Category: Firm

Tampa, FL, 07/17/2019Independent Financial Partners (IFP), an independent broker-dealer and multi-custodial registered investment advisor with more than 200 advisors nationwide, has hired Melissa Loner as the firm’s new Chief Compliance Officer. Previously serving as the RIA Chief Compliance Officer and Vice President of Fiduciary Services at Cambridge Investment Research, Loner is transitioning from one of the largest broker-dealers in the country with more than 4,000 advisors to one of the industry’s newest and most dynamic wealth management and retirement plan consulting broker-dealers where she will be responsible for driving compliance and supervision strategy for IFP.

“I very much enjoyed my time at Cambridge, and I wish them the best as they continue to be one of the most successful broker-dealers in our industry,” says Loner. “For me, though, it was time for a change. I’ve been following IFP’s journey for a little while now and was inspired by the change in approach they have been championing in the industry. After meeting with their team in Tampa, I knew I wanted to be a part of that disruption.”

Melissa’s hire adds more broker-dealer and RIA experience to an executive team that last year added Bill McCauley as the firm’s CFO. McCauley, formerly the CFO at Transamerica Financial Advisors, also arrived at IFP with highly valued industry experience.

“We’ve conducted more interviews than you could imagine trying to find the right person for the CCO role,” exclaims Bill Hamm, CEO of IFP.  “When Melissa came down to chat with us, we knew we had finally found the person we were looking for. I can’t wait for us to get started working on the growing list of initiatives we have.”

Tim Moyer, previously serving as IFP’s interim CCO, will be transitioning to a lead role overseeing the firm’s supervision unit and will be working closely with Loner as she looks to build out IFP’s already robust compliance team.

About IFP

Independent Financial Partners (IFP) is a registered investment adviser, broker-dealer, and insurance agency providing technological, compliance, marketing, business development, and operational support to its network of more than 200 financial advisors. Founded in 2000 by William E. Hamm, Jr., IFP operated as a hybrid RIA and OSJ for 19 years before launching its own broker-dealer in 2019. IFP offers a platform for truly independent financial advisors, one built on choice, transparency, and advisor feedback.

Officially launches independent broker-dealer

Tampa, Fla. May 22, 2019 – Independent Financial Partners (IFP) has announced the official termination of their contract with LPL Financial (LPL) today, and that the firm has begun the process of transitioning to its new independent broker-dealer entity.

Leaving LPL with more than 200 advisors and thousands of client accounts, IFP now faces the process of repapering those accounts and transferring the assets to Pershing, IFP’s chosen clearing firm and custodian – a welcome final step to becoming truly independent.

“Everyone at IFP is excited that this day is finally here,” Bill Hamm, IFP’s CEO, exclaims. “We’ve overcome so many obstacles to get to this point, and to be able to finally start moving accounts and getting our advisors transitioned is a relief. We’re nearing the finish line of true independence, and I can’t wait to cross it.”

The past 12 months haven’t been smooth sailing for Hamm’s firm. Prior to announcing they’d be leaving LPL, IFP’s hybrid RIA and OSJ supported 460 producing financial advisors around the nation. As a broker-dealer and RIA, IFP will be starting out with half that number.

Bill Hamm explains further, “When we decided to go down this path, I told our advisors that we weren’t going to announce a big move and only give them 30 to 60 days to make a decision like most firms do in this type of situation. We told our advisors that they’d have a year to do their due diligence, knowing that many of them would either take the path of least resistance and remain at LPL or find a more niche firm that was more suitable to their needs. We also expected that during the year, other LPL OSJ’s would poach and recruit our advisors. However, that didn’t matter because we knew we had to take one step back to take two steps forward. We had to disrupt our business to become a disruptor in our industry.”

And that disruption starts now. In a world where broker-dealers continue to increase admin fees on advisory platforms, the new IFP model provides an option without them. In a world where broker-dealers don’t allow advisors to text clients, IFP is providing the technology to do so. In a world where broker-dealers are driven by stock price, IFP will be owned in part by advisors who will have a say in the company. IFP was built on transparency, honesty, and accessibility to firm leaders, tenants that are surprisingly novel to many advisors, and the firm will continue to evolve based on that foundation.

