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Program managers across the country give their insights and advice

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Once we determined the final winners for this year’s Top 25 Program Managers, we sent some of them a short list of questions on management. Not everyone answered each question, and there was a lot of overlap (especially about the Department of Labor), some of which we reduced or deleted. We also deleted answers that simply touted the virtues of their third-party marketers.

But after that, we took a light hand, editing mostly for flow. So here is the result, a lightly edited version of the insights and advice from our top program managers.

Q: What are the biggest management challenges facing bank program managers now and how are you meeting that challenge?
There are many challenges, but the biggest is helping advisers adapt to the DoL fiduciary rule. In my 25 years in the business, this is by far the biggest change that the majority of our advisers have experienced. They will need to deal with new procedures, new technology, new products, and along the way have their compensation most likely effected. My biggest concern is keeping our staff engaged and feeling they are not alone in these challenges.... I worry that many may feel paralyzed by the new requirements. In the last eight months we have focused on helping our advisers feel comfortable with our planning software and mitigating administrative work.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to find good seasoned advisers, particularly those who fit in with a bank or credit union environment…We have had a lot of success developing LBEs and promoting them into the adviser position.

The biggest challenge I see for traditional bank advisers is the transition from commission-based products to advisory or trail type business…. I am meeting this challenge by educating the bank executives and advisers. I am having them focus their perspectives on the long-term objectives of the bank investment program.

The biggest challenge is changing the way advisers approach the business. Most advisers focus on products such as managed money UITs or asset allocation strategies, and they think this is what will drive their success….But it’s the client experience that will separate one adviser from the rest. We are focused on creating a client experience that delivers a value proposition that will not be duplicated in our markets. This will allow an adviser to create a brand that will deliver client referrals as well as banker referrals thus producing the revenue growth expected.

Q: What is your biggest objective over the next three years?
Over the next three years we are planning to grow our high-net-worth distribution by rolling out trust services as part of our overall wealth management offerings, enhancing our planning capabilities supporting and funding CFP attainment of all our reps, and potentially purchasing books of business.

My critical objectives for the next few years are recruit, retain, succession. All of these are imperative to see continued growth in a lower fee environment. There are fewer advisers in the marketplace, and there will be fewer still over the next five years, because of retirement projections.

My biggest objective over the next three years is to help our bank become the institution that gets investments, trust and banking all working together with every segment of the customer base. Each department could bring tremendous value to the table, however, they all too often work in silos. This does not allow the bank to benefit from the potential synergy. We all see the studies and it is no wonder that as clients obtain wealth, most of the time it moves to the wire houses.

Our three-year objectives include: increase our bank customer penetration by 5%; increase our life insurance production; and help advisers become more productive by book segmentation. We are working with our marketing department to be more strategic with our campaigns which also includes life insurance campaigns. We are also instituting an inside sales desk to handle accounts under $25,000 and focusing on helping advisers work up in opportunities.

Recruiting and retaining quality advisers is the biggest objective over the next three years.

Q: What’s your best piece of career advice for rookie advisers?
The most important thing a rookie adviser can do is build solid relationships with all of the branch personnel. Show the branch employees exactly what you do and exactly how you can help the bank customers. Make them believers in you, your process and exactly what you do.

I recommend that all younger advisers start as an associate or junior adviser. The business has become very complex and attaching themselves to a mentor is imperative. This also helps in future succession planning for the program and builds a bench going forward. This has really worked well for us.

Find your market. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Develop some niches and be passionate about the type of advice you provide. Be active and very visible in your market.

Focus on activities, not the outcome. Identify your strengths and seek to improve your weaknesses. Go to Toastmasters if you fear public speaking. We help the adviser identify the high-impact activities and then coach to execution of the process. Review the activities that are focused around your target audience (i.e. bankers or external centers of influence.) And never stop networking with positive successful people in the business because you never want to stop learning.

Focus on long-term relationships rather than transactions. Lead with planning and goal-setting, and position yourself as the go-to person for your clients as they traverse life stages.

All content from this year's Top Program Managers:
Top 25 program managers
Program managers: Categorically the best
Voices Is the branch-based adviser model dead?
Program managers bridging gap in new world
Program managers across the country give their insights and advice

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