Why Your Back-Office is a Revolving Door

I’m frequently asked to assist advisory firms with finding good – excuse me – any operations staff. Hiring and retaining ops staff seems to be a challenge for firms. While I am not in the recruiting business, I can understand some of the issues with finding and keeping good back-office staff, such as the repetitive nature of the tasks and lack of a career path on the operations side of the business.

Issue #1 – Your response to “Why should I work for your firm?” is not enticing

What are the odds that a candidate is listening to your responses thinking “been there, done that”?

Take a close look at the job description. What does your firm have to offer that other advisory firms don’t offer? This question is hard to answer because the nature of the job is similar, if not the same, as what the candidate is currently doing. Why would a candidate leave a firm for a lateral move and be doing the same tasks with your firm?

Issue #2 – Your career paths either don’t exist or are unrealistic

Many advisors don’t understand the career path of the operations side of the business. Some believe it’s an administrative thing. As an operations professional, I have been called an “admin type” by those not understanding that we have college degrees, CPAs, MBAs, and desire a professional career path. Some advisors believe they can sell the candidate on becoming an advisor or planner without knowing if the candidate is capable of that role.

Issue #3 – Your firm’s human touch doesn’t trickle down to the ops staff

You boast how your firm’s human touch is why clients love you and will never leave your firm. Can you say the same about your staff? Somehow, when it comes to the operations side of the business, the thought process switches to how outsourcing and technology can replace the back-office staff. The belief that your CRM and work-flow templates are driving your firm’s efficiencies and customer satisfaction, not the people behind them, is an issue.

Susan Raemer-Rodriguez, President of R & R Human Resources Solutions, understands what employees are looking for. According to Susan, a common complaint her firm hears from employees as they leave firms is, “There was no communication from top management. I spent a lot of time wondering about the firm’s future or where my career path was headed.”

Looking for good operations staff? Broaden your horizon

The financial services industry includes other areas such as banking and insurance. The operational areas of these firms parallel RIA firms. Those working in a bank’s trust operations or cash management department are familiar with client services, compliance, technology, cash distributions, and financial transactions. Financial services professionals have a good understanding of work-flow processes, CRM, reporting software and are able to apply their knowledge to your processes and technologies. A good training program on your firm’s processes will enable new employees to easily learn the way your firm operates.

Operations staff in other financial services firms might also relish the opportunity to learn another business. They may perceive your offer as a better opportunity. Before working for an RIA firm, my career took me through several areas of the financial services industry including banking, consumer lending, and risk management. I enjoyed the transition to RIA.

Want to keep good operations staff? Give them more than CRM training

CRM and tech training are nice, but good operations staff wants to be part of the firm’s decision-making process. Provide them with additional skills such as compliance, leadership, or management. They may have greater potential to be effective leaders and business decision-makers than your money managers and planners. You can also enhance your staff job descriptions by adding non-routine work. You can include project management tasks for the firm or allow them to participate in a task force on the firm’s future direction. Don’t just create a COO path on paper; make the path a reality.

Now, about your human touch ……