One of the many great things about the RIA industry is our deep commitment to the fiduciary rule, which states that advisors must put the interests of the client ahead of their own. RIA owners have built incredibly successful businesses using this principle as their guiding light: Always put the customer first. But sometimes this obsession with the client has a hidden side effect – we may end up neglecting our employees. Without engaged and motivated employees, the number of customers an RIA can serve will be drastically reduced, and the quality of service will be compromised.
RIAs spend a lot of time, energy and money developing an appropriate client onboarding process. Realizing that first impressions last a lifetime, many firms have taken a look at what will happen when a customer says, “Sign me up!” RIAs know which team members will do what: someone will reach out to the client to initiate the paperwork and process the transfer of assets; A welcome email will be sent, detailing the roles and responsibilities of the various team members; The next two or three meetings are carefully scripted, as assets are transferred, and new investment models are implemented – nothing is left to chance. Everyone wants the new client to have a great onboarding experience so that they feel valued and will hopefully be impressed enough to tell their friends and family about the great money manager they just worked for. kept on.
Unfortunately, this thoughtful experience does not translate into the onboarding of our employees. We all claim that “our employees are our most important asset,” and yet, after putting a candidate through a months-long interview process, when the new employee arrives at the office on their first day, half the firm. does not know who they are or why they are there. As new hire stands at the coffee maker, many people will approach them and ask, “Can I help you?” And they have to keep saying, “I work here!” And it is not that RIAs are huge bureaucratic organizations of thousands of employees- this scenario comes up frequently in RIAs of 10-15 employees across the country.
The RIA needs to realize that an employee’s onboarding begins weeks before the new hire arrives at the office, not the morning of their hire date. Many new employees find that there is no dedicated workspace set up for them, their computer is not configured (sometimes, the computer is not even purchased!), their employment document is not ready, and sadly, The point is that employee roles and responsibilities, including their typical career path, are not discussed internally by their new supervisors.
As part of our employee development course Inside The COO Society, I interviewed Stacy McKinnon of Morton Wealth and she worked out the specific onboarding plan for her new employees at her firm. First, employees meet with him as the firm’s COO, to discuss Morton Wealth’s career path program, core values, and how the culture is reflected at the employee level. After this, they meet again with the firm’s CEO, Jeff Sarti, to understand the company’s vision and discuss the importance of culture. Then, they meet with the firm’s CIO, Meghan Pinchuk, for a presentation covering investment philosophy and the due diligence process, as well as learning how C-Suite is dedicated to developing its employees. It’s a true “wow” experience for employees and a long lasting first impression.
David DeVoe wrote in this publication that, “Leaders of the future become strong leaders through the coaching, molding and guidance of their managers.” He adds, “Despite the universal knowledge of the importance of its people, firms in the industry are not investing as much in this asset as they should.” During my interview with him as part of our employee development course, David explained that by prioritizing employees, it is the customers who really benefit the most. “If you really treat your employees well, train them properly and really invest in them… on a day-to-day basis. Customers can feel that the person they are talking to belongs to Care has been taken, that they have been empowered, trained, and are upbeat and excited. There is no way your client’s experience doesn’t enhance in that kind of environment.”
We should do better as an industry. We can no longer hide behind credible rules or statements like, “I came into this business to serve customers, I’m just a bad manager of people, there’s nothing I can do about it.” Our employees should be treated better. As David DeVoe writes in his article, “Firm founders and management invest heavily, both technically and emotionally, to achieve the world-class level of service they provide to their clients. It’s time to invest as much energy in employees as they do their customers.” And it starts before their first day of employment and continues beyond their onboarding schedule.
Matt Sonnen is the founder and CEO PFI Advisoras well as the creator of the digital consulting platform, COO Society, which educates RIA owners and operations professionals on how to build more impactful and profitable enterprises. He is also the host of the popular COO Round Table podcast. follow him on twitter @mattsonnen_pfi