As reported in Forbes, this week (Sep. 21 thru Sep. 28) is National Expungement Week.
AdvisorLaw recently had the honor of attending the inaugural gala of our charitable partner, Global Orphan Prevention, whom supports a truly remarkable mission of improving the lives of young women susceptible to trafficking across the world. They crushed their first-year goals and raised over $113,000 to assist in those efforts.
The experience has inspired our President and Founder, Doc Kennedy, to match those efforts. But his pledge is for the exclusive benefit of financial advisors.
Since AdvisorLaw is the "800 lb gorilla" in the field of FINRA expungements, this is the perfect time for us to put our money where our mouth is. Doc has set aside $113,000 of the firm's funds to credit any new expungement case for a financial advisor seeking removal of their Customer Dispute or U5 Termination disclosures.
Advisors with these disclosures will have up until Friday, Sep. 27th at 2 p.m.(EDT) to open their new FINRA expungement case and receive up to a $1,500 credit until all funds are depleted. Since this is likely the last year that FINRA's expungement process will allow all comers and offer great win-rates, this will be your last chance to have the best firm in the nation represent you.
We always offer free consultations to determine if expungement makes sense for you and your business.
Call or email us today.
When a retiring advisor’s clients know their advisor's plan for retirement and have started to build a relationship with the successor, success that the book will transition and stay with the successor is much more likely. On the flip side, if an advisor is nearing retirement, and clients are left wondering what will happen next, the retiring advisor is sending a message to the clients that they should start looking for a new advisor. This is precisely why having a clearly-defined succession plan helps to ensure that advisors maintain both business and personal relationships as they transition.
The development of a strong succession plan can have a long lead time. It can take at a minimum of 3 to 5 years to make sure all systems are in place.
Five Considerations To Make When Transitioning:
Step 1: Find The Right Successor
One of the most difficult steps of succession is finding the right advisor to take care of the clients for whom you have been responsible throughout your career. These are people whom you have been helping to achieve most of their life’s milestones.
Whether you look outside the firm or end up handing your clients over to someone at your current firm, be sure to give yourself enough lead time. This part of the process always takes longer than you expect. The goal should be to find an advisor with a similar style and personality as yours. This will make it easier on the client and will likely lead to lower attrition.
Step 2: Determine Which Financial Institution You Feel Comfortable With
If you decide to stay associated with your current broker-dealer, there will likely be less issues, and this is—by far—the path of least resistance. However, if your future successor is at another broker-dealer, it is very important to work with the new broker-dealer’s transition team to make sure that your current book of business will map over properly and that clients will not be impacted negatively by the move. This will help to minimize the fallout potential.
3. Decide What You Want From Retirement
Not everyone feels comfortable completely shutting down a career and letting go of countless long-term relationships. So consider whether you want to continue to work part-time for a few years and slowly shut it down or if you would prefer to make your plans known far in advance and walk out with no strings attached.
Just as you have coached your clients on the many different investment options, you should start thinking about what you want the next phase of your life to look like. Once you have made some personal retirement decisions, you can begin putting the timeline of your plans in place.
4. Develop A Written Contract
It is imperative that all of the verbal agreements and informal arrangements become part of a formal, written contract. Not only does this offer clarity and a solid understanding for all parties, but it can also serve as a blueprint for your succession plan. It’s best to work with a legal professional, in order to make sure that you and your potential successor are on the same page. Eliminating any gray areas is essential.
5. Let Go
At this point in your career, most of your long-term clients are like family members. The relationships that advisors create with their clients are what makes them come to work every day. Advisors really struggle, wondering if the next advisor will always be there for their clients in the same what that they have been all along. At this point, remember that you picked your current successor for a reason and that it is now their time to take the reigns.
On Wednesday, while on vacation, an advisor got a call from his broker-dealer’s compliance department. It was from a young woman who was fairly new to the compliance team. She accused him of altering client-signed documents and cutting and pasting a client signature. In essence, the financial advisor was being accused of fraud.
The advisor got on a plane home Thursday, very concerned for his future and with good reason, as it turns out.
On Friday, after reaching out to contacts in the securities industry and receiving a referral, he engaged Michelle Atlas at AdvisorLaw. Michelle spent 10 years on compliance teams at broker-dealers and now works for individual advisors, helping them protect and defend their livelihood.
Together, over the next week, Michelle and the advisor crafted carefully-worded responses to multiple emails from compliance. Ultimately, the compliance supervisor became involved. Michelle coached the advisor on how to respond to specific questions when he was on the phone with compliance.
In the end, the following Tuesday (13 days later), the advisor was required to affirm in writing his understanding of the firm policies. The event was over—no heightened supervision, no letter of caution, no further actions by the firm.
This could have gone very differently. The compliance supervisor confided that, earlier in the year, the firm had ultimately terminated another advisor for a similar instance. Once a U5 termination is filed, FINRA often opens a regulatory inquiry, which can then lead to a FINRA enforcement action and may ultimately end in sanctions, including a fine and a suspension or even a bar from the securities industry.
How you respond to what may seem like an innocent compliance question regarding any of your sales practices or document processing can be the difference between a few hours of inconvenience and the destruction of your hard-earned business. It only makes sense to ask a professional for help.
Defense attorneys often lament that they spend most of their time trying to reposition and reframe statements that a client has made in response to an initial question. When a person is taken off guard, because he cannot believe he is being accused of some wrongdoing, he is not at his best.
Thankfully, this financial advisor had the wisdom to reach out to an experienced professional. Now, for him, it is business as usual.
President and Founder
This blog is our ongoing effort to inform and educate FINRA licensed professionals about the evolving regulatory ecosystem in which we operate.