In my recent article on investment philosophy, I mentioned using your relationship with wholesalers to benefit your clients. Developing good relationships with wholesalers of funds in which your clients are invested makes good sense.
If there is a change to a fund or its managers, you will be one of the first to receive a call from the wholesaler, which will allow you to make an informed decision about whether to make a change or stay the course.
You don't have the time or the resources to watch all of your investments 24/7. A trusted wholesaler will help you by being a second set of eyes looking out for you and your clients.
Start with a process
Here’s a basic process to organize your wholesaler relationships:
- — Determine the wholesalers with whom you want to develop relationships. This could be based on several factors. See the evaluation checklist below for some considerations.
- — Schedule your fund “pick list” review sessions for the remainder of the year and into next year (either quarterly, semi-annually or annually).
- — Schedule your wholesaler appointments during the two-week window prior to your next pick-list-review session. Have the most up-to-date information available when you conduct your session.
- — Schedule a call for the week after your pick-list-review session to speak with each wholesaler. That way, if your review generates questions, you are already scheduled to speak with your team of wholesalers. If you don't need to speak with them, just cancel the call. Let them know when you schedule the call that you may not need to speak with them.
- — To stay on track, conduct the meeting using a wholesaler agenda. An example is provided below.
Wholesaler evaluation checklist
When determining which wholesalers to work with, it helps to have a checklist. Consider the following topics:
- — Availability of products that made it through your filtering and due-diligence process;
- — Where you have assets invested currently;
- — Support services offered by the wholesaler and the fund company
- Product and strategy knowledge
- Availability of quality seminars
- Presentation skills
- Consulting and/or other services provided by the parent company
- Marketing support, including good event ideas and financial support
- How easy it is to work with the fund company. You may love the wholesaler, but if it is painful to do business with the company, you must consider that.
- — Relationship
- — Willing to help you build your business and be a second set of eyes
- — Returns calls and emails promptly
- — Calls you shortly after meeting with you to see if any additional questions have come up
- — Is enjoyable to spend time with
- — Wholesaler tenure with the parent company. Some wholesalers change companies frequently, which voids any commitments they have made with you while with the previous company. Seniority at the company assures that the wholesaler knows how to get things done to support advisors.
Conducting an effective meeting using an agenda
Most advisors delegate the responsibility of determining the meeting agenda to the wholesaler. Most of the time, the wholesaler does have an agenda but is interested in hearing what is on your mind. Their goal is to provide value, so let them know how they can be of service to you and your clients.
Here is a list of possible items to have on your agenda. These items pertain mostly to mutual funds, so adjust accordingly for your meetings with alternative investment, insurance or other wholesalers.
- — Market update/forecast
- — New funds opening/funds closing
- — Changes to portfolio manager(s); tenure and experience of the new team
- — Breakdown of individual funds (holes or gaps in pick list)
- — Funds I am not using, but should be and why
- — In which environment might this fund out/underperform
- — Capital gains information (Q4 agenda item)
- — Investment philosophy ( share yours for suggestions or feedback, and have wholesalers share theirs)
- — What the wholesaler’s top advisors are doing (we enjoy hearing what our peers are doing) and what you are doing for them
- — How much money invested year-to-date and how does this compare to my commitment
- — Commitment of marketing dollars for the year and to which event(s)
- — Amount of marketing dollars provided year-to-date
- — Which seminars the wholesaler is confident conducting
- — Events the wholesaler heard about or attended that are unique and were well-attended
- — Review wholesaler file and handouts (paper or electronic versions) to verify current information is being used
- — Schedule next appointment (during the two weeks prior to next pick-list-review session)
- — Schedule call (during the week after pick-list-review session)
If applicable, let the wholesaler know that you are interested in bringing on a junior advisor or other team member.
When an advisor or team member is planning to make a change, they don't make an announcement prior to making that change.
However, it doesn't hurt to share your interest with them.
Wholesaler tracker – keeping commitments
A few of the items I mentioned on the wholesaler agenda represent financial commitments you and the wholesaler have made to one another. To honor these commitments, keep track of what has occurred throughout the year. I use a simple Excel spreadsheet to keep track of the flow of dollars. If you would like a copy, please send me an email. I am happy to forward it to you.
If you make an arrangement to invest a certain amount of money with someone, be upfront with them if you get behind on your commitment and let them know your plan to get back on track. The wholesaler will appreciate you being the one to bring up the fact you are behind your investment goal.
The relationship is a two-way street
I work with a number of wholesalers. One of the issues that frustrates them the most is when an advisor views them only as a pocketbook.
I have heard stories of advisor behavior that is alarming and disrespectful. Luckily, these stories occur infrequently.
Mutual respect and following the Golden Rule will keep everyone in good standing.
Wholesalers can be of significant value to you and your clients. Determine how you can improve your relationship with those with whom you conduct business while at the same time improving your investment process. And, don't forget to reevaluate your relationships periodically.
In addition to meeting with your "regular" wholesalers on a consistent basis, meet with one new wholesaler per quarter, a wholesaler “audition” if you will. Don't be so strict with your current "willing to meet" list that you miss out on a great product or strategy. You never know what valuable information may be provided to you from a new resource.