Advisors needs and wants are moving targets and mutual fund wholesalers must constantly adjust to if they want to hit the bullseye. In the years following the advent of the Internet, wholesalers found former value adds, such as daily net asset values and stock prices, that they used to offer as exclusives have mainstreamed.
Now, wholesalers' specialized and intimate familiarity with funds as well as how they stack up to the competition is most prized by many advisors.
"The training process at Putnam is an intensive three-to-five year process. It creates not only great wholesalers, but great employees. If we can train someone to be a wholesaler, they can take just about any position at Putnam. We have people in sales and marketing that are trained as wholesalers."
He added that Putnam's wholesalers need to know not only Putnam's products but the firm's competitors' products as well. Putnam currently employs 60 external wholesalers nationwide.
On a smaller scale,
"Even if you don't have something to sell today, you have to be consistently showing up to be trusted. "
Thompson, who served as a regional vice president at
According to Thompson, RIAs and wirehouses that are looking for specialists and advisors want a circle of specialists to help them pull the trigger on asset allocation or pull back from the market. "Advisors never forget who makes them money and they always remember who loses them money," said Thompson.
So what is Henderson's wholesaler on-boarding process? "We're so small that we don't have a lot of time to train," said Thompson. "We need to hire individuals who are self-starters who can go through three days of orientation. Our formal training is informal in that we marry up wholesalers with two senior people and they connect weekly to learn how the senior person is talking about macro and micro environments and how we tell the Henderson story."
Thompson added that he is looking to add
Further down market,
"I worked at
According to Weiss, the
"I would more likely find a wholesaler who has worked for a hedge fund group because they're more likely to have worked with family offices in terms of explaining strategies," she said.
The firm currently employs one wholesaler in the Northeast but would most likely expand in the Southeast where it has a client base, according to Weiss.
In whatever ways firms train or hire their wholesalers, getting a first meeting with an advisor is in itself a challenge.
"Older practices of segmenting advisors by assets and relationship with the provider are outdated," Swanson said. Instead, Swanson segments and drops advisors into four bucket traits: habitual, receptive, proactive, skeptical.
"There are four main segments of advisors based on segmentations and wholesalers need to tailor their message to these," Swanson said.
Once wholesalers get that meeting, they need to know how to meet the needs of the advisor. Product knowledge is a touchstone across all channels. FUSE Research Network recently published a study dubbed Advisor Perception of Wholesaler Value based on data from WealthManagement.com's 2013
The study echoes Nickodemus' sentiments in that it found the two most valuable services provided by a wholesaler to be new product information and updates on existing products. Contrary to these findings, the report also reveals that most home offices think that advisors have all the information they need about their products on their in-house screens.
"I suspect it's[the problem for wholesalers] in some part not being able to explain how the products fit into the advisor's business, but also not knowing how their products stack up against other companies, such as a rep from e
"The older wholesalers may be less likely to adapt to the new reality."
"I think that too many wholesalers these days are the guys who take you out to dinner, lunch or pick up a bar tab. They don't have the in-depth knowledge about their firm," said Yoshida.
"I expect wholesalers to have a high level of knowledge about the products of the firm they represent as well as the marketplace in general. More than 50% of wholesalers I see are just relationship guys."
According to Yoshida, within the last 60 days he has been invited to numerous social occasions by wholesalers, such as the U.S. Open golf tournament, indoor skydiving and
However, he said he would prefer that the wholesalers "just come to my office and explain the company's products in-depth or why any assets are underperforming."
"The wholesaler should be an extension of the fund company. I don't expect wholesalers to have the depth of knowledge that the portfolio managers have, but I would like it if they were on the level of the client portfolio manager at the provider," he said.
What other service can wholesalers bring to Yoshida's table? He said that knowing what other advisors are up to in their territories is a value-add.
He also noted that firms like
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