I’ve heard the transition from financial advisor to wealth advisor referred to as the nirvana of financial advising in a financial institution. There is a true quality of life improvement and the development of a stronger relationship with the client as opposed to a sales-driven chase between you and the client. This transition means no longer worrying about the next referral or where the next transaction is coming from to be successful.

Making this ambitious transition does not happen by accident. It requires a well-thought-out plan and execution.

Things to consider in the plan:

  • Service Level Agreement
  • Create ongoing revenue in your relationships
  • Less is more
  • Building a team
  • Tools you will need

Service Level Agreement (SLA)

Have a written contract with your clients from the start. The contract will set clear expectations and help them understand what you will be doing for them. Delivering on these set expectations will ensure you have satisfied, lifelong clients who will also be your future business development officers – as happy clients refer friends like themselves, who typically have a similar financial profile.

To get started today, look at your book of business and identify your top clients, i.e. clients of the type that you would like to replicate. By developing a client contract and implementing it with this group of clients, expectations will be clear, and when you deliver on the contract, you’ll see that they become your best supporters.

Create Ongoing Revenue

In preparation for this move to wealth advisor, it is important to focus on building recurring revenue, ensuring your business has reliable revenue as its foundation. This frees you to move away from a daily focus on transactional income and allows you to spend more time strengthening the individual relationships you have with each client. Start by focusing on a relationship approach to your business and build your fee-based assets. Also consider taking less upfront on your annuity sales and building the ongoing revenue trails. Clients are willing and expect to pay for the services you promise and deliver in your SLA.

Less is More

Don’t be held hostage by your existing book of business. All too often representatives in financial institutions find themselves with 500-1,000 clients. Or conversely, if they have fewer, reps may think that they need more of the institution’s branches and assets to be successful. This thought process can actually limit your success. I refer to it as the law of diminishing returns. If you are overridden by service issues or have no real business plan and are just chasing referrals from branch to branch you may already be there. 

Analyze your book. How many assets under management (AUM) would you be left with if you handed off the lower ½ of your investors? The lower ¾? What you see may surprise you. Consider the recurring revenue you are gaining from the top remaining clients vs. the whole book. Free yourself to create stronger relationships with the clients that can make you truly successful.

Build a Team

Determine what your business will look like and build a team to support this vision. A solid level of recurring revenue makes budgeting easier; however, you must consider how the fixed costs and team expenses fit into the financial model. There are several factors to consider in your strategy. Will you maintain responsibility for the full book, including the smaller AUM clients? Consider a junior associate to service these accounts. Will you be delegating responsibility for the smaller accounts to focus solely on relationships with the larger investors? If so, you may want to consider an administrative assistant to help coordinate the touches and keep the calendar full. 


Top clients have high expectations of their advisors. The delivery of these services according to the terms of your SLA will surely set you apart from your peers. You should become proficient in utilizing financial planning software to deliver a comprehensive financial plan. It is most efficient if the software is integrated into your client management system. Also, your clients will appreciate a continuing review of how their assets are performing. Empower yourself with a performance reporting tool that allows for a comprehensive review of all the holdings to be easily updated at a moment’s notice. Finally, be sure to have an online access point so that your clients may personally monitor their accounts.

Although transitioning from financial advisor to wealth advisor can be very rewarding, it may not be easy; however, it is reachable with a thoughtful plan and careful execution. The plan requires strategic usage of resources including time, technology, staffing and, above all, your relationships.

By Kevin Mummau
EVP, Program Development, CFS and SPF