Chris Hamm, Bill’s son and chief operating officer of IFP, is excited to help build and grow the firm on top of that foundation. “Our advisors are with us because they trust Bill, and as an extension, they trust our firm. Trust in leadership what our advisors care about most, and that’s why advisors are attracted to our platform. And now that we’re in full control, we can grow our firm as we see fit and with our advisors’ needs in mind. We were capped on growth potential at LPL, but now our potential is unlimited. And, now that we’re on an even playing field, we can’t wait to have the ability to recruit from our competitors.”

Speaking of recruiting – more than 30 new advisors are set to join the firm in the coming months. And as a result, Bill Hamm is excited about this next chapter.

He concludes, “IFP has been around since the year 2000, but it feels like this is just the beginning.”

About IFP

Independent Financial Partners (IFP) is a registered investment adviser, broker-dealer, and insurance agency providing technological, compliance, marketing, business development, and operational support to its network of over 200 financial advisors. Founded in 2000 by William E. Hamm, Jr., IFP operated as a hybrid RIA and OSJ for 19 years before launching its own broker-dealer in 2019. IFP offers a platform for truly independent financial advisors, one built on choice, transparency, and advisor feedback.

2018 was a watershed year for IFP. At the beginning of the year, we made the decision to do something exciting and risky — leave our current broker-dealer, LPL Financial, and create our own. That meant informing LPL of our intent and hoping they would work amicably with us. That meant informing our clients, the financial advisors in our network, of our intent and hoping they would follow us as they have for 18 years.

That meant going against the grain of the entire industry and doing something a hybrid firm of our size had never done before. That meant disrupting our profitable business, and possibly taking a step back, in hopes of taking 2 steps forward down the road. So here we are 12 months later, with our funding secured, awaiting FINRA’s approval of our broker-dealer application, and it’s never been a better time to reflect on the big year we’ve had. Let’s jump right in.

February 2018

Back in February, a few members of our executive team drove down to Ft. Lauderdale to inform Dan Arnold and Andy Kalbaugh, LPL’s CEO and Managing Director, respectively, of our intent to form our own broker-dealer. Being one of LPL’s larger hybrid RIAs, we weren’t sure what to expect, but both gentlemen were cordial and authentic during our discussion. Everyone left the meeting with an understanding that both sides would work together on a mutual separation agreement.

March 2018

A March regional meeting with our west coast advisors in San Diego, CA was the first of 6 regional meetings we held in 2018. With 25-30 advisors in attendance at each meeting, we announced our official intent to launch our own broker-dealer in the first quarter of 2019. What’s unique here is that many firms like us, when they decide to make such a change, do so abruptly and give their advisors little time to make a decision whether to stay or leave.

In every meeting we held, we made it clear to our advisors that they had almost a year to make a decision and that it was their choice to stay or go. That also meant our competition would have months to recruit our people, but we believe in what we’re doing and we knew it was only fair to give our advisors ample time to consider their options.

April 2018

After a few months of back and forth, we signed a mutual separation agreement with LPL in April, allowing us to move forward with creating our own broker-dealer and seek capital infusion to do so, if needed. In addition, we started a hiring spree of sorts, understanding that an influx of talent would be necessary to properly run our new firm. As fate would have it, LPL had recently acquired a broker-dealer based in Tampa, so we had a reservoir of experienced talent come available just as we needed it.

July 2018

To launch a broker-dealer you must file what’s called a new member application (NMA) with FINRA, our industry’s regulator. The approval of this application takes approximately 180 days and involves a very in-depth back and forth between FINRA and the firm. Interestingly, a few days after our nation’s Independence Day, we submitted our NMA to FINRA with the hope of making the first step toward our own independence as a firm.

August 2018

In the midst of preparing for our broker-dealer approval and launch, hiring new staff, and taking on over 50 different projects to implement technologies, processes, and workflows, we decided we also wanted to launch a proprietary technology platform. So, in August, we released the first beta version of Advisor[X], IFP’s proprietary digital interface for financial advisors. We’re now several iterations ahead of that initial launch and will have a fully baked product ready for all of our advisors when the broker-dealer is live.

