We’ve all seen the recent headlines about declining service to advisors. You may even be facing issues yourself.

Imagine: a custodian takes its business in a new direction, and suddenly, simple service requests that once took 24 hours now take weeks to resolve. The knowledgeable service professionals you’ve worked with for years disappear overnight and are replaced by a call center. The glitzy, high-tech advisor interface that wowed you when you first signed up turns out to hide a surprising amount of manual paper-pushing on the back end.

Relief is on the way, your custodian promises—in one or two years, after their technology integration is complete.

Is this what you call service?

What kind of service should you expect from a custodian? 

Whenever you work with a custodian, you should expect a certain standard of service, including:

  • Smooth administrative processes, such as account opening, re-papering, reporting, and more, that improve your client experience and avoid needless delays
  • Timely, knowledgeable resolutions of all your issues, including both daily account administration questions as well as larger, relationship-level concerns
  • State-of-the-art technology that maximizes your efficiency and effectiveness
  • Practice management consultation and education that helps you grow faster, serve your clients better, and increase the value of your practice

When your custodian delivers on these standards, your clients feel confident their assets or investments are in good hands. On the other hand, when a custodian stumbles, any mishaps reflect on you as well. That’s why it’s always important to insist on the level of service you deserve.

There is a way to tell—in advance—if a custodian will uphold its standards.

Large custodians seem to think you should just accept major service problems as inevitable. Just part of the cost of doing business. There’s no way to avoid them. We disagree. It’s true, no experience can ever be perfect, but when it comes to huge, ongoing service breakdowns like these, we think you can spot potential problems a mile away.

If you’re evaluating a potential new custodian relationship, ask the custodian if it meets these criteria first:

  • Boutique service. Do you provide highly personalized, one-on-one dedicated attention from a team that works consultatively with advisors to help them grow their business, or will I only receive troubleshooting support from a call center?
  • Experience level. Is your support team made up of industry veterans who are passionate about supporting the independent space, or have you recently ramped up staffing with fresh faces to improve coverage?
  • Accessibility.  Will I enjoy direct access to a relationship manager and the executive team regardless of AUM?
  • Independent. Are you independently operated—or are you part of a large conglomerate that can easily sell off the advisor portion of the business?
  • Non-competitive model. Are independent advisors like me the core beneficiaries of your investments in technology and service, or do we have to compete for resources with your retail arm?
  • Tech-forward platform. Are your offerings backed by cutting-edge technology providers, or will many processes remain manual?

Switching custodians is a big decision. But as you know, going independent means doing whatever it takes to deliver a better experience to your clients.

At Equity Advisor Solutions, we pride ourselves on offering advisors world-class capabilities combined with the one-on-one service of a boutique. Like you, we are independently owned, with no lines of business that compete with yours, and no interests that conflict with helping you grow. As big-box custodians pull back on their support, we’re stepping up – applying our industry and entrepreneurial expertise to meet the unique needs of advisors whose shoes we’ve been in before. That’s why we know what service really means to advisors.

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