Banks are still the best place for advisors to build a book of business even as traffic plummets at bank branches, according to analysts and recruiters.
“You still have thousands of existing customers that all you have to do is call,” says
In fact, swooning traffic has done little to dim the attractiveness of banks as a place for advisors to work. “In our experience, it hasn’t been a negative impact,” says
According to recruiters and other industry observers, advisors and banks have adapted to the drop in branch traffic. “The more savvy program managers have tried to diversify the stream of referrals that go in to an FA (financial advisor),” says Werlin. “An FA relies far less today on a referral of a walk-in to the branch than they did just a few years ago.”
Blevins agrees. “The advisors that we work that are going to the bank programs don’t rely on the walk-in traffic,” he says. “What they rely on is being able to mine the data base of the branch and see who has money there in order to do their prospecting in a warmer way.”
Advisors seeking a little sympathy for falling traffic are unlikely to get any. “I think that investment services people need to stop whining about the reduction of branch traffic and figure out how clients are interacting with the bank and interact with them in that way,” says
Stathis notes that the most successful bank advisors have fewer clients than the average advisor because they’re doing a better job developing deeper relationships with clients that have additional needs.
Still, for advisors at banks that limit or block access to the client base, the drop in traffic might hurt. Rummage estimates that 30% to 40% of banks don’t allow open access to bank customers, particularly at smaller, service-driven banks. About half give partial access. By his estimates, only about 10% of banks give advisors full access to the client base, meaning they see all the customer information that tellers and other bank employees see.
If advisors at banks with limited or no access are successful, it’s because they’re in a location where the tellers and other branch members are “giving them enough referrals to keep them going,” Rummage says.
For advisors at banks that lag rivals in making referrals to the investment services department, the drop in traffic certainly can’t help. But by and large, banks appear to be adapting to the new environment, according to observers.
“Banks are getting to understand that making referrals across departments and across silos is far more than who happens to walk into a branch and talks to a CSR (customer service representative) and says, ‘Gee, I don’t like your rates on CDs. What else you got?’” says Werlin.
Stathis sees the new virtual world of banking as a positive development. “I view it as another catalyst in helping the industry evolve in the direction that it needs to if it truly wants to compete with the big boys in the industry – the wirehouses and the Merrill Lynches of the world,” he says.
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