December 2018

A few weeks ago, IFP’s executive team drove to Boca Raton to interview with FINRA, one of the last steps in the new member application process. We had a great conversation with the FINRA team members we met, and they told us we were one of the larger new member applications they had seen in a long time. We couldn’t have been happier with the meeting, and we’re currently working with FINRA on some final items to close out the application process.

What’s Next?

We anticipated receiving FINRA’s approval of our application at some point in January, so we’re very much on track for the transition date we agreed upon with LPL, which is April 1, 2019. From now until then, we’ll be finalizing the systems, processes, and infrastructure that will allow us to move hundreds of advisors to our new platform.

One of the more important items we will also be finalizing is the equity ownership we’re sharing with our advisors. At other firms, advisors either have to purchase equity or not participate at all. We understand that the advisors who transition with us are the reason we’re in business, so we want to reward them with a piece of the firm. 15 percent of our equity shares will be divided among our advisors and gifted proportionally to those who transition to us in April.

Disruption Is Coming

Contrary to what our competitors are telling our advisors, we’re not creating a broker-dealer just to make our pockets fatter. We’re creating a broker-dealer because we have a vision of what the broker-dealer of the future should look like. Many of today’s independent broker-dealers are slow to evolve, ineffective when communicating, and out of touch with what financial advisors and their clients need and want.

Everything we do is with the advisor in mind. We’re providing 4 different custodians for advisors to choose from for their client accounts, which helps to drive down trading costs on each platform. We’re obtaining enterprise pricing for software and passing those discounts through to our advisors. We’re building a technology infrastructure that makes it easier for advisors to interact with our firm and conduct business.

And this is only the beginning.

I don’t expect anyone to believe or care about any of this just because I’m typing it. All I ask is that you keep watching. We will continually strive to build the financial advisor utopia, find innovative solutions to new and old ideas, and listen to what advisors want.

So, to the industry, our competitors, and our advisors: Keep watching. Disruption is coming.

A financial advisor hedges a great deal of their success on the broker-dealer they choose to affiliate with. The broker-dealer controls the price points for revenues by setting advisor payout percentages, and it controls the price points for expenses by setting trading costs and fixed technology expenses, among other things. As an advisor, are you aware of the true costs of the services and products for which your broker-dealer charges?

Do you know the firm’s profitability per trade or the margin they make on the E&O policy you purchase from them? Are you aware of ancillary lines of revenue to the broker-dealer like interest on cash sweeps? Most importantly, when you are looking to evaluate a new relationship with a broker-dealer, do you ask any of these questions?

Broker-dealers and advisors alike are in business to make money. However, advisors need to align with a firm that offers transparency regarding their methods of generating revenue; that’s a BD that can be trusted with your business. Today I wanted to talk about IFP and why we’ve always strived to promote transparency as a hybrid RIA and OSJ, and why we’ll continue to do so as a broker-dealer.

Motivation Beyond Profits

As simple as the concept is, IFP needs to generate revenue to keep the lights on and provide a suite of services to our advisors. With that said, that’s not our motivation for creating our RIA or the reason we’re creating a broker-dealer. We aim to create a culture of transparency (there’s that word again) where we foster an environment where our firm and our advisors achieve mutually beneficial victories. The new levels of scale we’ll bring to the table will help improve client outcomes.

Decision Buy-In

Quite often in our industry, regulatory changes or actions occur that force broker-dealers to implement new, costly initiatives. Sometimes these BDs pass on some of their increased cost to the advisors through arbitrary fees, ambiguous service rate hikes, and other vague changes to their payment structure. We will not. If we’re forced to abide by new regulatory standards, thereby increasing our cost to do business, we will explain the situation in full detail and lay out the changes to our fees. We feel that advisors are more likely to trust us and buy into our firm if we’re continuously transparent about the reason behind our financial decisions, even if the decisions don’t benefit them.

