McMahon voices leadership role as transition to independent advisor

The Wall Street Journal: ‘Voices: Adviser Teams Need a Strong Leader as They Go Independent‘ Feb. 23, 2016 12:17 p.m. ET

Voices: Adviser Teams Need a Strong Leader as They Go Independent

Company chiefs should highlight the advantages of independence and be prepared to reassure staffers who are uneasy

Screenshot 2016-02-25 12.50.58Going independent offers advisers unique opportunities related to team leadership. Advisers often struggle, however, to leverage these benefits. If you want to successfully transition into an independent firm, it’s important to fully grasp how this change can help you better recruit and motivate team members.

Greater control is one key advantage to understand and relay to your staff. When you operate through a brokerage firm, you may be required to use their investment information and not your own investment policy. By contrast, when you go independent you can more freely manage assets and suggest investing strategies. This not only deepens client relationships, it can give your business a key selling point in terms of staff recruiting and retention. Talented advisers like to see that they will do meaningful work and make a positive impact on clients’ financial lives. Emphasize that you offer a culture of true client care, and you can position yourself to better attract and retain dedicated advisers.

Another advantage to focus on is flexibility. Under a brokerage, your team will usually be divided into advisers and staffers, with little to no shared responsibilities allowed. Yet I have found that some clients inevitably require more personal or nuanced financial guidance that falls outside the scope of what just one adviser can provide. Independence allows your organization to adapt accordingly, creating a more engaged and positive team environment. And by empowering credentialed administrative staff to do more than just bill accounts and schedule appointments, you will motivate and develop them into more valuable roles at your practice.

One perceived downside of independence that can hinder your workforce is a loss of stability. Leaving a parent organization typically means letting go of its software and infrastructure. Team members may fear this change, and their work can suffer as a result. It’s therefore incumbent on you to maintain morale by alleviating these anxieties. Emphasize that you are far from the first practice to make this switch. Show that you are leveraging the best outside experts and resources so as to replace these support systems as smoothly as possible.

At all points, remember that your move to independence requires you to step into a greater leadership role and take ownership for resolving workforce problems. Your staff will respond best to clear, positive communication. Make a point of highlighting the unique advantages afforded by your newly independent status. By setting a tone of innovation and opportunity through this change period, you can lay the groundwork for a more engaged, accountable and successful team in the long run.

MFA is an SEC registered investment adviser that maintains a principal place of business in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The Firm may only transact business in those states in which it is notice filed or qualifies for a corresponding exemption from such requirements. For information about MFA’s registration status and business operations, please consult the Firm’s Form ADV disclosure documents, the most recent versions of which are available on the SEC’s Investment Adviser Public Disclosure website at

Download PDF »