Practice Management
Build Your Bench: Hire Long-Term Interns For Your RIA And Benefit From A Low-Cost Talent Pipeline edit
Sunday, June 15, 2014 11:40

 Internships that last a summer or a semester do not add value to a busy RIA practice, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take on interns. The key to a productive internship program is to hire interns for much longer periods, up to three years. Louis P. Stanasolovich, CFP®, president of Legend Financial Advisors in Pittsburgh, explains how in a new webinar at Advisors4Advisors. 

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RIAs who put a well-organized internship program in place can train interns to be fairly productive within a few months, and they become progressively more productive after that, says Stanasolovich, whose firm has employed more than 300 interns since 1994. He has hired more than 25 as regular staff, and two are currently shareholders.
 
Interns allow advisors to focus on the firm’s highest priorities, Stanasolovich says. “We do it to take the low-end tasks away from existing staff, and we continue to train interns so that (the interns) can take on more higher-end tasks in time.”
 
Interns help your bottom line. Legend Financial, which starts interns out at $8.50 an hour (plus bonuses), hires 4½ interns for the cost of a new member of the advisory team. It’s important to avoid draining off those savings through repetitive training of interns, however, and that’s where Legend’s well-honed system comes in. Here are some major aspects:
 
Recruiting Methods
Legend never hires college seniors, because their time would be too limited. The firm primarily hires freshmen and sophomores and requires them to work for 1,000 to 1,500 hours a year, including extra summer hours.
 
The company locates good candidates through career fairs at area universities, by communicating with guidance counsels, by speaking at student functions on campus, and by posting information on the internship program online.
 
 
Training Tools
It’s counterproductive to use billable staff time to train interns, so Legend uses videos. Vendors provide some videos, but Legend has created more than 2,000 short training videos using the Camtasia software program.
 
Once the initial training period is completed, new interns receive face-to-face training by senior interns. Finally, senior interns, who are performing higher-end tasks, receive one-on-one training with staff members.
 
Plan Ahead
The tasks performed by interns are lined up before the intern walks in on his or her first day. “You can’t afford to be coming up with things for them to do every day,” Stanasolovich points out.
 
Legend limits interns’ clerical duties to 20% of their time. These can include scanning and auditing documents, cleaning, mailing, organizing office celebrations and cookouts, filling copiers, delivering supplies and documents, and setting up conference rooms for client meetings.
 
Develop Skills
Once an intern has been on the job for a couple of years, those who qualify take on more important duties. Second-year finance interns, for example, may prepare performance reports, build cost basis of securities, run stock screens, do basic research, run analysis charts, and even execute some trades.
 
“It’s not just about us,” Stanasolovich says. “Interns get great experience for their resumes.” Legend also teaches basic office and social skills, he adds.
 
 
Stanasolovich recommends two books to learn more about the process of developing talent: Topgrading by Bradford D. Smart, and Moneyball by Michael Lewis.
 
To view the hour-long webinar, click here.
 
Rating and Comments
Advisors who logged onto Advisors4Advisors to view the webinar live gave Stanasolovich an average rating of 4.5. Here are some of their comments:
 
“Lou is amazingly generous in sharing what he has learned about building an effective internship program. Great program Andy. Thanks.”
 
“Good overview of how a robust internship program can function within an RIA.”
 
‘Started out a little slow and picked up steam along the way. Especially valuable were the Word documents offered as attachments, which included intern interview questionnaires and the hiring process. Speaker is well known in the industry and it would appear that interns at his firm are fortunate to be affiliated with him.”
 

“Thanks for sharing this information with us. Excellent!”

 

Read more...
 
Here's How To Make Your RIA GIPS Compliant And Reap A Marketing Windfall To Grow Your Practice edit
Saturday, June 07, 2014 11:18

Tags: GIPS compliance | high net worth | integrity | investment management | marketing | RIAs

Global Investment Performance Standards (GIPS) are spreading from the institutional market to the UHNWI market. Failing to become GIPS compliant likely will become a competitive disadvantage for RIAs over the next decade. More to the point, becoming GIPS compliant will provide your RIA with a significant competitive advantage for at least the next few years.

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“Making Your RIA GIPS Compliant,”  a continuing professional education webinar for advisors taught by Amy Jones, CIPM, and Arin Stancil, CFA, CIPM, of Guardian Performance Solutions, explains why UHNWIs are likely to move toward requiring GIPS compliance of wealth managers, provides insight into some of the operational challenges you are likely to face to make your RIA GIPS compliant.
 