Trust

I suppose the most important benefit of transparency and disclosure is trust. Do you trust that the actions of your current broker-dealer are done with everyone’s best interest in mind, or are they self-serving? Without transparency, it’s sometimes hard to make that determination. Advisors that affiliate with us will know where we stand financially and strategically, what our costs are, why we charge what we charge, and the reasons for our decisions, thereby increasing the trust levels between our businesses. And that trust means a stronger and more cohesive relationship.

My Last Thoughts

If you’re with another broker-dealer, I suggest you ask pointed financial questions as to their margins, markups, etc. I also suggest you ask strategic questions as to what the relationship will look like in the next 3 to 5 years. Ask them to be specific and not talk in generalities. You may not get the answers you want, however, if you feel they’re being truthful, you know you’re dealing with honorable people. I sincerely hope that you’ll be pleasantly surprised. We hope IFP’s transparency can serve as an example and motivation for other firms to follow because I believe the best advisor is an informed advisor. A better understanding of the environment in which they work can help lead to better outcomes for everyone.

I started in this business in 1983 with the Cigna Corporation doing fee-based financial planning on a consultative basis to clients. Cigna was one of the first firms to introduce a sophisticated comprehensive planning approach to helping clients meet their needs. More importantly, Cigna allowed me to be independent and have choice when it came to the solutions and services I provided to my clients.

Over the next 34 years, I chose only to affiliate with independent firms like Cigna because I felt that the best way to service my clients was to use an independent, objective, and choice-based platform. Today, as we build out the next evolution of IFP and launch our own broker-dealer, we’re fiercely committed to making sure our advisors have choice in the products, insurance solutions, and services they offer their clients. To help explain why I think choice is so important, I’ve summarized in this post some of the main benefits of choice for advisors and their clients.

Serving Different Needs

One-size-fits-all or limited options, in my opinion, provide for inferior outcomes. Clients have different needs and objectives that many times can’t be serviced effectively by limited options. Captive firms that limit choice often restrict an advisor to using proprietary investment products with clients who could benefit from other products if they were available. They also often force the advisor to use a proprietary financial planning software or performance reporting tool that may not be as sophisticated as another tool an advisor might have chosen had they had the flexibility.

Faster Technology Implementation

Speaking of technology, platforms that support choice for advisors typically bring on new technology, products, and programs quickly as they become available. This enables the advisor to keep up with the latest and greatest methods of servicing their client’s needs. Change is occurring faster and faster in our business and the ability to keep up with that change can provide a competitive edge for our advisors and a better outcome for their clients. Firms that take years to implement new technology will be left behind as the pace of change increases.

Cutting Expenses and Cost

A multi-choice platform can drive down expenses and cost; this is accomplished through competition and the ability to bid out services to multiple providers. For example, when looking for collateralized lending opportunities, by having multiple custodians available on a non-biased basis, you provide the advisor and client the ability to potentially obtain a lower price for that lending, consequently saving them money in the process. Having multiple custodians also drives down the overall cost of ticket charges because each custodian is forced to compete more for the client’s business.

Client First Approach

With more choice comes a higher degree of complex decisions falling on the advisor’s shoulders. With one-size-fits-all or limited choice platforms, an advisor doesn’t have to make as many critical decisions, but that means a client who needs a more customized level service may not receive it. True independence is an advisor who is aligned with an RIA or broker-dealer that will free them from limited options and allow them to select the platforms and programs that best meet each client’s needs. That is a client-first approach.

Last Thoughts

The best analogy I can think of is a patient in need of surgery. Would you be more comfortable with a surgeon that had only 2 scalpels, a stethoscope, and an x-ray machine? Or would you rather that surgeon have scalpels, lasers, MRI capability, chest expanders, etc.? The same concept applies to the financial advice world and this is one of the reasons we are developing IFP as a firm of choice. Our objective is to build the platform in such a way that it is easy to quickly implement new technologies and programs for the benefit of our advisors and clients. We believe the advisor knows best when it comes to servicing their clients’ needs, and it is our job is to provide them with all the qualified tools possible to do so.

