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Go big or go boutique?


Go big or go boutique?

For financial advisors, part of the appeal of independence is the opportunity to choose which type of partner firm aligns best with your needs, goals and business style. The options are many. In an effort to make comparisons easier, many advisors-in-motion compartmentalize firms into groups, labeled by their most obvious attribute: size. Whether their “must-haves” checklist is digital, mental or old-school pen and paper, the symmetry between big and boutique is clean, user-friendly and eases the chore of comparison.

The problem is that size is no longer the definitive line in the sand many think it is. The historical gaps in support and service between larger and smaller firms simply don’t exist anymore. Smaller firms have access to innovative solutions that create efficiencies, build scale and deliver on advisor expectations — just like larger firms. Additionally, their personalized service model and sense of culture are difficult to replicate at much larger firms.

The traditional benefits of smaller firms continue today, while the disadvantages have practically evaporated. Boutique firms can offer a best-of-both-worlds scenario that speaks to many advisors: the customized support associated with small firms complemented with the deep resources that have historically come with size. Still, if you’re an advisor contemplating a change, you must ask yourself the right questions — and closely consider which topics matter most to you. Define the environment that will best support you today and into the future. You deserve to thrive with a partner that can best support your unique vision and delivers sophisticated support, flexibility and independence.

In considering big versus boutique, ask yourself three fundamental questions:

1. What type of relationship do you want with your home office? Are you OK with being a rep code or do you want familiarity with your business, your team and your goals?

2. Do you have expectations that your firm will work with you to accommodate the unique needs of your practice and your staff? Are you willing to sacrifice your individual vision to accommodate a one-size-fits-all business model or are you looking for the type of personalized experience and support that you offer your clients?

3. Is being associated with a “big name” firm important to you? Or, conversely, are you more interested in your clients being aligned with you and your business, instead of a “mother ship” firm brand?

While the answers to the questions above will differ from advisor to advisor, a common theme underlies each of them: Will your firm provide you with the same high-quality, individualized service you deliver to your own clients? Knowing what you want and proactively ensuring you receive it is the foundation of long-term success.

“Go big or go home” might be great advice when it’s fourth and 20 and the clock is ticking for the home team. But when your future — and the well-being of your clients — is on the line, a more strategic plan is required. If you’re seeking an optimal blend of high-touch service and broad-based solutions (and you ought to be) you should consider smaller, well-resourced boutique firms.

They can offer a perfect balance: elevated service and personalized support capabilities tailored to your business along with economies of scale as their larger counterparts. In short, “go boutique” may be your best plan of action if your ideal partner offers a small-firm feel with best-in-class resources; flexibility to serve your clients your way; and the autonomy to run your business as you see fit.

Tarah Williams is president and COO of Prospera Financial Services.

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