We only need to go back a few short years to understand how company culture can affect financial services. In 2018, Wells Fargo was banned from growing by the Federal Reserve for opening fraudulent accounts. Their internal investigation blamed it on culture.

There’s documented evidence in multiple industries that an unhealthy corporate culture leads to unethical behavior by employees. That’s not the type of environment you want to work in, so measuring culture when comparing firms is important. Here’s how to do just that.

At Bridgemark Strategies, we are leading financial advisor recruiters and consultants serving Financial Advisors, RIAs, and Broker/Dealers nationwide. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Evaluate the Leadership Team

Employees emulate the behaviors of their managers and executives. In other words, culture begins at the top of the food chain. Spend some time evaluating the leadership team. This can be done through face-to-face interviews, asking mutual contacts, and online research.

Social media, though not always 100% accurate, can give you valuable insights into the interests and outside activities of company leaders. LinkedIn pages will likely be professionally managed, but personal pages on Facebook and Instagram can tell you a lot about a person.

Googling a person’s name can also give you valuable insight. The internet never forgets anything, so you can go back several years to see if there have been any past issues with executives or managers at the firm. Do this for the firm name also.

Assess Conflict Resolution Strategies

This is a good question to ask during an interview. How does the company resolve internal conflicts? Find out who is involved in reviews of situations like that and how decisions are ultimately made. Is there a company handbook or behavioral guide?

Some firms may be reluctant to answer this question. That’s a red flag. Applicants will sometimes be hesitant to ask it, fearing they’ll be branded as a potential troublemaker. That’s okay. If management thinks like that, you may not want to work there.

Try to speak with current employees and/or advisors about this if you can. It doesn’t have to be an inquisition of any kind. Just take someone out to lunch and ask about internal politics. Who holds the power? Are there struggles within the firm that might affect your ability to be who you are?

Observe the Daily Work Environment

This is more difficult today with the number of remote workers some firms employ. In the past, an applicant could get a feel for the office environment just by showing up for the interview. Eating a meal in the company cafeteria is also a good way to observe employees.

With a remote culture, questions about work environment need to be asked directly. How does management support and motivate team members? Are there incentive programs for top advisors? Is the scheduling flexible enough to fit your lifestyle?

No one wants to punch a clock and deal with constant pressure to produce. That type of approach went out in the last century. Today’s advisors know how to self-motivate and prefer autonomy when doing their jobs. Is this firm the right place for that?

Research Company History and Growth Metrics

Unethical behavior and dissatisfied workers affect the growth rate of a firm, so researching and evaluating company history and growth metrics can provide you some answers on company culture. This is more detailed than simply asking questions, but it’s worth it.

For a public company, growth is easy to see. Check the share price and see if its consistently risen over the past decade. Any sudden drops could be due to market conditions. Steady losses could be indicators of a deeper problem. It might be cultural or poor management.

Another metric is employee count. Firms with toxic cultures lose people. Practices with a healthy culture grow. The number of employees can tell that story, as does an increase in aum. Clients won’t keep their money at a firm where employee behaviors are questionable.

Ask about Morals, Values, and Social Responsibility

It’s important to find a firm with people who share your personal morals and values. To work as team requires some common ground and this is where it starts. Ask about the morals and values of the firm as a whole and of the individuals you’ll be reporting to.

As for social responsibility, diversity is a strength. If discrimination is present, the culture is tainted. That’s simply not okay. Look for a diverse workforce where inclusion is prioritized. You can often see this by looking at the “team” page on their website.

Money isn’t everything. Sure, you want to get paid well. That’s why you got into financial services in the first place. The trick is to find someplace where you can do that and be comfortable with others around you. Find the right cultural fit and that will happen.

The Bridgemark Strategies Difference

At Bridgemark Strategies, we understand that the needs of each advisor are unique. By assessing the Feel, Fit, and Financials of various opportunities, we can help you find the best solution for your next step:

  • Feel. Do you like the people at the firm? Does it feel right? We’ll help you network and discover firms with people you can trust and enjoy working with.
  • Fit. Does the firm’s products and services align with your goals? We’ll dive into the details of the firm to ensure it fits with your business.
  • Financials. From payout to platform fees, production bonuses, client fees, and more, we can help you assess financial implications on every level and even assist with negotiating final terms.

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