William Harwood, a wealth advisor, and Katie Keppler, CFP®, an investment strategies are members of the team at Harwood Wealth Management.
Founded and led by William’s father, Bill Harwood, for the last 25 years, Harwood Wealth Management dedicates itself to helping its clients as they strive for financial independence, providing them with candid responses to their financial questions.
The firm’s success, combined with Bill beginning to contemplate stepping back, made adding a junior advisor the best move for not only staffing up but also ensuring continuity in client relationships and account management for Bill’s eventual retirement. That’s where Katie comes in.
In a conversation with IAA from their office in Greenville, SC, we discussed how hiring a junior advisor can benefit your firm and your clients in the near and long term.
So, what got you thinking it was time to bring a junior advisor on?
William: We didn’t know what we needed exactly, but we knew that we needed someone. By metrics of household or AUM, whatever you want to look at, we were understaffed. While our other team member, Laurie, who handles operations, is a superstar, we really needed to bring on another advisor.
Initially, we considered hiring someone with more of a marketing background or someone fresh out of school who had an interest in financial advising. We had conversations with other advisors and some of the staff at IAA about where we needed to be looking and what to be looking for.
For advisors contemplating hiring a junior advisor but don’t know where to start or what to consider, what would you say to them?
Katie: I’d say it’s important to think about what is holding you back right now from whatever it is you want to achieve. Is your operations person overwhelmed? Do you want to focus on new clients? Do you need help with investments? Whatever your current weakness is that you’re trying to help build up so you can move forward as an entire practice is where you should start looking. And with a lot of smaller firms, you’re also going to need someone who can pitch in not just one small specific area but is willing to learn how everything works to be able to help in all different ways.
William: Those are great points. We’re not putting Katie in a box. With Katie, we’ve already talked about most of our investments, which means if today we wanted to change an investment in a model that we use for a number of clients’ accounts, she can go in an do that. If Katie goes through it and says we need to revamp this, great, we have that discussion.
Also, reach out to other advisors, preferably in a similarly sized practice, to have conversations with those who have been through the hiring process. That’s where you get some of the best info, from conversations with other advisors.
How do you integrate Katie into the team while ensuring a seamless transition for your clients?
William: We’ve included Katie in every single Zoom call, every single phone call, and any meeting we have. We do this so people know who she is, become comfortable with her, and and start to develop a relationship with her. Because whether it’s two, three, five, or ten years down the road, when you call, you’ll be talking to me or Katie. That’s one of the benefits of working with someone like my father, who intimately knows all our clients. He always says that relationships are our business.
What do you think is one of the things that hold back smaller firms from hiring a junior advisor?
William: Delegating. It’s very difficult to delegate. But whenever you go to a conference, they talk about how the top-performing advisors delegate, whether for marketing or someone else. And that’s challenging for anyone when they’ve overseen the whole operation for many years. For a long time, it was just my dad, and he has understandably never been in love with the idea of delegating.
How has adding Katie to the team benefited your practice?
William: Since Katie has arrived, we’ve let her pull back the curtain and dig into certain models and investments, even trading, and we’ve already seen the benefits of doing that. Katie does the research and has recommendations she comes up with or suggestions on what to change and why, and we all get together and discuss. So now, instead of myself or my dad having to spend time on research, Katie provides a lot of help in that area so we can focus on other things.
Logistically, it’s been every helpful. Something as simple as one of us being out of the office and another working from home, there is somebody here to cover the office.
For any advisors who are hesitant to bring someone on and turn things over, we’re already seeing a lot of the benefits from doing that, and I think over time, it will prove to be even more fruitful.
Katie: Yes, me being here definitely lightens the load. The work I do looking over investments, keeping tabs, and proposing changes makes it so Bill and William can focus on the clients and the client reviews. There is a lot of prep work that clients don’t see, but it is still very important.
*This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
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