Discussion With a Star Wholesaler
Invesco’s Best Reviewed Wholesaler
Credo runs a mystery shopping research program called Credo’s SEA. (SEA stands for Service Experience Audit.) Essentially, we have advisors across the country who are willing to complete a short survey about the experience they had with any wholesaler who calls on them. We have the simple expectation that they should complete the survey very shortly after their meeting so that their experience remains fresh in their minds. We pay these advisors a very small stipend ($10) for participating in the research and we allow them to participate in Credo’s Investor Referral Generation System.
At the end of 2017, we had collected enough data to rate and rank 381 wholesalers. We consider the top ten wholesalers in the industry as stars — plain and simple. They are so well regarded by the advisors they call on that they earn better scores from the advisors they call on than any other wholesalers in the industry. They are truly client-centric.
What are their secrets? Why are they so well reviewed?
Here is a selection of notes made from an interview with Invesco’s best-rated wholesaler.
HJM: Where do you think the industry is heading?
IW: This is something I think about a lot and that I talk about every day. It’s the number one conversation I have with advisors. …Change is a huge part of what’s happening in the industry. [Among advisors,] there are three camps in the industry. Those who are embracing change, those who are taking a “wait-and-see” approach and those who are just going to sell their book when it all goes through. Those people [the third group,] will play a significant role in the business as junior advisors are going to be able to maximize their growth through acquisition. What will emerge will be a new kind of advisor. We’ve been through a strong period with positive investments for quite some time and that has created rose coloured glasses among people in the industry but there are definitely challenges ahead with respect to both the market and regulations… and these are going to change people’s perceptions quite dramatically in the next couple of years. Who knows what the catalyst will be, but it’s pretty obvious that there are some natural catalysts out there.
I’m very focused on the very real possibility of a financial planning shock to the financial advice landscape. The question will be, who can afford investments and who can afford both investments and planning. Regulators have the potential to shape the price of advice …the price of planning. And, with uncertainty around emerging technologies, this has been crippling the industry. There is tremendous potential for disruption because there have been so many dealerships that have been reluctant to evolve because of these uncertainties. So there is potential for a lot of change in the next few years depending on the banner on your door, if you’re an advisor. The smaller you are, the more you have to lean on an Invesco or a Mackenzie or some of the independents out there to be that resource for you… to supply a bolt-on type of tool for your advisors. I think the dealerships that are open to having a creative conversation about how to operate effectively as a part of the larger system will be the ones that will succeed in the asset gathering game going forward and will set the tone for the evolution of the business.
HJM: What are some of the things you do that distinguish you as one of the best wholesalers in the industry?
IW: To create value for my clients… the advisors I work with… I put my company’s brand and any discussion of product on the back burner. And, though it sounds cliche… I really try to understand the advisor. I have a discussion with them about the things that are shaping the industry and I ask them what thought they have given to these issues and how these will shape their business. I explore how they are prepared to evolve with the changing business. Technology… evolving regulations… tax policy… I begin with conversation around these things and where I can provide insight, either my own or from third-party research or from my company, I do. Just having a strong conversation it really essential. If I bring value through these kinds of conversations, I find it’s easy to get the second, third and fourth meetings… and, in those meetings… we begin with the context of understanding the challenges in the advisor’s business. And, if issues come up where I can see the possibility of using a product to create a solution, I’ll say, “here’s something that may help with fixed income, or whatever it might be.”
I’ve spent considerable time building relationships with the next generation of advisor, building networking groups and social groups. Advisors who are involved in succession planning with more senior advisors. Of course, I involve those senior advisors in the conversation to some degree… sharing ideas and strategies. I see myself as having a long runway in this industry and I want to create a path with advisors who have a similarly long runway. I spend my time creating value in their business and I wait for them to ask for product… perhaps too long, sometimes… I have to give myself an hour and a half for meetings, because people just want to talk with me… about the things that are shaping the industry. People want to share their insights and dig deeper. Advisors don’t have a lot of outlets to speak about the things that are shaping their business, certainly not outside speaking with direct competitors so I provide them with that opportunity, in some respect. And I don’t think a lot of fund companies are making the effort to make this the front-end of their conversations.
Being a wholesaler is the art of connecting with people and you cannot send a green, 25-year old MBA in to meet a 60-year old advisor and expect there to be a connection. I don’t think the value of meeting people, learning about them and treating them like a human being ever dies. Wholesaling will always have that at its foundation. And, though we’ve talked as an industry about wholesalers being consultants, for the most part, they are not. But, with all the change and evolution in the industry currently, there really is a need for consultants who are prepared to help advisors make the kinds of transitions that we’re going to be watchin in the next few years. Wholesalers who assume that role and help advisors with their changes will position themselves to own important, valuable relationships for the longer term.
There will always be a core group of advisors that wants to be taken to the hockey games or to the Toronto film festival. That’s a part of the business. But thinking outside the box about how you can add value for advisors… last week, I took five women advisors to a session about effectively using social media… the session was run by a local university… it wasn’t something that was a financial industry initiative… I just ran across the session and I knew a few people that it would appeal to… so I just called them up and said, we should do this… it costs $30, but I’ll take care of it… come down, have a glass of wine and we’ll do this and they loved it. It’s stuff like that that takes me further than simply talking about asset allocation.
Doing this requires that you be very organized and structured. You have to have a lot of things on the go and, for that, you have to be really organized. Planning is a big part of making it work.