Size Counts: How Many Support Staff Persons do I Actually Need?

Adding support staff is a very important process for an independent financial advisor. The number of support staff needed will differ greatly between a solo financial practice and a large firm. Support staff positions may not be glamorous, but they are an essential part of our firm’s day-to-day business.

Support Staff Volume

Size Counts: How Many Support Staff Persons do I Actually Need?

No matter the size of the office, as your firm’s revenues grow, your staffing needs will change. Adding additional support staff is most effective when the staff is able to free up your time to work directly with your clients and prospects. Knowing when to make the next hire and what position to hire can be difficult decisions for anyone.

An industry study conducted by Cerulli & Associates projected that hiring an assistant generates an increase in revenue upwards of 20 percent. Based on findings from the 2011 InvestmentNews/Moss Adams Adviser Compensation & Staffing Study, “depending on where a firm is and its chosen practice model, leverage will look different for different firms. But evidence of its presence can be seen when advisers aren’t bogged down with administrative tasks and instead spend more time on high-value tasks, such as bringing in new clients and assets. Thus, ratios of support staff to professionals grow in a predictable fashion as the firm grows. According to Investment News’ study, initial stages of leverage starts when firms reach $500,000 in revenue. It is then when they begin to add administrative and support staff.”

Typically, advisors begin to add a dedicated team member and additional support staff when the firm begins to generate $500,000 to $1 million. When the firm generates $1 million to $2 million, advisers should consider the addition of another professional staff member, a level two service adviser and a full-time dedicated management staff member. Earning more than $2 million, three to five full-time professional staff, a  technical specialist and additional support and administrative staff is recommended. Once above $5 million in revenue, firms tend to adopt a traditional corporate structure with departments, hierarchy of roles and tiers of management.

To help you determine whether you actually need to add more staff, financial writer Francesca McLin says to ask yourself these four questions:

  1. Am I able to provide a high level of service to my existing clients? If you are currently struggling to serve your clients or have trouble finding time to fit in client appointments, it’s time to hire additional staff. In our industry, service is the biggest differentiator between financial professionals and our many discount competitors. If you aren’t able to offer your clients the service they expect, they’ll find it somewhere else. However, also consider whether better time management on your part could help you squeeze in additional appointments and client activities. Ask yourself: Could you schedule them more tightly? Do you spend too much time chatting? Could you develop more standardized procedures to reduce administrative time?
  1. Do I have enough time to prospect effectively and network? New clients are the lifeblood of your business and it won’t grow unless you have time to devote to prospecting.
  2. Do I have enough support staff to give clients excellent customer service?
  3. Would bringing on new staff help me increase our revenue? Employees are expensive and new staff will add significantly to your overhead. Even if you think you need more employees, you need to be sure that you’ll be able to cover the additional costs. Think carefully about what activities they can take off your plate and how you’ll use your additional time most effectively and profitably. Generally speaking, if you’re not able to devote more time to income-producing or growth-oriented activities, you will find it difficult to recoup the costs of additional staff.

Regardless of the stage and size of your company, growth comes with new challenges. Ultimately, the question of whether to hire new staff comes down to one question: will hiring new staff enable me to grow my business, increase revenue and improve profit margins? If so, then a new hire is most likely a good idea.

For more information on Summit Brokerage Services, an independent broker-dealer, visit or contact us at (800) 354-5528.



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