule them and then stick to them, religiously. The “Monday morning meeting” is a standard expectation for a reason.
K: What goes on in yours?
A: We cover three things: John’s upcoming schedule, the team’s upcoming schedule, and any tasks that need to be completed. This meeting ensures everyone has a clear understanding of what is currently happening and what is coming up. On top of the Monday meetings, the advisor tries to spend an hour one on one with each team member every month to check in on their achievements and goals both inside and outside of work, as well as any frustrations that they might be dealing with.
K: So, just a quick review…you’d say there are seven factors to developing a solid team in a financial advisor firm?
A: Yes, and I think they’re all intricately intertwined. None of them can reach full potential without dependency on another factor. And from my experience in the last 6 years, it all starts with the process. Everything else starts to fall into place after that.
K: And the meetings (chuckles).
A: Of course (laughs).
K: Was great chatting with you, Andy.
A: You as well, Kris.