Managing A Difficult Transition To A Fiduciary Standard

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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.

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Fiduciary Standard

Dear Bev,

We are putting a new system into place to ensure some of the commissioned people in our firm are acting in accordance with the pending DOL changes. They have been pure product salespeople and need to become advisors who use a consultative approach. This is a wholesale change in both thought process and systems and I don’t believe our management realizes how much is involved.

I’m in a sales-support function so am more of an order taker than a director of activities. I don’t see how this is going to be an easy fix. I have little power to influence and my boss is a hard-nosed person. Have you seen anything like this before? Is there something I could do in my role to help influence things?


Dear S.P.,

I have definitely seen this movie before! Unfortunately it is all-too-common for firms to think they can change an existing system, process or even wholesale culture by just saying it should be so, circulating some documents and, in rare cases, delivering actual training. The problem is that this misses the fundamental element in any change process – the people.

Most people prefer to stay with what they’ve always done and don’t like change unless there is no other choice. In addition, I’ve seen in many cases a change of employee expectations but not of compensation or a change in the general reward system. Your firm might still be forcing these folks to make a faster sale for the commission (everyone needs to pay their own bills!) but now they are saying to take their time to be consultative. Unfortunately if someone needs to sell something to get paid and generate income, they might want to conveniently skip some steps so they can make the sale!

I know you probably know all of this, but in the event that someone in your management team reads my column, I feel the need to say it anyway.

As far as your role goes, you have a very big role you can play. You are closest to the field in a sales support capacity so you probably have more influence than you might think. You could solicit input from a few valued members of the sales team – what do they think they need? What’s confusing about the process? What do they see as the biggest obstacles? Maybe if you collected some data and presented it to management in more of a “fact” format, you might get heard. You also could take the documents floating around and see if you can consolidate them, or organize them more effectively. You say a new “actual process” but I don’t know exactly what this means. Is there a way to make this new process more understandable and digestible for team members? Is there a way to give them a bit more information (in a clear and succinct format) so they understand who, what, when, how and why?

You could also play a coaching role with some of the team from your support vantage point. Could you help to clarify what’s being asked? Could you check-in with the sales people to see what’s working and what’s not? Could you do an audit of sorts to see what is being used and what else is needed?

Don’t underestimate how effective you can be in your current role, but also don’t give up trying to become heard by your management about the need to do more for the team members.

By Beverly Flaxington, read the full article here.

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