Defining Your Breakaway Firm’s Unique Value Proposition

A recent industry survey indicates that one hundred percent (that's right, 100%!) of advisors who have broken away from a broker-dealer or wirehouse are happier to be independent and would do it all again.

 When you think about the reasons advisors pursue independence, it makes sense: higher payouts, better client relationships, more flexibility to serve their clients their own way, and the chance to build their own vision for their careers.

But the breakaway road isn’t all glory, no guts; it’s a lot of work to set out on your own. Things advisors don’t have to think about at behemoth firms (such as insurance, compliance, custodial partners, billing, trading, and reporting technology) now become their responsibility as business owners.

Then there are the intangible factors, as well. In addition to the legal and logistical work of setting up your own firm, you also need to be thinking about what’s going to set you apart in an increasingly saturated RIA market. Even if you bring most or all of your clients with you to your new firm, growth will be key to your success, especially during the first couple of years.

Establishing your RIA’s unique value proposition will help guide the messages on your website, the emails you send, the social media posts you write, and more.

So how should a breakaway advisor go about identifying and then articulating why investors should work with them instead of their competitors? Start by answering these five questions.

Why did you go independent in the first place? This is a perfect jumping-off point for building your unique value proposition, because it’s likely that your reasoning for breaking away from your old firm had a lot to do with serving your clients. What do you want to do for your clients at your new firm that you weren’t able to do before?

What do your clients think? Ask your three best clients what they love about working with you, and why. It’ll be more effective to hear from them what they believe makes you unique, and the impact you’ve had on their lives, than to try to figure it out yourself. Plus, your current clients are one of the best representations of your target market. Use their language to craft your messages to your future clients.

Is there a niche market you’re well equipped to serve? Another avenue to consider is niching down at your RIA, if you haven’t done this already. If you have solid business acumen, for example, you might be able to layer business coaching or consulting into your wealth management services for small business owners. Or, if you focus on certain professionals, like educators, government employees, and gig workers, you can offer them tailored advice and guidance since their circumstances are likely different than those who are in more traditional occupations.

Is the experience you provide different? What about the experience of working with you? Think about things like offering both in-person and virtual meeting options, providing monthly financial education webinars, hosting workshops, etc. You can set your RIA apart by delivering experiences your clients are excited to talk about and share with their friends and family.

Is investment management one of your strengths? For a lot of advisors, being able to build and manage their own models is a big part of why they left their broker-dealer or wirehouse in the first place. If that’s true for you, your investment management philosophy could be a strong differentiator, especially if you’re leveraging a partner that enables you to truly create custom advisor-managed models.

Perhaps most importantly, defining your value proposition shouldn’t feel like work – it should feel like the opportunity to connect more deeply with your clients and set your new firm on a path for long-term success.

Still thinking about breaking away? Download our checklist to learn more about the steps you need to take to make your transition to independence as smooth as possible. If you prefer the short version, you can check out the infographic version instead, which just hits the high points!