Once you’ve lined up your numbers, it’s time to turn to the more intangible questions of chemistry.
There are plenty of firms out there that will never be the right fit for your business. You’ll be too big, too small, too fee-driven, not fee-only enough.
But even after you screen out the obvious non-starters, there are still going to be a lot of potential affiliations that seem like they’d be perfectly good.
So how do you pick an IBD, RIA, or custodian out of the crowd of names that all look equally good on paper?
That’s where the ultimate intangible in the industry -- "culture" -- comes in.
Every broker-dealer and RIA out there touts its culture, but they have a hard time laying out exactly what that means beyond a bunch of vague platitudes: teamwork, loyalty, service, ambition.
Drill down into the platitudes and look for concrete details about what it means to live and breathe the company for a big chunk of your waking life.
Or to say it slightly differently, whatever you can point to that makes a firm unique -- and not the platitudes that we all want to live up to -- is its culture.
Culture is the differentiator.
Obviously, culture is hard to pin down unless you spend a lot of time visiting all the firms out there.
Most advisors really only belong to one institutional culture at a time, and so it’s hard for them to know whether they’ve found the best fit possible or are simply settling for what they know.
But when you’re looking around for a new partner, that’s the time to talk to as many firms as you can. Cast your net wide. Experiment. Try new things.
You can even investigate relationships that would have been unthinkable a few years ago. For example, you might decide to fold your independent RIA into a larger one -- or jump from the wirehouse into an existing RIA without taking the long way through the IBD channel.
You’ll know the cultural fit when you click with the people. There aren’t any numbers or benchmarks here.
One tip: If you know -- and embody -- the culture you want to see in the industry, you’ll find it easier to recognize it when you see it.
So figure out what differentiates you and your approach to the business.
Look in the mirror. And then, if you can’t find that anywhere else in the industry, it’s probably time you created it on your own.
There might be other advisors just like you looking for a place to call home.