Where Top Advisors Find More Hours To Spend With Clients

A “time merchant” of wealth management explains what its advisors do differently.

Bigstock photo

Bigstock photo

The top financial advisors at Commonwealth Financial Network, a company that supports more than 2,000 advisors managing $232 billion in assets, spend nearly twice as much time meeting with clients as some competitors.

But time is finite so where are those additional client-dedicated hours coming from?

To learn more about how its advisors spend their time, Commonwealth commissioned Cerulli Associates, a Boston-based research and consulting firm, to study them. Cerulli surveyed 993 Commonwealth advisors and then compared the results to a separate annual survey of 1,500 advisors at wirehouses, independent RIAs, and hybrid firms published each year.

The companies discovered there was no single hack or fix.

Advisors at Commonwealth spend 29 percent less time trading and balancing, 17 percent less time on financial planning, 28 percent less time on compliance, and 46 percent less time prospecting clients, compared to wirehouse advisors, according to the study.

“Day in and day out, [they’re] getting in front of their clients delivering advice, spending their time, where they’re not only more productive, but where they’re making an impact,” Kenton Shirk, vice president of practice management, told RIA Intel.

The difference between Commonwealth’s top advisors (the 10th percentile based on revenue generation and growth) was starker. The top Commonwealth advisors spent 37 percent of their time in client meetings. Other Commonwealth colleagues spent 24 percent and wirehouse advisors spent 17 percent of their time meeting clients.

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“There’s not an obvious category where that time is coming from,” Shirk said. “They’re really spending more time in client meetings, but they’re incremental improvements across all of [the productivity] categories.”

The lesson to be learned is that wealth managers need to think holistically about how they spend their time, according to Shirk. Incremental improvements across client segmentation, human capital, automation, outsourcing, systemization, all categories that drive productivity, add up to big differences, he added.

Some ways firms can do that is by adding paraplanners to help scale advisors who’ve built a successful client base. Companies should also explore adding executive roles so advisors can focus on being advisors, systematizing core processes like automated workflows, and working in teams, Shirk said.

“At Commonwealth, we think of ourselves as time merchants,” Andrew Daniels, managing principal of business development at Commonwealth, said in a statement. “Our main objective is to do whatever it takes to give advisors more time back so they can spend it focusing on their clients.

Holly Deaton (@HollyLDeaton) is a staff writer at RIA Intel and based in New York City.

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