Career Blueprints

Growing Today’s Advisory Practice

6 Lincoln Financial Advisors collaborate on a blueprint for success

by Mike Lockwood , Pedro Astacio, Joe Biloon, Mel Gross, Peter Robertson and Mark Rychel

Editor’s Note: We’ve developed this article in partnership with the management team at Lincoln Financial Advisors, represented here by some of their own practitioners. It is an ambitious attempt to identify and clarify the challenges that await those entering an advisor career, a career that may actually look different from when these advisors began theirs

As the financial advice industry ages, young advisors starting out in the business should look to glean all they can from established advisors before the big retirement wave occurs in the next 10-15 years.

Given the amount of assets under management held by advisors over 50, there is incredible opportunity in the industry for those new advisors willing to put in the work. The first few years can be challenging, however, because it can be difficult to establish trust and credibility as a young advisor.

Here, six successful and established financial advisors reflect on their greatest challenges to growing their advisory practices and offer a glimpse into how they overcame these hurdles.

1. Team up

“Starting out in this business as a recent college graduate was incredibly challenging. As a 22 year old trying to tell 55 year olds to plan for retirement, it was tough to gain credibility.

Looking back on how I have been able to grow my business, I know that my success has come from the relationships that I’ve formed over the years and my ability to grow and strengthen those relationships. I don’t know if you can necessarily teach that. Young advisors need to have a desire to network and learn from other advisors. Ideally, a young advisor will find an experienced advisor to mentor them, but even if two young advisors team up they will do better together than they would on their own.

My relationships with my clients are also incredibly important to building my advisory practice. My clients trust me enough to refer me to people close to them. I have a very family-oriented approach to working with my clients.
We don’t spend entire meetings talking about money. We talk about their lives, their families and their goals. Establishing these close relationships lets clients know that we are on the same team. They then feel comfortable and confident referring me to their family and friends.”

– Mike Lockwood, CFP, CRPC, investment advisor representative and registered representative of Lincoln Financial Advisors

2. Be a teacher and a student

“One of my biggest concerns is the vast need for valuable financial advice and financial education. I meet so many people in need of comprehensive financial planning, yet there are so few financial advisors who can truly offer this kind of advice.

There is a real opportunity for advisors that are new to the industry to fill this void and capitalize on this need.

One of the most important pieces of my role is to serve as a source of financial education for my clients. This means that I have to stay educated on all aspects of finance and financial planning and take advantage of opportunities for continuing education. My success depends on my clients’ trust and they come to me as a resource for information about a variety of financial topics.

It’s also important to understand the value of teamwork. Challenge yourself to improve the way you work with teams. Having a great team in place that you can learn from expands your knowledge and strengthens the value that you can bring to clients.”

–  Pedro Astacio, asset protection specialist of Diaz & Associates

3. Consider a multi-generational approach

The greatest obstacle to growing my practice has been capacity. There is an important balance in the number of clients I can bring into my business without sacrificing excellent service.

I pride myself on running an advisory firm that always tries to offer a professional relationship with a personal touch. We go above and beyond for clients. To maintain this level of service, we have recently hired additional planners in an effort to accommodate incoming clients and continue to grow our practice.

Another way that we have been able to grow our business, while ensuring a commitment to remarkable service, has been through multigenerational planning. We have many clients whose children and now grandchildren have become our clients over time. In many ways, this speaks to the family feeling we provide. Our clients come to trust us and value the high level of service that we offer. We become a part of the family and develop relationships with family members. This helps us grow the practice over several generations.”

– Joseph Biloon, CFP ®, AEP®, partner of The Financial House, registered representative of Lincoln Financial Securities

4. Commit yourself to networking

The greatest obstacle to growing my practice has been capacity. There is an important balance in the number of clients I can bring into my business without sacrificing excellent service

“Networking, integrity, and professional education are the most important tools to grow your business. Meet as many people as you can.

Take advantage of opportunities for professional development to ensure that you are as knowledgeable as possible for your clients. Nurture your relationships with the advisors, executives and potential clients that you meet along the way.

These connections will translate into success in more ways than one. Even if they do not result in direct client referrals, the education and insight that you can learn from other advisors will be invaluable to growing your practice.

The best way to build your reputation is through hard work, knowledge, and being personable. Take advantage of every opportunity to connect with people. Your work ethic and expertise will ensure that these contacts develop into meaningful professional and personal relationships.

As I continue to grow my practice into my 70s, succession planning has become a major hurdle. I am in the midst of a succession plan that is helping me to ensure that my business will continue to thrive and grow for as long as I continue to love what I do… and beyond.

Connecting with a younger advisor has been instrumental to the growth of my practice in my later years. My clients know that my successor will take care of them no matter what, so my business has continued to grow.”

– Mel Gross, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, AEP, partner of Gross & Foster Financial Services, registered representative of Lincoln Financial Securities

5. Service, service, service

“This is the perfect business for people who are relationship-oriented, hardworking and tenacious.

I began in financial advice after a career in sales. Those skills translated well into my career as a financial advisor. Starting out, one of the biggest challenges is continuing with confidence even in the face of setbacks. You cannot be afraid to pick up the phone. Get someone to say, ‘let’s talk.’ Then, let your service and your hard work speak for itself.

At the end of the day, nothing is more important to the success of your advisory practice than the service that you provide. Without a commitment to excellent service, all of the tips, tricks and luck in the world cannot help you.

I work hard to demonstrate my value to a client early in the relationship. Often, clients will naturally bring up investments and request that I take a look and help them. My two ‘big breaks’ both came from referrals from well-respected clients who valued the hard work that I put in for them day after day.”

– Peter Robertson, ChFC, registered representative of Lincoln Financial Advisors / Sagemark Consulting

6. Relationships generate referrals

“I always tell younger advisors that there are only three things you have to do to be successful in this business: always put the client first, be honest with them, and follow through on everything you say you will do. Focus on developing relationships with your clients, and the referrals will come.

Clients will always know if you truly have their best interests at heart. Following through on your obligations helps you become their first call for all financial planning matters. When clients see you as a trusted source of advice across all aspects of financial planning, you will begin to see more and more referrals.

Now, my challenge has become making sure that I can maintain those close relationships with my clients as my practice grows. Because I feel strongly that clients will be better served by my practice, I occasionally direct some less complex clients to other advisors in my office. I oversee the relationship, but do not run the day-to-day tasks. As long as the referral is comfortable with this, it is a win-win.”

– Mark Rychel, CFP®, founding partner of BCR Financial Services, registered representative of Lincoln Financial Securities

In a word… Commitment

Without a doubt, growing a financial advisory practice requires an incredible amount of commitment and hard work to gain the respect and trust of your clients and your peers.

As the next generation of advisors looks to capitalize on the baby boomers’ slow and steady transition to retirement, they must earn their success in the same way that those advisors before them did – with a commitment to education, multigenerational planning, networking, teamwork and tireless service to their clients.

There are no shortcuts to success in this business. Advisors must put in the time and effort to gain their clients’ confidence and loyalty. For those young advisors who can accomplish it, the possibilities are endless. v