Building A Financial Services Business

The financial advisory landscape is often shrouded in complexity and insider jargon, making it challenging for outsiders to navigate. Yet, understanding how financial advisors build their practices and the underlying motivations driving their advice can vastly influence clients’ financial success. In this thought-provoking discussion, Phillip Ramsey and Arron Cramer of the Uncommon Wealth Podcast candidly explore how the financial services industry operates, the trials of starting and sustaining a practice, and the profound difference between commission-based and trail-based advisory models.

Key Takeaways:

  • The industry’s high barrier to entry and traditional, product-focused training may not align with the best interests of clients.
  • A trail-based business model emphasizes long-term relationships and yields a more sustainable and aligned practice.
  • Advisors should constantly evolve to better serve their clients; growing practices should prioritize the success of both their clients and their employees.

The Advisor’s Dilemma: Traditional Training vs. Client-Centric Approach

When financial advisors enter the industry, they often align with large firms that dictate their training and the products they sell, creating potential conflicts of interest between what is best for clients versus the firm. “It was very product-based,” Ramsey explains, speaking of his own experience. “They were trying to use my family and friends to get in front of them to make them cry. I was like, I don’t want to talk to myself, let alone my family and friends.”

These traditional training models tend to focus on life insurance and investment products that yield high upfront commissions, incentivizing the sale of products rather than fostering genuine relationships with clients. As Kramer summarizes, “You’re not having relationships with anybody. You’re just telling them what they want and then dying them off.”

The tension between immediate monetary gain and building long-standing client relationships is palpable. This approach often leads advisors to prioritize new client acquisition over nurturing existing relationships, as their compensation is predominantly linked to initial sales.

Trail-Based vs. Commission-Based: The Foundation of Practice Building

Digging deeper into compensation structures, Ramsey and Kramer discuss the stark contrast between two prevalent business models in financial advisory: trail-based and commission-based. “The amount you get paid up front [with commissions] is dismal compared to the commission,” states Ramsey. “Although, when you do this right and you fast forward your practice 5, 7, 10 years, you have a practice that you would not believe.”

The trail-based model, favored by Uncommon Wealth Partners, focuses on earning a percentage of the managed funds over time, aligning the advisor’s success with the client’s ongoing financial growth. Conversely, commission-based advisors receive a lump sum upfront, which may discourage long-term commitment to their clients.

This distinction sheds light on the different motivations and outcomes these models can produce. Advisors remunerated through trails are inherently more invested in the long-term financial health of their clients, while those relying on upfront commissions may be inclined towards more transactional interactions.

The Importance of Ongoing Advisor Growth for Client Success

Lastly, a significant theme that emerges is the advisors’ commitment to continuous improvement for the benefit of their clients. “We should not be the same advisor I was last year… If I am, please fire me because that means I didn’t get better,” Kramer passionately contends. He underscores the importance of advisors evolving their knowledge and skills, something that is more feasible in a trail-based model where advisors are not perpetually hunting for new clients to maintain their income.

This philosophy speaks to a broader vision of what financial advising should be—a partnership where success is mutual and predicated on long-term service excellence rather than short-term sales victories. It’s a mindset that values the depth of relationships and knowledge over the breadth of transactions.

The discussion rounds off with a unique insight into Uncommon Wealth’s business practices, revealing their lack of a non-compete clause for advisors and their genuine desire for advisors to succeed with or without the firm. This approach, although rare in the industry, exemplifies the company’s dedication to the best interests of both its advisors and clients.

As this conversation peels back layers of the financial advisory industry, it enlightens us about the true nature of building a financial practice. The insights shared are not just lessons in business models but also in integrity, client advocacy, and the enduring value of relationships over transactions. Investing in a financial advisor whose business model and personal ethos are trail-based may very well be the key to achieving financial serenity and success.