Hey folks – Bill Hamm here. As we get closer to the broker-dealer launch, I wanted to cover some important parts of starting this new journey and what it means for IFP. Today I’ll be discussing an incredibly important topic regarding broker-dealers: custody and clearing arrangements.

Although we have been an RIA for over twenty years, we’ve always outsourced the commission-based business to the broker-dealer with whom we were partnered. Self-clearing can be extremely profitable for the firm, however, we have decided against it for a number of reasons.

Cost

Cost is a significant factor in this decision-making process. We chose Pershing because of their relationships with over 600 broker-dealers. This level of scale allows us to pay wholesale prices, not retail, for clearing and custodial services, passing on most of those savings to advisors and their clients. If we were to self-clear, those clearing costs would typically be allocated as fixed costs. While this is normally not problematic, low trading volume during bad times (such as recessions) can create a drag on financial performance and create significant risk to the firm. Affiliating with Pershing provides significant scale/volume that enables us to characterize these costs as variable, which is extremely beneficial during volatile trading periods.

In addition, outsourcing the clearing and custodial function of our broker-dealer eliminates significant fixed costs associated with creating the infrastructure, hiring the personnel, and providing the resources needed to process securities transactions. There is also a significant cost in maintaining that infrastructure and based on the pricing that we’ve obtained from our clearing firms, it simply doesn’t make sense to bring it in house.

Technology

Utilizing an external provider enables our firm to keep up with the latest and greatest in technology. In our case, Pershing provides expansive API capabilities, enabling IFP to integrate multiple state-of-the-art systems in a very efficient manner. This alleviates our need to create that API capability, which is extremely expensive and time-consuming. Also, BNY Melon | Pershing’s annual technology budget of more than $2 billion gives them a significant advantage in staying up-to-date with the latest technology that works. Their business model of supporting multiple firms creates the need to be at the forefront of new technology in order to maintain a competitive edge. This is a fundamental part of what they do.

Compliance

The cost and complexity of keeping up with changes in the regulatory environment are better suited to organizations that have the scale and ability to make those changes. The ability to spread the cost of regulatory changes across many firms reduces the risk and impact to any one firm.

Recruiting and Growth

Recruiting and growth of the firm is another consideration. By partnering with a firm that works with over 600 broker-dealers, we have the opportunity to recruit advisors where a clearing firm change is not an issue; the assets don’t have to move. If we were to self-clear, every new recruiting opportunity would require a movement of assets, which can be a speed bump during the recruiting process.

Multi-Custodian Support

Having been an advisor for over 32 years and operating under both scenarios, I prefer a multi-custodial approach. My client base had different needs and the ability to service them through a multifaceted environment enabled me, in my opinion, to provide a better outcome for them and their families. It also provided them a greater sense of comfort in that by having multiple options, I was working with them on a consultative basis instead of a sales-oriented basis. The ability to bring the vast resources of these custodians to the table also provided them with a sense of comfort and ease.

Both options have their advantages and disadvantages, however I have always felt that having greater choice can help create greater outcomes for all parties involved.

Last Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed this first look into our thought process as we head deeper down the path toward our ‘Independence Day’, as I like to call it. This is the first of what I hope to be a series of posts over the next few months, so keep an eye out and we’ll see you next time.

Third party service providers mentioned in this post are separate entities from IFP. The Birth of a Technology Platform Publish Date; 11/6/2018 Author: Jordan Slack

Prior to the launch of our broker-dealer, we saw a need for a more intuitive user experience when interacting with our firm. As we sat down at a conference table overlooking Tampa Bay in the early hours of a cool March day, our team had an epiphany. A third-party technology stack was never going to provide the customization, innovative approach, or the level of direct accessibly that we prefer to provide for our advisors.

Enter Advisor[X].

We’ve invested a significant amount of time and money planning out the structure and vision of our platform. We started out by determining the core components that would create a frictionless experience for our users and then worked to identify key technology and tool providers that would grant us the flexibility to continuously improve based on user feedback. Here’s how we’re building it.

