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Creating the Ideal Client Experience with Scott Holsopple

In this episode, Jack talks with Scott Holsopple, Chief Growth Officer at Hightower Advisors.

Scott has 20 years of experience in investment banking, private equity, and wealth management. Scott and his team at Hightower work with firms to help them stand out and achieve the vision for the next chapter of their business.

Scott and Jack discuss what goes into a thoughtful client experience and how adding value and scale help achieve organic business growth.

What Scott has to say

“We’re in an ever more competitive industry. Technology is enabling us to do more things. Firms with scale are really deploying assets and specialties and expertise in a way that’s never been done before in this industry. And I think it’s going to require us to be more thoughtful.”

– Scott Holsopple, Chief Growth Officer, Hightower Advisors

Read the full transcript

Jack Sharry: Welcome to WealthTech on Deck. Thanks for joining us today. Each week we explore a variety of topics around wealth tech strategies and execution, Wealth Management. Today, we’re going to be talking with someone who is the Chief Growth Officer at one of the leading RIA firms in our business, Scott Holsopple. He is the Chief Growth Officer at Hightower Advisors. So Scott, welcome, good to have you on board.

Scott Holsopple: Thanks for having me. Looking forward to it.

Jack Sharry: Normally, I start off by talking about background, but I think it might be useful because I many of our listeners are like me, they read the industry, press and Hightower is seems to be prominent there in terms of the work you do. And why don’t you describe what you do at at Hightower, what the some of the strategies are in terms of your growth seems like you’re enjoying great growth, and then like to hear a little bit more about your background, but maybe start with start with doing what you’re doing at Hightower, and where you hope to lead the firm.

Scott Holsopple: As you said, we’re an RIA that is looking to grow both organically as most RIAS look to do but also in organically. And so the growth team is focused on creating experience for current partners as well as future partners. So we’re responsible for not only the M&A efforts of the firm, but the integration. So how we come together, and the experience afterwards. So the marketing team as well as what we consider the adviser engagement team, that consultants, the strategists that are working with our firms, to really help them stand out and achieve the vision for the next chapter of their business. I think we’re unique in that we do buy or invest in two high quality wealth management firms. But we’re not trying to make them one version. So you know, the conformity idea where you’re under one brand you do one way you serve clients in a certain way. You know, we really want to keep the unique aspect of each of these businesses, but really add to them and make them more efficient, add more services that they can offer to their clients, and really bring out the best in what they do.

Jack Sharry: So to boil it down into a couple of words, essentially, it’s recruiting, investing in RIAs that want to be part of a larger organization, we’ll talk about what that what’s your platform, and how that all works in terms of the kind of services you provide. But there’s the recruiting front end of bringing them on board and love to hear the story around. And so what’s that value prop? What does that look like? And then what’s here, which is I’m sure the second part of the value prop and that is, then what do you provide once they’re on board? So to talk a little bit about that. So our audience has a sense of, of what I guess commonly referred to as RIA roll ups.

Scott Holsopple: Yep. So I think most of the firms that we partner with now are hitting one of two inflection points. The first is, you’ve got enough scale that you as an individual or principle, you’re probably wearing multiple hats, and you have this choice of, oh, do I want to go out and hire a CFO or CEO or a CFO? And do I really want to build the business and invest into the business to keep it all mine? Or do I want to take advantage of somebody like Hightower that can preserve the uniqueness of my business, I get to keep my brand, I continue to serve the clients, I want to invest how I want, but I now have a team of experts that can really add scale, particularly in the back and middle office. So you manage the technology environment, the compliance environment, do billing, you know, the financials for you. So you can really focus your efforts and the team’s efforts on doing what adds the most value in your business, which is serving clients or getting new clients. And so like, it’s the choice of like, do I want to do this all on my own? Or do I want to partner with somebody? And then the second inflection point is the firm has actually already done that. So they’ve gone out, they built out the CFO, they are hired a CFO, a CCO, and they’re looking back and saying, Okay, how am I going to stay competitive in this industry? No, we’re having to do more things. For more, or for our clients on a daily basis, I continue to wear multiple hats. I’m now probably spending more time running the business than adding like direct value to the clients and getting new clients. And is that what I want to do? And I think we fit really well with those principles or principles or firms that have got into the business to grow the business and serve clients, not run a business. And so, you know, I think it gives it provides them a way to step back, be rewarded in a transaction for the value they built, but also kind of get back to what they got into the business to do which is serve cottons. Yeah. And so I think it’s one of those two inflection points that really resonates for individuals that are growth focused, want to continue grow organically see the power of a partner or a scale partner and understand the industry is requiring more, not less on a daily basis.

