How Successful Financial Advisors Scale Their Business

Last Edited by: LPL Financial

Last Updated: September 06, 2023

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I view my role as the ‘Chief Quality Control Officer’ who checks that my outsourced partners are delivering a consistent experience.

- Wes Burns, Transformational Advisory Group

One of the biggest challenges facing financial advisors today is finding an ideal balance between growth and efficiency. Data from Cerulli shows that, on average, practices serve 143 clients per producing advisor.1 Given the increasing demands on advisors’ time and capacity, scaling your business has never been more critical. Where should you start?

In a recent study of how 175 of LPL Financial’s top 10% of advisors2 build, scale, and grow their businesses, we discovered four common strategies:

  • Operate like a CEO: Focus on the growth, design, and future of your organization.
  • Optimize your time: Be efficient and resilient by outsourcing or delegating to ensure your teams are trained and processes are automated when possible.
  • Offer comprehensive advice: Provide holistic wealth services to your clients for every stage of their financial lives.
  • Build a values-based practice: Infuse your personal values into your business.

Prioritize Tasks Only You Can Execute

Advisors routinely juggle many client service responsibilities and business ownership duties. By prioritizing the tasks only you can do and outsourcing or delegating the rest, you can free up valuable time and boost productivity. For example, top advisors in our study take advantage of several key outsourcing opportunities across the investment management spectrum:

  • Models: 95% have a models-based practice, thereby eliminating most time spent customizing investments. They are also three times more likely to outsource model development/management.
  • Trading: 70% use a rebalancing tool—making them 60% more likely to use trading automation solutions—to help save time in the routine rebalancing of those models.

Be Willing to Evolve Your Processes and Procedures

When Wes Burns’ firm, Transformational Advisory Group in Seattle, Washington, began growing, he made a decision to outsource the investment management function that he did himself when his practice was smaller.

According to Burns, “If you have similar clients with similar risk profiles, then they really should be holding the same securities and having the same investment experience. Customizing that experience for each client is more likely to cause something to get missed, especially as you get over $100M in AUM. One step we took was to hire an outsourced Chief Investment Officer, who does all of our models, trading, and rebalancing. This way I feel we could grow to $500M and every client would have the same experience along the way. I view my role instead as the ‘Chief Quality Control Officer’ who checks that my outsourced partners are delivering this consistent experience.”

Be Selective

In a recent survey of practice management professionals, Cerulli found that serving too many clients ranked at the top of advisors’ productivity challenges, and a whopping 91% believed serving too many non-ideal clients was a moderate or major challenge.4 Because of the personal connections and strong relationships many advisors build with their clients, it can be incredibly difficult to let them go. So what’s the solution?

  • New clients: To attract ideal clients, the top advisors we studied have publicly stated AUM or revenue thresholds for new clients. In fact, they’re 60% more likely than other advisors in our study (75 advisors who are not in the top 10%) to establish these minimums and consistently keep them.
  • Legacy clients: A common solution at national broker-dealers, wirehouses, and banks is to transfer these clients to a digital advice solution. Another option is to leverage the match-making consulting services offered at some custodians and broker-dealers to sell the accounts to another practice or third-party platform. This option is beginning to gain more traction, and according to Cerulli, “it will become more commonplace since it provides the opportunity to monetize the accounts. Moreover, it still allows the advisor to frame the move as a larger business decision with a warm client handoff, versus terminating client relationships.”

Focus on Resiliency 

Resiliency comes in many forms, but the top advisors in our study are hyper-focused on short-term business continuity. In fact, 77% have a staff member who can cover the duties of at least one other staff member.

Key person dependency is a common risk among independent advisors, given their typically smaller office size. The ability for each staff member to cover the duties of at least one other person is an important test of resilience. Robust staff training can improve cross-coverage, as well as enhance overall efficiency in tandem with the right level of office technology. 

Jennifer Strong, of the Strong Financial Network in Lakeport, California, shared her approach to cross-training: “We have a rule in the office that everyone reads all the notes input to our CRM from the previous day. Like having the goal of everyone becoming licensed, this also ensures everyone has exactly the same information at all times. Anyone can pick up an incoming call and know exactly why that client is calling, even if they’ve never met them. A key test for us was when I went on vacation for a month after my son graduated from college. The office never missed a beat, and clients didn’t know I had been gone.”

How LPL Can Help

Achieving scale is possible with the right strategic partner in your corner. When you’re ready to take the next critical step, or if you just want to have a conversation about how LPL Financial can help you scale your business, we’re here for you. 


1 Cerulli Associates, US Advisor Metrics 2022, exhibit 4.10

2 The top 10% of LPL advisors was determined in terms of Gross Dealer Concessions (GDC) taken from commission data in 2022.

3 Cerulli Associates, The Cerulli Edge, Q2 2023 

4 RIA Intel, Non-Ideal Clients Present Productivity Challenge for Advisors, 2023 

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