API Based

We’ve built Advisor[X] on top of established, comprehensive platforms that were developed by companies spending millions of dollars and thousands of developer man hours on R&D. This allows us to focus on what really matters: streamlining the advisor experience. Our engineering team leverages existing APIs that allow for a more efficient transmission of data across applications.

Tech Stack

The underlying tools and methodologies we’ve chosen give us the flexibility to bring features to production more quickly, without sacrificing quality or intentionality. Python, the framework we used to build Advisor[X], is the same technology used to build Instagram. In addition, many of the components that are being used in our backend logic and data interactions are also being deployed by Facebook, Google, YouTube and Dropbox among others.

We chose this stack for a few reasons. In the short term, these tools allow us to bring features to bear far less code than other frameworks. This give us flexibility in how quickly we bring features into production.

In the long term, many of the more complex concepts that will power features within Advisor[X] are being used by the leaders in these fields. The Data Science community has brought a huge amount of knowledge and resource into Python, allowing the integration of machine learning, natural language processing and other complex algorithms to be used in platforms like ours.

Feedback

Our team of stakeholders has years and years of experience in the financial industry. This combined experience has driven the vision of Advisor[X] from the beginning. That said, it is important that our users direct our roadmap. To quote our CCO, Chris Hamm: “We’re taking every advisor pain point that we encounter and creating a solution for it.”

Our platform is not being built in a vacuum; instead, our advisors have the power to guide the development and priority of features that we provide. We have already added several improvements to Advisor[X] based on ideas from our early adoption users and we are excited for what the future holds.

Final Thoughts

We set out with the goal of creating a frictionless advisor experience that would drive efficiency and reduce the cost of doing business. We’re building it to ensure that Advisor[X] will continue to be relevant as our industry changes and technology evolves. With all of that said, the importance of the tools isn’t in the technicalities; it’s about the flexibility that the tools provide. This flexibility allows us to hold true – now and in the future ¬– to our vision and ensure that Advisor[X] is the best tool for advisors.

Third party service providers (OR strategic partners) mentioned are separate entities from IFP.

In an industry driven more and more by technology, automation, and artificial intelligence, success still hinges on something very tricky: ?humans.

Ugh, humans; we’re a mess. We bounce back and forth in a never-ending cycle between failure and success, mediocrity and greatness, logic and delusion, and just about every state in between. We come in all shapes and sizes and, when we mix with other humans, the result is sometimes brilliant and sometimes disastrous. However, we need humans to run a business.

You can deploy all the technology and automation in the world, but the success of an enterprise starts and stops with the people you hire. Since I began working for my parents (around 6 years), we’ve gone from about 15 employees to almost 50, with another 15 or so on the way in a few short months.

We’re celebrating this growth, but it’s also a trying process for everyone involved.

Finding the Perfect Employee

Many employees at IFP have come and gone as we’ve ramped up from 15 to 50, giving us what feels like a more educational experience than any MBA curriculum. Did you know that some people aren’t driven by money? Some prefer a healthier work-life balance or a simple pat on the back every now and again. Sometimes a single bad seed can put the operation of your business into jeopardy. Employee and management egos can singlehandedly run a company into the ground. I didn’t understand these lessons 6 years ago, but I do now.

With so many different types of people in the world, picking the right ones for your business can be extremely difficult. Unfortunately, you never become perfect at it, but you can put some precautionary steps in place to mitigate hiring mistakes and increase the odds of adding valuable team members.

An Example

IFP is currently hiring for a few different roles, but this week we were conducting final round interviews, led by one of our divisional presidents, with candidates for one specific role that will report to him. After all the interviews, we decided that one of the candidates was the clear winner, and I believe our divisional president is preparing a job offer for him as I write this. As I reflected on how we found him, I wanted to share a few tips that got us to this point in the process.

Tip 1: A Dynamic Job Posting

If you peruse the various job posting sites like Monster or LinkedIn, you’ll see that many company job descriptions are boring and fail to reflect why candidates should be excited about the role and the company. A dynamic and unique job posting with a bit of personality helps the position stand out from the crowd. During our recent job description template revamp, we did this in a number of ways.

