How Do I Leave My Legacy As An Advisor?

How Do I Leave My Legacy As An Advisor?
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How Do I Leave My Legacy As An Advisor?

September 14, 2015

by Beverly Flaxington

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Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.

Dear Bev,

I am 68 years old and in very good health. I am able to work four days a week, and my clients know and speak highly of my staff of five. Lately I’ve been thinking about the importance of my legacy for my firm. I don’t have anyone on my team who really wants to take over the planning aspect or that is capable of doing so. Over the years I have had junior or associate advisors who have worked closely with me and have become friendly with my clients. None of them could do exactly what I can do. Clients would like some but not other aspects of their work. I don’t have children who are able to step in, and I don’t have nieces or nephews who seem interested in this business. What’s the best way to go about securing my legacy but not letting clients think I am jumping ship soon? I know advisors who work well into their 80’s, and if God is good to me I intend to do that also. I know I should be taking some steps in one direction or another.

Mark S.

Dear Mark,

I’m curious what has prompted the inquiry at this point? It sounds like you have tried things over the years that have not worked, but then – for some period of time – you have just gone along with the status quo and been reasonably content. Did one of your clients raise the issue or one of your employees? I think it is an important one to address. Just because you feel strong and healthy doesn’t mean that those around you don’t notice you aging and wonder about the future.

You speak of your “legacy.” As a first step, please take the time to write down exactly what your legacy means to you. Is it about keeping your clients under the same umbrella working with your staff? Is it a certain way of treating clients (and staff)? Is it a particular investment philosophy that is meaningful to you and that your clients have come to appreciate? What aspects do you want to maintain and what will an ongoing legacy look like for you?

As a next step, write out the attributes that the advisor who would best serve your clients will need to have. What style are they used to? Decisive and action-oriented? Patient and good listening skills? Hand-holding or hands-off? Too many times we focus only on the job skills, but in a client-facing role it is important to consider how clients like to be treated and what they are used to.

Identify a process for working with clients. If you don’t have one, create one. What communication styles work best? What types of information do you share? Then, once you have these aspects nailed down (and in writing), you will want to start the search for a successor. Consider whether you want to identify someone who is young in their career who you can “groom” for success or whether you want someone who has established themselves in a similar way to what you have outlined. This is personal choice for you.

When you interview the person, talk about legacy – talk about client experience – talk about what’s most important to you. Don’t just talk numbers.

Lastly, have a clear path to succession in place. If you want to work as long as you’re able to, make sure your partner understands that. Set timelines, percentages for buyout and payout and conditions for possible failure.

I believe even if you did have children or other family members, taking these steps would be very important. They are often overlooked. You want your legacy to matter, so take the time to ensure that it does.

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