Wealth Managers And GIPS
CFA Institute developed the Global Investment Performance Standards to give investors a uniform way to calculate investment performance, allowing comparisons of one money manager versus another. While applying the standards leaves some room for interpretation by an RIA, it is a credible system for promoting transparency and inspires investors trust. Failing to comply with GIPS when you claim to be in compliance could subject an RIA to civil charges of fraud and, depending on the intent of the people involved and the scope of the problem, could expose an advisor to criminal charges.  Just this past week, a Florida advisor was barred from the industry and fined $660,000 after the SEC alleged he had fraudulently claimed GIPS compliance.
 
Marketing Benefits From GIPS Compliance
Complying with GIPS makes it easier to use performance results in your marketing and advertising materials. I'm not suggesting an RIA would become compliant and then launch a marketing campaign screaming that you gained X% annually since inception. But when you meet with a potential client, you can show your track record and explain it, and you can tell the prospect to ask other RIAs under consideration if they are GIPS compliant. Since it is likely that just a few thousand firms in the U.S. are GIPS compliant -- and only a small number of them serve UHNWIs and the mass affluent because they are all institutional investors -- you'll gain an important marketing advantage over RIAs not complying with GIPS.
 

CFA Institute, in what I believe could be a step toward becoming the pre-eminent professional-licensing body in the financial advice industry, recently proposed requiring public disclosure of GIPS compliance. If the proposal is adopted by GIPS Executive Committee, a listing of all investment managers worldwide claiming GIPS compliance will be published annually at gipsstandards.org beginning January 1, 2015, along with a link to each GIPS-compliant firm's website.

 

Requiring that advisors claiming GIPS compliance in advertising be listed on the public website helps remove any ambiguity about whether an RIA is indeed compliant. If a firm is claiming compliance is found in a regulatory inspection not to comply with GIPS, it's subject to civil and possibly criminal charges. The public listing makes GIPS compliance verifiable by anyone, promoting public trust in GIPS. In addition, I'd bet it won't be long till Google updates its search algorithm to factor into search rankings the higher credibility of firm's linked to on the GIPS list.       

 

 


 
RIA Operational Issues And GIPS
Jones and Stancil said that becoming compliant could generally cost an RIA $10,000 or $20,000 and will involve every aspect of your firm. Your compliance officer, marketing personnel, and staff downloading data will all need to be involved in GIPS compliance process. Jones mentioned names of two composite management software applications and said those are good investments since PortfolioCenter, Advent Axys, and other popular performance management applications do not natively allow you to create and manage composites.  
 

The heart of the GIPS system is in formulating “composites,” which are collections of portfolios that include the same investment strategies or objectives. For example, you may decide to collect together all your firms "growth" or "income" accounts as separate composites. The portfolios must be discretionary and fairly represent performance of clients with in those types of accounts.

 

Advisor Ratings And Reviews
The webinar received an average rating of 4.1 from attendees. Since this session is ahead of the curve, it is not surprising that attendance at the live session was light -- about a 25% of the attendance we normally attract every week. To me, that just means only the smartest advisors are paying attention and it strengthens my contention that advisors will gain a competitive advantage by becoming GIPS compliant. Here are the comments from attendees:
 
  • Good information. It would be nice if they would be able to quote an hourly rate, average cost, etc. For me, it gave me a starting point of what to look for.
  • Not the most applicable webinar but the information was useful.
  • Very informative. 
  • Very helpful and proactively answered several of the questions I was wondering about.
  • Good, and a scary subject!
  • The fact that the presenters ‘traded off’ during the presentation was very effective, given the topic and subject matter, which was very interesting, but a bit esoteric at times. They obviously know their stuff and as Andy said, are ‘pioneers’ in the field of GIPS. Thanks.
Read more...
 
Do Ethics Matter? edit
Tuesday, April 29, 2014 02:55

Tags: business ethics | ethics

We live in an age of investment fraud, tax evasion and patent infringement. We are business owners trying to make a buck. Can we effectively compete while holding ourselves to high ethics? Does it matter?

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We face ethical decisions every day, when bringing in new clients, gathering AUM from current clients, choosing the tools we utilize, dealing with employees and managing our practices. If our primary goal is to increase revenue while minimizing expenses without working nonstop, does it matter how we get there? Does the end justify the means?