Providing Some Background

First, we wanted to create a succinct and engaging ‘About’ section for the company. In that section, we concisely explain:

  1. what our company does in layman’s terms,
  2. what our vision is, and
  3. why the candidate should be excited for the opportunity.

Here’s our updated job description based on those parameters:

We are a financial advisor support firm that provides services for financial advisors in all areas of their business: compliance, technology, marketing, operations, practice management, and more. Our goal is to be the easiest and most frictionless firm to work with for financial advisors and we are looking for creative and talented people to help us perpetually strive toward that goal. At IFP, innovation and user experience drive everything that we do. We are growing fast, and as we grow, we are excited to provide current and prospective employees new and exciting opportunities.

A Q&A Session

Beyond the ‘About’ section, we also wanted to concisely explain the job responsibilities and expectations. So, we created a sort of Q&A format for our job postings wherein we ask and answer questions that candidates might pose. Instead of providing canned answers, our goal here is to be as authentic as possible. Check out some example questions from our job postings below. The text in brackets would be the hiring manager’s answers.

What exactly is the job?

[Brief general description of the job and what department the position falls under.]

Who does the employee report to?

[Name of their direct manager.]

Why is this position needed?

[Give specific details explaining why this position is currently needed and how the position fits in the future of the company, which may include data-driven information.]

What type of software or unique skills are required?

[Simple list of bullet point requirements.]

What are some of the preferred skills and/or software experience that may not be required but strongly desired?

[Simple list of bullet point preferences.]

The candidate I referred to earlier specifically commented that he appreciated the tone and authentic content of the posting, saying it gave him a better feel for the company and the role. At least one person appreciated it!

Tip 2: Curate a Hiring Committee

Another strategy we recently started using was selecting and curating a hiring committee for each role we’re trying to fill. The committee typically involves the hiring manager and one or more people from our executive team, although it occasionally includes someone in a completely different department. We like to sometimes have input from an ‘outsider’ that has proven to be a good judge of talent at our firm.

Each member of the hiring committee participates in all in-person interviews with the candidates so that everyone’s opinions are based on their personal impression of the individual.

Tip 3: Be Structured, Efficient, and Streamlined with In-Person Interviews

When you have completed the initial screening process for employee candidates, which at our firm includes a resume screen by HR and a phone screen by the hiring manager, it’s time to bring the finalists into the office. During last week’s round of finalist interviews, we deployed the tactics below, which made our decision by the end of the week very easy.

1) Ask the same questions to each candidate.

This one is fairly simple and something we haven’t always done in the past, but it may become something we do more consistently based on our interviews last week. While prepping for last week’s interviews, our divisional president, and the hiring manager for the role being filled, prepared a basic list of questions he wanted to ask each candidate. By the end of the week, having asked mostly the same questions to each candidate, we found it much easier to compare the candidates and decide on a clear winner.

2) Debrief immediately after each interview.

Too often during the interview process, we have failed to gather our hiring committee and discuss everyone’s opinions on each candidate. We now schedule debriefing sessions at the end of each candidate interview to discuss our thoughts and reflect on their qualifications.

This small adjustment to our interview workflow allows us to document everyone’s perspectives while they’re top of mind and quickly decide if the candidate should move to the next step in our hiring process.

3) Schedule interviews close together.

We believe that hiring decisions should be discussed and executed on when they’re fresh in everyone’s minds, so we try our best to schedule candidate interviews as close together as possible. Last week we spoke with all the candidates over two days and it was, as a result, much easier to compare and contrast their respective pros and cons.

Closing Thoughts

Finding qualified candidates and properly vetting them is no picnic. From the moment they interact with your business to the moment they get hired, it can be an experience that transcends a cookie cutter process. However, there are guidelines and templates that can separate the less desirable applicants from the gold, but it takes some seriously dedication and time from your team.

If you have any questions or comments about this blog post, please reach out to me at [email protected] Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next time.

