In a recent blog, Samantha Allen of Financial Planning Magazine asked the question: Financial Advisor vs. Firm: Whose Brand Matters More? This is a question many advisors struggle to answer because, as she aptly put it: “Advisors are essentially sales professionals for the bigger companies, and their personal relationships are key to a firm’s success… yet the firm’s overall reputation supports advisors as well.” So how can an advisor decide which brand to promote? By answering three questions:
How well is my name known in the community?
If an advisor has a strong reputation in his community, perhaps due to a long family history, political ties, charitable work, or a track-record of good business practices, promoting a personal brand may be more effective than using a national brand name. If an advisor is just starting out however, and few people know him, he would probably benefit from promoting the national brand to boost his credibility.
Do I have the time, energy, and financial resources to promote my own personal brand?
Building a brand’s reputation requires tremendous effort. It can also be extremely costly to draft marketing materials, advertising copy, and key messaging that will make the brand appealing to consumers. If an advisor dreams of building an empire around his or her name, than this effort is required. If however, the focus is on keeping things simple, doing decent production, and eventually selling a book of business, than promoting a national brand may serve that purpose more effectively.
What is my succession plan?
If an advisor is nearing retirement and plans to sell her practice, she needs to make sure her brand is salable. It’s unlikely that John Smith will be eager to purchase a firm called Sally Johnson Wealth Management. In such cases, an advisor would be better served by promoting a national brand. On the other hand, if he or she intends to hand the practice down to a child, keeping a family name on the door may be ideal.
Ultimately, both approaches have benefits and drawbacks. If an advisor chooses to align with a national brand, his success or failure will always be tied into that brand. What if there is a scandal? What if that company goes bankrupt? What if they stop providing the advisor with good support? All such ‘what ifs’ need to be taken into consideration. Furthermore, if an advisor decides to transition to a new firm, what then? Will their business name change? How will their clients perceive this change?
Whether to promote a personal brand or a national brand is a business decision that merits careful consideration. If you’re unsure what to do, why not ask your clients. You might find their comments to be very eye opening.