Let’s look at some everyday choices we face:

  • A potential new client asks you to evaluate what her current advisor is doing. From the looks of it, he seems to be doing a fine job. Do you attempt to convince the prospect that the advisor is not doing right by her? 
  • Your client owns a rental property that is producing a good return, while not representing a disproportionately high percentage of his investment portfolio. Do you recommend that he sell it, knowing that will increase your AUM?
  • Do you evaluate your hardware or software suppliers based solely on price and promises? Or do you also consider the integrity of the provider?
  • Do you hire primarily lower level employees and keep wages low? Do you minimize raises and push for extra work from your team in order to maximize profits?
  • Do you try to lure clients away from other RIAs? Do you badmouth your competition?

Advisors who run their businesses this way can be successful. I’m not here to say that making choices slightly outside of the lines will or should ensure financial ruin.  It’s not about “Karma.” We all must make our own choices. 

I would handle the above situations as follows:

  • If a potential new client comes in with a portfolio that appears to be invested well, I will tell the client exactly that. I will also say that her choice should be based on a multitude of factors including her comfort with communicating with her advisor and whether other services are important such as financial planning and tax preparation. I will even say that any investment portfolio that my firm manages would likely perform similarly to what she has now. I will certainly say that I would like to work with her if she so chooses.  That way, if she decides to change advisors, I will have gotten the business honestly.
  • If a client asks me whether or not he should sell his rental property, I will perform an unbiased financial analysis and allow him to make his decision. I will also proactively point out that there is a potential for conflict of interest even though I have done my best to present the information in an unbiased manner.
  • We deal in critical, sensitive, confidential client information. Integrity of the vendors and providers I work with is crucial. A company that misleads its clients or was funded illegally or cuts corners on compliance will not get my business. Period!
  • Employees are the backbone of my business. I believe in fair pay, good benefits and pleasant work environment. A team that is appreciated and not overworked will be happy and productive. In the end, that makes for happier clients and easier management!
  • In my (humble?) opinion, there is plenty of business to go around. Investors need the guidance of RIAs. There is no need to go after other advisors’ clients. By working cooperatively with your colleagues, you will establish a network of resources and promote the “public good.”

I once heard a speaker say that he always strived to meet the “grocery store” test: Would he be able to comfortably look his client in the eyes if he came across her at the grocery store? For me, I need to pass the “mirror” test: Can I look myself in the eyes and know I’m doing right?

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Tips to Increase Your Productivity and Regain Control of Your Time (and Possibly Your Sanity!) edit
Wednesday, April 23, 2014 17:42

Tags: managing | productivity | time management

Have you felt like you have been working harder, often for an extended period of time, and feel like you aren’t reaping the benefits? Do you feel like your employees aren’t getting as much done as they can or should? Often, our productivity isn’t as high as it could or should be.

A recent study from the FPA Research and Practice Institute focused on helping advisors improve time management and productivity shed some light on both the causes and possible solutions. 

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The 2014 Time Management and Productivity Study found that 53 percent of advisors surveyed said they are not in control of their time and 49 percent say they are not in control of their businesses. Only 13 percent felt completely in control of their time and 10 percent felt completely in control of their businesses.

Advisors indicated three main reasons for this lack of control: trying to do too much, increased administrative burdens and procrastination. Difficulty prioritizing tasks, competing personal goals, personal disorganization, and in-bound calls from clients/time required to react following closely behind as additional reasons for having a lack of control.

Here is a summary of the main suggestions from the FPA study to help you and your staff feels more in control and improves your productivity.

  • Develop clearly defined business and personal goals: Take time to work ‘on’ the business.
  • Plan and Prioritize activities: What is the most important task you need to work on today. Set aside time to plan each day and week.
  • Develop standardized processes and systems: High performing advisory firms have documented and implemented standardized processes and systems to be able to scale efficiently.
  • Make better use of technology: We often don’t use anywhere near all of the features and functions of the software that we could.
  •  Provide better training and development for team members
  • Work with experts (coaches) to help improve your firm’s performance
  • Reduce administrative burdens: Delegate or outsource tasks to team members.
  • Don’t procrastinate: Don’t put off what you know needs to be done to move your firm ahead.

In an Inc. magazine article, 7 Things Highly Productive People Do, project management black belt Tony Wong, who has worked with companies such as Toyota, Honda, and Disney, was interviewed and offered these suggestions for being and staying productive:

  • Work backwards from goals to milestones to tasks
  • Stop multi-tasking
  • Be militant about eliminating distractions: Minimizing interruptions keeps us from stopping and starting our train of thought.
  • Schedule your email:  Checking your email constantly throughout the day kills your productivity.
  • Use the phone: If you need to respond to an email more than twice, pick up the phone and call instead of the back and forth emailing.
  • Work on your own agenda: Don’t let your day be dictated for you. Set and prioritize your goals for day and then work to reach these.
  • Work in 60 to 90 minute intervals: Your energy is better spent in shorter bursts.

