As 2021 draws to a close, we pause to reflect on the past year we’ve had here at PFI Advisors.  The world seems to be developing a “new normal,” with many firms announcing their long-term plans for flexible office hours vs. returning to their offices full-time.  The pandemic has had such an effect on work location that some of the largest firms in our industry have now touted a new model, offering full-time remote jobs to attract the best and brightest talent.  As for us at PFI Advisors, we’ve loved working from home and all the efficiencies it’s brought!

Early in the year, we partnered with BNY Mellon Pershing to write a joint white paper, “Why the Sale of Your Firm Should Be Viewed as a Catalyst for Growth.”  We also interviewed five RIA CEOs at the helm of multi-billion-dollar enterprises who provide real-life examples of their work and how it has allowed their respective firms to evolve and remain successful in our white paper, “Exploring the Benefits of Professional Management for RIAs: A Deeper Look into Chief Executive Officers.”

After a lot of hard work and dedication behind the scenes, we were finally able to launch our online learning platform, The COO Society.  Noticing a void of training resources for operational professionals, we developed a platform where RIA leaders can learn the core aspects of preparing an RIA for growth and success, gain the perspective of industry leaders via our one-on-one interviews, and share best practices with our community of operations leaders.  Our platform is updated monthly with new courses and interviews, and we are excited for its future and the continued trend of “practices to businesses” within our industry.

Our podcast, The COO Roundtable, celebrated its third anniversary this year and our birthday episode was a fantastic interview with Emigrant Partners’ President and CEO Karl Heckenberg.  

The COO Roundtable continued to grow in listenership as we welcomed various operations professionals to discuss the strategies they incorporate to successfully tackle their day-to-day responsibilities and further spur growth within their organizations. 

Additionally, Layla Paige’s Third Annual Nature Walk for TrinityKids Care took place in person in October, and this year’s event raised over $100,000 for the first time.  While host Jack Black was unfortunately unable to join us this year, he has committed to returning to host the event next year.  It means the world to us that we continue to gather support and honor Layla’s memory this way.

Throughout 2021, we published 51 blog posts detailing best practices for RIAs.  

2021 brought about a renewed focus on operational efficiencies and bottom-line profitability for RIAs, which in turn saw our services in high demand.  We are currently working with more COO Resource clients than ever before and given the mind-boggling number of M&A transactions completed this year, our M&A Support Services were also one of our most in-demand service offerings.  We continue to help wirehouse and IBD advisors attain financial independence as they look to establish their own RIAs.  We are prepared to enter 2022 with even more dedication to our mission:

To further evolve the RIA industry from a collection of practices to businesses, and to be a continued voice in validating the industry as a legitimate landing spot for billion-dollar teams and their clients.

We are committed to maintaining our thought leadership in 2022, with our goal of educating readers and provoking operational thinking for growth-minded RIAs.  We hope you enjoy the following articles which proved to be our most popular of the year, and we wish you and your families a happy, healthy, and safe new year!

Top 5 Mistakes Buyers Make When Integrating Acquisitions

With M&A taking center stage in our industry and apparently not slowing anytime soon, it made sense for our first article of the year to tackle this topic.  Speaking to buyers, Matt broke down the most common integration mistakes that occur during M&A transactions.  For buyers to ensure a successful integration, they must first have the foundation to support that growth, including having the proper leadership to help lead that integration. Buyers and sellers must also agree on their ideal client to offer the best services and execution of those services once the merger is complete. Matt spoke of one common misconception that firms often have – if both buyer and seller are using the same technology, they tend to believe, “Integration will be a breeze!”  They unfortunately often fail to consider how each firm is using that tech.  Matt’s advice in this article is on the nose for buyers looking to level-up their firms with inorganic growth.

“How Do I Find Good Operations Team Members for My RIA?”

Matt joined forces with Shaun Kapusinski of HIFON to write an article focused on helping RIAs uncover the very best talent for their operations teams.  Matt and Shaun observed that “As the RIA industry continues to evolve and competition for clients (and advisors) increases, RIAs are realizing the importance of a dedicated Operations team that ensures that the trains are running on time and allows advisors to focus their attention solely on client service and business development.”  They share where firms can find qualified candidates including career centers at local colleges, starting an internship program at your firm, firms using their own network and, looking outside of the industry for a diamond in the rough.  It’s a great read for any firm looking to hire an operations role.

Hey Kids! This Is Why You Want To Be An RIA COO

Sandra’s first article shared her thoughts on the need to shine a bigger spotlight on operations roles and the great opportunities they have to offer both the firm and the candidate.  Sandra shared how instead of having employees happily “stumble” into the role or do an increasing number of tasks until they inevitably turn to the path of COO, the industry as a whole should publicize the value ops folks bring to organizations in order to make the role more appealing for potential superstar candidates.  For those not familiar with what a COO does or for people considering such a position, Sandra broke down at a high level what a COO of an RIA does, why the job is needed, and how much of an impact it can make – in more ways than one.

Why We Created The COO Society

After all the hard work and behind the scenes planning, it was such a pleasure and milestone to finally launch our online learning platform dedicated to operations professionals, The COO Society.  In this article, Matt shared an in depth look at why we decided to create the platform, “This is the platform I wish I had access to when I was promoted to run operations for Luminous Capital back in 2008.”  Matt breaks down the different learning paths, interviews with industry experts, and content members can expect every month.  Our goal is to build a community for operations professionals to learn and hone the skills needed to effectively run their business and drive growth in a profitable fashion.  In January we will be releasing a new course on How to Best Leverage Your Performance Reporting Technology.  Keep an eye out as the platform is constantly updated.

“Perfection” Can be the Enemy of a Successful Advisor Transition

No one in the world is perfect and that adage can definitely be said for transitions, as Matt writes in another of our monthly articles.  It’s unrealistic for advisors to expect to transfer thousands of accounts with no hiccups of any kind.  Matt writes, “As with most things in life, the success of an advisor transition is often dependent on the mindset of the advisors and staff moving their book of business from one firm to the next.” Matt discusses the most common hiccups we have witnessed and although it may feel like there is only pain ahead for the transitioning teams, Matt encourages advisors, “With the end goal fresh in everyone’s mind, asking a client to sign an extra document or a making a late-night run to FedEx because the office copier ran out of ink isn’t the end of the world, it’s merely a stepping stone on the way to a better business model that advisors and clients have been dreaming about for years.”

Fee “Compression” or Fee “Justification?”

After his participation in Addepar’s Discovery Week, Matt was inspired to write this article to further explain his belief that, “No, I haven’t witnessed large-scale fee compression across our industry, despite many doomsday predictions.”  Matt explains that although there has absolutely been pressure due to low cost robo advisors and ETFs, advisors today have evolved their businesses to provide more services for clients beyond simple asset allocation, which in turn justifies their fees rates remaining stable.  Matt gives examples of firms offering clients “trust and estate planning, bill pay services, and in some cases, RIAs are now processing tax returns on behalf of their clients.”  But Matt does warn that advisors shouldn’t get complacent, they have done a fantastic job proving their worth to clients and should keep it up!


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