I recently hosted a webinar with some of Commonwealth’s best and brightest next-gen advisers. We discussed what is driving growth in 2021, including lead generation programs, digital marketing, and working with clients to gain introductions to next-gen investors. In addition to a robust content discussion, advisers networked with one another in small Zoom breakout rooms.
The breakouts were a hit, with adviser subgroups meeting for 30–40 minutes. When we reconvened, we asked each group for its key takeaways. Although it was a relatively small sample size, one recurring theme was collaboration among advisers. According to a Harvard Business Review (2017) study, “the trend toward collaborative work is now so firmly established that organizations failing to prioritize the practice risk falling behind their competition.”
Reinforced by Research
Companies have been adopting collaborative practices for years, with digital tools speeding the process. And, increasingly, research has helped quantify the importance of collaboration. The same Harvard study revealed that 81 percent of respondents in the survey said internal or external collaboration was important to their company’s success. Among respondents who prioritized collaboration, 68 percent said they were ahead of their competitors; only 40 percent of those with low collaboration levels felt the same.
Many next-gen advisers, perhaps unaware of this research, intuitively understand that having a support system in place would be beneficial as they start and build their practices.
From listening to the advisers on the webinar, it was clear they were looking for a deeper working relationship with one another, one that could be part of an ongoing process to better use their individual skills and expertise. These advisers didn’t want a networking opportunity or a referral relationship with one another—those are simple one-offs. Instead, they sought a deeper, more meaningful exchange where helping clients was the common goal. What makes collaboration so desirable? And why now?
Even the perception of working collectively on a task can supercharge performance, according to Parker (2014). Participants who were primed to act collaboratively stuck at their task 64 percent longer than their solitary peers, according to the study. They also reported higher engagement levels, lower fatigue levels, and a higher success rate—and the effect persisted for several weeks. The researchers concluded that simply feeling like they’re part of a team working on a task makes people more motivated to take on challenges.
Close collaboration is worth considering for the following seven reasons:
1. Ego is low. The best advisers from any generation know when to ask for help. Next-gen advisers seem particularly willing to admit when they need assistance, seeing it as perfectly logical to use their strengths elsewhere. In one case, an adviser was looking for someone with a depth of experience in insurance products that he lacked. He wanted his clients to have the right protection products, so he was open to creating a collaborative relationship with another adviser.
2. They’re not competing with one another. Instead, many next-gen advisers embrace the notion that a rising tide lifts all boats. They are happy to share what works, knowing that collaboration—not competition—will help them succeed.
3. Outsourcing makes sense. Although it may be a bit of a generalization, this generation has no qualms about tapping best-in-class solutions. Many people use Uber and Airbnb without feeling the need to own the car or the house. Now, next-gen advisers are bringing a similar mindset to their practices, tapping the expertise from outside sources for a specific need.
4. They’re already doing it. Many clients have asked next-gen advisers to collaborate with their other professionals, such as CPAs and attorneys, and advisers are reaping results from that communication. Once a technique works, the positive reinforcement makes it likely you’ll continue the behavior. So, in addition to building their external, nonfinancial centers of influence, next-gen advisers are taking it a step further, reaching out to other financial advisers who might have skills they lack.
5. Specialization is critical. Many next-gen advisers have advanced their learning by undertaking specialized courses and obtaining designations in a particular area. They want to become experts in at least one field, if not more, but they understand their time constraints.
One adviser noted that he refers all divorce work to an adviser with the CDFA designation because the client comes first, and he knows it will be handled well. Another adviser is the go-to person for Medicare expertise and its related insurance products, while another adviser takes on retirement plans that other firms don’t focus on. These advisers don’t feel they need to deliver the expertise themselves if they have trusted peers who they can rely on.
6. It can be isolating on your own. As we’ve lived through the pandemic, working remotely has turned out to be less enjoyable than expected for some. Many people need social interaction to be at their best, and working collaboratively with others in person, whether to brainstorm or focus on a specific task, made it easy to be involved and engaged.
7. COVID-19 facilitated connections. In a crisis such as the coronavirus pandemic, people needed to rapidly solve problems, some of which had long-term implications. Creativity—not self-preservation—was needed, and next-gen advisers came through.
Putting Our Best to Work for Clients
Over the past two years, we’ve undergone changes at work that have led us to embrace new mindsets and ways of doing business. It might be that enhanced adviser collaboration is a natural outcome of this process; if so, that augurs well for future success. If we can bring out the best in one another and put it to work for the clients who depend on us for financial plans and guidance, that’s a silver lining indeed.
Harvard Business Review Analytics Services. 2017. “How Collaboration Wins: Leadership, Benefits, and Best Practices.” https://hbr.org/resources/pdfs/comm/citrix/HowCollaborationWins.pdf.
Parker, C. 2014, September 15. “Stanford Research Shows That Working Together Boosts Motivation.” Stanford News Service. https://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/september/motivation-walton-carr-091514.html.