If you are like many of the wealth advisors we talk to, you’ve spent most, if not all, of your career developing a successful practice. Day in and day out, you’ve focused on planning for the retirement of others. But what happens when the planner needs to plan for him or herself?

Unfortunately, as too many studies and statistics have shown us in recent years, the planners haven’t fully considered the future of their own firm in their absence.

  • 60% of advisors do not have a formal written succession plan in place.
  • Of the 40% of advisors that DO have a formal plan, only 7% are executable.

If you are one of the estimated 43% advisors over age 55 (SOURCE: “Advisor Metrics 2013,” Cerulli Associates.) and have begun to think about your own retirement, you may be asking yourself, “What’s next?” Enter: the succession planning process.

The Succession Planning Process

When you think about the next phase of your life—both personal and professional—what does it include?  Do you want to be working the same schedule 5, 10, or 15 years from now? Will you want to scale back? Will you want to retire completely? Will you want to sell your practice or transition to another advisor? What goals do you still want to accomplish? These things, and more, should form the basis of your succession plan.

In working with independent advisors at Carson Institutional Alliance, we talk to a lot of advisors, in all sorts of practices across the U.S. The question we hear most from advisors who are ready to think seriously about ‘what’s next’ is, “How do I get started with the succession planning process?” Being in our unique position in the profession, we’ve compiled some resources to help you answer this question.


The most important thing you can do in your own succession plan is to actually begin the process of creating it. Guess how many advisors we’ve talked to that have a “rolling 5-year plan” that’s not actually written anywhere and hasn’t actually been thought through? (hint: it’s a LOT).


If you’re reading this, it signals that—for one reason or another—you have begun to think about the future of your firm. Education is a key step when you begin, but don’t get stuck in the trap of trying to learn everything before you do anything.

Check out our Succession Planning Webinar.


If you don’t feel confident handling the process yourself, engage your own trusted advisors. Whether using a succession consultant, legal/business advisors, or working with a firm such as Carson Institutional, recognize that you do have options. Choosing the right one for your vision, goals, and needs is your primary consideration.


Align your succession plan with both your business goals/strategic plan, and your personal goals/strategic plan. What, you don’t have a business or personal strategic plan?! It’s a good thing you’re getting started; work that into your overall process.


The operative word here is value. Get a true valuation for your firm now, and don’t forget to address what could (or should) happen if your firm significantly grows (or shrinks) in the time until you execute your succession. Structure any deal correctly in order to maximize your payout but also minimize potential tax implications. Remember, you should be engaging your trusted advisors—such as your attorney and CPA—so they can advise you of what’s best for your unique circumstances.


Put your plan in writing and decide on key milestones to trigger the succession process. When milestones hit, evaluate how you will move forward in the process (or not!).


Revisit your succession plan on an annual basis. If your business has fundamentally changed over time, you may want to reconsider your options and adjust your plan. Does your solution account for firm growth? If you are aggressively growing your practice 15% or more each year, you will want to be confident that you reap the benefits of that hard work down the line.

The good news is that you have many options for your firm’s succession; from selling to transitioning to partnering, you get to create the solution that’s right for you. And now you have the foundation to get started creating your own executable succession plan!

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