An HR Primer for Newly Independent Financial Advisors

If you’re considering leaving—or have already left—your wirehouse to become an independent financial advisor, there are a number of new tasks you’ll need to undertake.
One area you may not be familiar with as you begin your independent journey is human resources (HR). While your prior firm may have covered things like finding staff, onboarding, and managing company culture, these activities will now fall on your shoulders as you build your team and business from the ground up.

Having an HR strategy is crucial; it will help ensure that you have the right employees doing the right jobs, contributing to a more efficient, profitable, and scalable practice.

Luckily, you don’t need to go it alone. The right firm partner can offer a road map and support you each step of the way. As you begin your search and start thinking about a move, here’s a primer for building an HR strategy that can help you manage your most valuable asset—the people on your team.

1) Establish a Shared Vision

People can more easily row in the same direction when the destination is clear. As you build your team, consider establishing a statement that defines your mission (what you want to achieve) and your vision (how you’ll go about doing that).

Think beyond the obvious goals you’d find at any advisory firm, like putting clients first or having integrity. Instead, think about how you like to work, the environments where you have succeeded, and what workplace characteristics you value most. There’s a reason why you wanted to branch out on your own; use that to locate the right individuals who align with your goals.

Once you’ve written your mission and vision statements, set them as guideposts for new hires and when evaluating team members in the future. If you’re bringing in staff you’ve worked with previously, they can help build your ideal culture and ensure that it perseveres.

2) Determine Where You Need Support

Workplaces are like sports teams—they succeed best when they include a diverse set of people with complementary skills and ideas.

Before considering job titles, think about the capabilities your firm will need to thrive. Perhaps you’ll need a mix of people with client engagement skills, in-depth market knowledge and planning abilities, compliance expertise, fluency with technology, operational know-how, and more.

Then, consider how these characteristics can complement specific roles and staff. Thinking about the skills needed will also help you write more effective job descriptions and expectations for each position.

And remember, not every contributor needs to be a full-time employee. You may be able to access part-time and freelance support, which could evolve into full-time roles when you need them.

3) Use Online Resources and Your Network to Recruit

When creating a job post, don’t be afraid to get creative and let people know why your company will be an exciting and unique place to work.

Be clear about the skills you’re looking for and the minimum requirements needed to meet the expectations of the role, including years of experience, educational preferences, or professional designations.

In addition, you’ll want to provide a sense of what people will be doing and what the environment is like, including whom they will be reporting to and the primary tasks of the job.

Online career platforms—such as LinkedIn and Indeed—can help you get the word out that you have a position to fill. You can also use local resources, like job boards at your Chamber of Commerce’s website. Using social media platforms can help you spread the word, too. Plus, each time your contacts share or comment on your post, it will help distribute your message to a wider audience.

4) Narrow Down Applicants and Tackle Interviews

A two-phased interview approach can help you zero in on the best-fit candidates.
In the first phase, consider starting with a phone screening to learn about the applicant. During the call, you can ask about work history, what they’re looking for, and what they see as their strengths and weaknesses.

If all goes well, move on to phase two, where you can set up an in-person or video meeting. You can probe more deeply into how the candidate has dealt with challenging situations, like an angry client or work overload, and how they believe they can help your firm grow.
Keep questions open-ended, so you can elicit responses that are more descriptive than simply yes or no.

After the phase-two interview, you may consider administering an assessment to uncover a candidate's probable work-related behaviors. The Predictive Index can help you build a team of people with complementary capabilities.

5) Set and Communicate Expectations from the Start

As best as you can, try to set clear expectations for how your staff ought to engage with clients and conduct themselves at work. Regarding clients, clear guidelines are especially important to ensure that your team is transparent and compliant.

For staff, you may want to document everything, from the dress code to work hours to how time-off requests should be handled.

At first, setting these expectations within a small firm may seem overly formal, but an employee handbook can be useful to clarify procedures and can be adjusted as you scale your company.

6) Encourage Professional Development

As your company grows, your staff will want to grow with it. Consider professional development opportunities for team members who are with you from the start and have the skillset to take their positions and careers to the next level.

You may not have the budget at first to offer people additional training or continuing education or even send them to industry or professional events. But your firm partner should be able to help. Companies like Commonwealth offer programs that help familiarize new staff with technology, operations, and available resources. In addition, there are plenty of free or low-cost options available online that can help your team improve both hard and soft skills to benefit themselves and your business.

7) Foster a Diverse and Inclusive Environment

According to a recent McKinsey & Company study on diversity, companies diverse in both gender and ethnic groups outperform their less diverse peers on profitability. And when it comes to employee happiness, the CNBC|SurveyMonkey Workforce Survey shows that workers who say their company is “not doing enough” to prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) scored lower on the Workforce Happiness Index than those who say their company is doing “about the right amount” or “going too far” on DEI issues.

DEI should extend beyond HR. It should be a key ingredient in your overall business strategy. Inclusion is about authentically and genuinely welcoming historically underrepresented and less privileged groups. By creating an environment where your staff are comfortable being themselves, they won’t feel as though they must leave aspects of themselves at home before coming to work each day. And that’s not just socially responsible; it also makes good business sense.

8) Partner with a Firm That Can Help

There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to HR, but the right firm partner will understand what it takes to support a thriving practice. Many firms, like Commonwealth, offer practice management support and resources to help with everything from hiring and onboarding to staff management and development.

When you’re ready to decide on a partner, make sure the firm can help you hire and train your staff, offer professional development opportunities, and get your brand-new team up to speed with new technologies and industry trends. The right firm should also be able to provide insights, such as appropriate interview questions, how to use a Predictive Index assessment, and the benefits of performance reviews, as well as answer any questions about implementing an HR strategy that meets your needs.

To learn more about how Commonwealth can help you build and maintain a highly effective team for your independent advisory firm, start a conversation with us today.




Connect with Us

Tell us a little about yourself. We'll begin a conversation about your business and how Commonwealth can help move your practice forward.