3 Things Wirehouse Advisors Need to Know Before Breaking Away

by Benjamin Beck, CFP® Benjamin Beck, CFP® | July 23, 2020

In the financial advisory and investment world, Wirehouses are the franchises of the industry. Morgan Stanley, Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch, or UBS: there’s a lot to be said for an established framework and the support that comes from these big names. But they can also be hard to advance in and extremely limited when it comes to helping your clients. If you’re a wirehouse advisor looking to break away to go independent or just a firm, we’re glad to say the process has never been easier.

Leaving is Not as Complex as You Fear

The major fear we hear from wirehouse advisors who want to make the transition is making sure their clients can as well. This is both technical and physiological, and thankfully on both fronts, we’ve seen advancements to make things more comfortable in the shift.

  • Transferring a book is easier than ever. As both wirehouses and independent firms improve their technology, moving a book is not as a labor-intensive process as people believe.
  • Clients are more attached to advisors. The best advisors have strong relationships with their clients, and those clients are more aware and comfortable with the transition than ever before.

Advice for wirehouse advisers: Always position yourself as the resource, not the firm. You want to show your value to your clients. Therefore, in the event you leave the firm, they come with you, not stay with the firm.

James Bode

Technology has Leveled the Playing Field

Wirehouses get their name from the strings of the private telegraph and telephone lines that would connect them to their primary brokerage firms. Technology has moved on a lot since then, not only eroding the advantage that these wirehouses had over other firms, but also their ability to be the only ones to play on a high level. Great technology and apps have flooded the market, make it easier to not only start up or join a firm but also continue to provide great service to your clients from anywhere.

It’s important to understand how far programs have come for trading, managing money, and financial planning. Smaller firms can take advantage of new technology as early adopters while larger companies plod along with approved vendors and “in-house” programs made by the lowest bidder. It’s this new technology that – at worse – puts you on a level playing field, and more likely a step ahead.

As our own James Bodes says, “One of the biggest myths about wirehouse firms is that they have the best technology. However, in reality, at an RIA you have the ability to pick what suits your business and clients best.”

Why the Grass IS Greener on the Other Side

We’ve all heard the expression, but in this case, it is true. A lot of our advisors have made the jump from larger firms and wirehouses, and have never looked back. A few examples:

  • Autonomy: Working for yourself or picking the right firm allows you to help your clients the way you think will maximize their investments, not limited by boilerplate procedures.
  • Technology: One of the most stifling things about wirehouses is the archaic applications you have to use. Find the best technology that works for both you and your clients (just avoid the robo-advisors).
  • Independence: We all know there are better (and faster and cheaper) ways of doing things. Having the freedom to pursue them – in a dream work environment – is what independence is all about.
  • Higher Pay: One of the things you trade for the false security of a wirehouse is your own wealth. You can even find firms that avoid commissions altogether.

At Beck Bode, LLC, we’ve helped many wirehouse advisors and clients find a better way of doing business, with a unique investment philosophy and deeply engrained ethics in everything we do. We’re always here to talk about the next step of your career and answer questions about transferring books and clients. Check out our team portal for information on how we can help and joining us.

Ben Beck is Managing Partner & Chief Investment Officer at Beck Bode, a deliberately different wealth management firm with a unique view on investing, business and life.


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