On the Contrary, Unicorns DO Exist

Sep 25, 2018


Several posts ago, my fearless leader and blogging mentor wrote, Advisors: That 40-Year Old Successor, Like the Unicorn Does Not Exist. That post posited that it’s ridiculous to assume a NextGen advisor will swoop into a mature firm, support the aging client base, take on most of the day-to-day activities and ultimately purchase the book of business. I’m a 36-year-old-millennial, and the notion that an ideal succession plan doesn’t exist for us, well…I disagree.

The unicorn in the building

So let’s put my rebuttal into perspective: I do agree that the perfect successor is unlikely to walk into your firm today and accept a role as a junior advisor. So if your “plan” is to wait for a mature advisor, with a profitable book of business, willing to pay premium for a buy-out, who then waits until you’re ready to call it a career is an indication that you have a poor succession plan. Where I do challenge John’s perspective is when this succession process begins. The 40-year old advisor may not walk in today, but with a sound development program in place, a 30-year old junior advisor could eventually become the 40-year-old for your succession plan.

I’ll use sports as an analogy: Aaron Rogers – drafted in the first round in 2005 – sat behind Hall of Famer Brett Farve for three years before becoming the starting quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. The Packers’ plan was to take the QB of the future while their current QB was still in his prime. When it was time, Rogers became the starting QB of the Packers and went on to become a Super Bowl winning MVP two years later. If I lost you in that story, here is my point: if you’ve taken the time to build a successful practice, the heart of that success lies in the individuals within the firm. From the most senior advisor to the entry-level intern, they have all bought into the idea that if we follow the process (and believe in it along the way), we can all be successful.

They’re all you’ve got and all you need

Coming back to my thought process on the ideal succession plan, millennials are often viewed as entitled and success seeking in a concentrated amount of time (there are couple of very successful young business owners who might fall into that category.) But typical of the thirty-something advisor is usually an individual who’s been in the game for a while and is very focused on positioning themselves to reach the next level of success, i.e. become a partner, take a larger role within a firm, etc. There are very few not willing to put in the time. One of my really good friends who is a mid-30’s millennial advisor said it best, “It took me awhile to realize that I didn’t have to be my boss to be successful, I just had to be willing to complement him. Over time we’ve realized that we can feed off each other and win opportunities together.” In this scenario, the younger advisor and the veteran advisor are growing together, which naturally results in a more organic transition over time.

Maybe I’m not completely disagreeing with John, and perhaps we’re saying similar things. Having an ideal succession plan will likely come from within your own firm, or a very close talent pool from which you can select, i.e. Financial Planning Association. Perhaps you won’t find a unicorn, but you can certainly create one.

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