Settling on the right time for retirement after a long career is a big decision. It’s an even bigger decision when you’re a financial advisor who has worked for years to grow your own business. Having a solid succession plan is of paramount importance to the security of your family’s financial future, and setting yourself up in advance for a smooth transition out of the business is a smart move. But once you’ve negotiated the sale of your book, it’s not as simple as packing up your desk, tucking your work plant under your arm, and heading out to the golf course. You’ve grown with your business, and your client relationships have grown with you. So what’s the best way to make that transition when it comes to your clients?
The first step is making sure that all your details are finalized. If the client accounts will be serviced by someone new who has stepped in to purchase your business it is a different situation than having had someone in your office as a junior advisor who has worked with the clients and has begun to build their own relationships with them. Before you make any sort of announcements, have the details set in stone, as well as preparing answers for the types of questions and concerns clients are likely to have once they learn the plans.
Next, you’ll want to make sure you let your clients know with some advance notice. Because you’ve been there throughout the important moments of their lives, it’s not the type of announcement you’ll want to give two weeks before you cut off ties forever. Your clients have placed great trust in you for years. Don’t leave them in the lurch and cause panic. You’re free to decide on the best amount of time, but to ease everyone into the new arrangement, you could make it up to six months before your actual exit date.
The way you make the announcement is going to depend on your personality and the types of relationships you have with your clients. It’s likely you won’t tell them all in the same way. The clients with whom you share a close bond or those with large complex accounts or those you know to get nervous easily, you may want to give them a personal call or have them come in for a final review and talk about the upcoming changes there so you can answer their questions in person. You will definitely want to reach out to your entire book of clients via paper letter so that everyone has the information that pertains to them in writing. The letter should give all the important details your clients will need and may want to refer back to, including your last day, your replacement’s contact information, changes to the office and its hours, or anything else. Make sure you thank your clients for the trust they placed in you, talk up the advisor replacing you to reassure them they’re in good hands, and maybe give some personal news about your retirement, like about the extended trip to Peru you’re planning now that you have the time or the foray into homebrewing you’re ready to embark on. Short and sweet, these letters should be informative, encouraging, and appreciative. Also, send these letters out with enough time to allow your clients to receive them and contact you with concerns and congratulations before you’re out of the office for good.
Finally, you can make the announcement on social media, particularly if you’re active there already. This will also get the word out to friends, family, and other professional colleagues. Let your personality be your guide here, as well as the platform. For example, your retirement announcement on LinkedIn will likely be more formal; you can put your new status in the Headline and Summary sections, which will let you continue to use the platforms features and contact other members while making sure they know you have retired. On the other hand, Instagram and Facebook announcements can be done with memes, funny lines or even a quick video. Just remember that, even retired, you’re still a professional.
When you’re planning your transition from full time financial advisor to retiree, figure out the best exit strategy for yourself and your clients. Does it make sense to take a step back to part-time earlier and allow things to settle in by having the advisor who is replacing you take the lead? Or will you stay on as a consultant to make the transition easier on your clients and staff? Your clients will find this change almost as large a one as you will. Because you’ve built up great relationships with them throughout your career, make sure you take them into account when it’s time to retire as well, by communicating with them, supporting them, and reminding them why they were right to trust you all along.