A Harvard Business Review article, The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time, pointed out that between 25% and 50% of people report feeling overwhelmed or burned out at work. Why? Not only is the number of hours we are working increasing but, according to the article, “we spend too many continuous hours juggling too many things at the same time.”  Agreed! Think of how many things we juggle throughout each day, every day over and over. The result is a loss of productivity. Much of this is simply due to splitting our attention among numerous activities without being fully engaged in any one activity.  FOCUS your complete attention on one thing at a time.

Ever tell your kids to stop playing video games or stop checking Facebook or Twitter every two minutes (if that long) while they are doing homework? I have- too many times. It’s no wonder their homework takes waaayyyy too long and the comprehension level is low! Focus on one thing at a time. Don’t switch task focus so much.

The article encourages organizations seeking higher productivity and innovative thinking to strongly encourage defined periods of focus and shorter time periods for renewal (recharging).

Each of these (and many others) studies and articles offer helpful tips and suggestions for increasing your individual and organizations productivity. The lists above should provide some ways for you to implement to feel more in control resulting in additional productivity.

What do you do to increase your productivity?  Share your best ideas by commenting below.

Build your business wisely.

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Navigating the Potholes On Your Road to Success edit
Monday, March 31, 2014 10:28

Tags: business planning | business strategy | managing | strategic planning

Living in Minnesota, as the snow begins to slowly melt on our roads this time of year, the roads begin to show the wear and tear from the long winter and ever-changing weather conditions. For anyone living in the colder weather states, you encounter this same issue. 

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One of the results of the changing and sometimes harsh winter weather conditions is that a large number of potholes develop on the roadways. Often, many of these potholes develop in a particular location or stretch of road.  Sometimes the potholes are extremely wide or run pretty deep. No matter the number or size, they always make for a potentially slower and more costly journey to your ultimate destination.

When we know there may be potholes on our journey, we have to be aware that the path will have some extra bumps and alter our way of driving. We need to drive looking not only at what is coming further down the road, but also what is right in front of us on the road to successfully reach our destination without damaging our vehicle. If we don’t pay attention to the road directly in front of us, we will continually hit the potholes. Over time, the constant pounding on our vehicle will result in costly repairs and time spent in the shop. When our vehicle needs repairs, we won’t be reaching any destination!

Additionally, if we drive in a hurry, only thinking of our future destination and not paying attention to what is right in front of us, we will hit the potholes. Similarly, if you are distracted while driving, we won’t see the potholes right in front of us.

Usually the roads are fixed fairly quickly. Sometimes the potholes on the roads are “patched” as a quick fix.  However, the patches rarely last and the same holes develop in the same location the following winter.  They reappear if not correctly repaired.

Watching drivers approach a section of road with numerous potholes at an intersection near my home, it is apparent that many drivers are oblivious to the dangers right in front of them!

Similarly, the potholes on our business journey are those issues that pop up and catch us by surprise or things that bog us down in terms of time and/or resources. Sometimes they pop up at certain times of the year or groups of them occur at the same time.  What “potholes” are you continuously running into on your journey to success?

When thinking of strategic planning and running our firms, we oftentimes focus on the distant future and forget to look at what is right before us, the tasks and projects needed to be focused on to solve current issues. These current issues need to be resolved for us to reach our intended future destination.  Additionally,  the day-to-day tasks that have to be done just to tread water often take our attention and energy away from the important tasks and projects that need to be done to solve issues that ultimately move our firms ahead. We often don’t notice the potholes on our journey.

Successful companies confront and fix their most pressing issues and don’t let them linger for weeks, months or years at a time.  If the potholes are fixed correctly right away, we don’t need to think about running into them.

What oftentimes takes the energy out of a business is not that there is too much work to handle, but rather that the business has too many issues that need to be resolved. Each unresolved issue ends up sucking up time and energy and holds the business back from moving ahead. Fixing our issues will free up time and energy to focus on more productive tasks and projects.

Are you aware of the potential potholes in your business that are right in front of you? Don’t be in too much of a hurry or get distracted, and most importantly, pay attention to the important issues and challenges right in front of you to reach your business destination. Fix the potholes in your business as they appear.

Build your business wisely.

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