The other day I walked into a financial advisor’s office and was immediately meet with wall pattern designs from the 90s, drop-out ceiling tiles, and a bowl full of Werther’s Originals chilling on the counter for good measure. While I appreciate the trip down memory lane to the early 2000s when I was waiting for my physical at the doctor’s office, this isn’t the type of environment you probably want to foster for clients.

As you can probably guess from the title, I wanted to talk about office space today and how you can produce a more inviting space with some simple tweaks. Let’s jump right in.

1. Make the Lobby Memorable

The lobby is the first place clients see when visiting your office. Consider that it sets the mood for their entire meeting, meaning it could relax them or it could cause them to be slightly unnerved. Also consider that it reflects on your business as a whole. Are you trustworthy? Does your firm strive to take a modern approach to financial advice? Do you care about your clients?

The lobby’s atmosphere can be far more impactful than you might think, especially if you’re going out of your way to ensure it’s a pleasant experience.

Wall and Flooring Design

If you’re still clinging onto one of those zigzag designs or another painfully dated pattern, it’s time to make a change. Make sure the new walls and flooring are something you feel represents your business while also serving to sooth and reassure current and prospective clients.

Furniture

Nothing says ‘come on in and sit down’ like a dusty floral couch with one of those protective plastic covers or a sterile plastic chair with no place to rest your arms, right? Furniture can make a serious statement to people visiting, especially if the seating is outrageously comfortable. It’s also important to consider the color and style and how it pairs with the rest of the room.

2. Introduce Special Favors

Now, if you’re going to introduce something cool for clients to get excited about, it certain isn’t going to be that bowl of old candy you’ve got sitting in a corner. No, we need something that puts a smile on their face.

Beverages

A soda, coffee, or cup of orange juice is perfect for setting the tone of a meeting. We want them to feel comfortable in the office and ready to have a productive conversation with their trusted confidant. Don’t forget to offer refills if their meeting stretches beyond the typical time period!

Food

It might be worthwhile to offer a few smart snacks such as granola bars or fruit while they wait. Unless they ask, I probably wouldn’t offer this amenity past the lobby, as it might prove to be a bit awkward to have them chowing down while you’re discussing their finances.

Reading Material

Magazines are a waiting room classic, although you can offer books as well if you’re so inclined. Also, do us all a favor and keep the magazines up to date. As interesting as it was, no one wants to read that article from 1972 about how Watergate is currently affecting our economy.

Free Wi-Fi

As long as your clients aren’t planning on hacking the NSA from your wi-fi network, I’d recommend giving them free access. It’s a small perk, but it can make their time in the waiting room that much more pleasant.

Charging Station

Although we hope your clients are waiting for too long, providing an area where they can charge their phone can be a godsend. Should their phones die in the waiting room, it could put them in a bad mood before they even get in your office.

3. Create an Impression

An impression is as much about presentation as it is setting the atmosphere. With a few simple tweaks, you can make a big splash with clients before they even sit down in your office.

Smart Technology Usage

Everyone has a clipboard. You go to your doctor’s office, it’s a clipboard. You go to your dentist, it’s a clipboard. You go to your optometrist, you guessed it – it’s a clipboard. Either remove the sign in process or make it fun with a tablet to simplify the entire ordeal while digitally cataloging meetings with clients. It’s a win-win.

You can also use text messaging to remind clients about their appointments and confirm they will attend. This can be an effective way to engage with clients, ensuring they will attend their meeting.

Use Surveys

Want to know what your clients truly desire? Ask them! Surveys help everyone involved; clients feel like they’re heard and you’re able to use that precious feedback to enhance the office visit experience for next time they drop by. However, remember to make the survey simple and easy to answer. No one will appreciate spending 30 minutes filling out the most monotonous survey they’ve ever received in their life.

Final Thoughts

This might seem overwhelming to you. I get it. Start with something small and work yourself up to the big stuff like furniture or completely redecorating. Also, if you’re not really keen on enhancing the lobby experience, try sprucing up your office a bit. Add comfy chairs, offer beverages from the mini fridge, or change up the design of the room.

Either way, it’s about making clients happy and getting them to enjoy the experience of visiting your office.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next time. If you have any questions about this article, send it to my inbox and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible!