New Survey Reveals Principals and Staff Disagree on Top Priorities

By Cynthia Stephens, VP of Marketing on Thursday, May 31st, 2012

How would you rate the effectiveness of the internal communications in your multi-family office or advisory firm?  If you wouldn’t give it at least a “B” grade, it may be time to steer to a new course.

Many advisory firms have a focus on improving communications with high-net-worth clients in order to sustain client loyalty and drive referrals.  I suspect that far fewer focus on improving intra-office communications.

Unfortunately, communications issues can multiply as firms scale, so it is better to invest for growth now.

A recent ByAllAccounts survey found a disconnect between principals and operations staff.  Below are two recommendations for navigating sometimes choppy waters.

Align Operational Teams with Business Teams

The ByAllAccounts team's recent Advisor Trends in Operations and Technology Survey found out that manual data entry is a bigger operational headache than many principals realize.

Only 6.9% of principals said their operations teams spend more than 20 hours per month manually entering data.

In contrast, fully one quarter of operations folks said it took more than 20 hours.

These numbers are consistent with anecdotal information I’ve heard.

So, what’s the solution? You may choose not to use technology to reduce manual entry, but you should be aware of how much time your firm is spending on it.

Schedule a quarterly meeting with the head of operations and several principals to openly discuss ways to invest for growth and scale the firm.  A relatively small problem today with 10-30 accounts could become a much bigger one as the firm grows.

"The day soldiers stop bring you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them."

— General Colin Powell

Create a Clear Business Strategy, Communicate it and Steer to It

Before you can align teams internally and foster communication, it’s key to have a clear vision and strategy for the business.

For instance, firms that have made a decision to be primarily single-custodian shops because they don’t want the complexity of trading on multiple platforms will have different business and operational challenges than multi-custodian firms.

When we asked respondents what their firm’s greatest challenge was overall, 37.5% of principals said the top challenge was client acquisition, whereas most operations staff 18.5%  said the challenge was technology and infrastructure related issues.

Does everyone in your firm share a common vision?  As a marketer, defining the vision, positioning and messaging for a firm is a key component of the role.

Often the focus is communicating this externally.  It needs to be shared internally first.

“You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can't get them across, your ideas won't get you anywhere.”

— Lee Iacocca

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