Jack Sharry: So I buy the story. I like what I hear. I come on board. What do I get? Do you guys take over does Hightower takeover, the financial aspect, the compliance aspect, the marketing aspect, the technology aspect, talk a little bit about how that sort of plays out in terms of once people have decided to kind of give up the stuff.

Scott Holsopple: They don’t like to focus on the stuff they do starts with the world, one ADV firms. So, you know, some aggregators, or some investors in the space will keep everybody unique on their own ADV, we say, hey, in order to get the scale that we want to get, we’re gonna bring everybody on the one ADV, which means it’s our compliance environment, we take over compliance completely, you know, the technology environment, I say it’s a curated environment, and that we manage it, we do all the integration work, but you have choice. So on the reporting platforms, you know, we have the leading reporting platforms, all integrated into our system. And we have choice within financial planning. And so you still get to build the components. But we’re managing it for you on an ongoing basis and bringing together the integrations, which I think when one of your questions will be what’s the future, to me, it’s starting to think about the experience that you’re providing. And that only comes about if you actually bring the technology together on the thoughtful issue. On the finance side, we do billing, we take over the P&L, we provide you your own P&L, so you’re still managing it, but you’re not having to prepare it you’re not to build the clients. On the marketing side, I think is where you start to see the differentiation from ourselves and what we think about the full conformity buyers in that, yes, we have a marketing team of about 20 people, but they’re there to amplify your voice. So they’re going to sit down with you and say, Okay, who do you serve? What’s different about you, and help you magnify that aspect of your business, because we are brand agnostic, so you can become Hightower, or you can keep your own brand. So Lexington wealth management, Greensboro wealth management, these are firms that a partner with Hightower but kept their own brand. And so I think you maintain that balance of adding scale and expertise that you get with scale, but also kind of the unique experience of the entrepreneur and the local brand.

Jack Sharry: So the person friend in common Meghan McCartan is one that brought us together. And I’m a big fan of Meghan. And I know that she’s very good at listening to her constituents, finding out what they’re trying to achieve, talk a little bit about the marketing aspect is my impression. You’ve got a crack marketing team, they really know what they’re doing. And the part I didn’t understand I’m beginning to understand in this conversation is that you’re really creating an individual brand, or at least helping them to leverage amplify, promote that brand. So talk a little bit about the marketing role.

Scott Holsopple: Yeah, you’re right, Meghan is fantastic about like finding those unique stories. And I think that’s a great way to think about the marketing team, which is, you know, we build content that is scalable for our advisors to use, but then we spend the time to understand their story. So we know how to then customize that content that we do at scale for each individual business. Right? That’s great. And I think marrying the idea that there’s content is key in this industry. But it’s that last step to make it unique to the business that really brings it so that it doesn’t feel like it’s mass produced, something that anybody can send out, it really feels unique to the experience of the firm, and the clients they’re trying to serve. And I think that sets our team apart.

Jack Sharry: That’s been my observation as a fan and watching what y’all are doing. Because you really need to leverage the scale of an organization like yours to make the content that is common, probably to most investors, but then apply the voice applies the specifics to that particular firm and how they do business and how they operate. And really, so they’re comfortable in saying what they have to say, how does that work on the technology front? Again, this isn’t a podcast about bits and bytes, but the similar kind of service model, if you will, around. So talk a little bit about how technology works with y’all.

Scott Holsopple: Yeah, so we have at the core of our technology stack is Salesforce. So Salesforce, think of that as the system of record. Yes, it’s a CRM program. But it’s also a system of record that powers that experience for the advisors. And I think more and more for the client itself. So Salesforce, their system record, we build on top of that. And then you can pick, you know whether you want black diamond or Orion or Tamarack, you can pick that whether you want Imani or money guide pro, you get to pick that. And then our team has done the integration work to connect everything together so that you’re not going into disparate systems, right? It’s single sign on, you go into one place, and you can launch your reporting software, your financial planning software, and all feeds back into Salesforce so that we can feed data, you know, both ways. And so the firms aren’t going in there and saying, Okay, I need to put records into Salesforce. And then I need to like do the financial plan and the money and enter all the same information. And so I think there’s some efficiencies that you gain from only having to add it into one place, but I also think that that starts to unfold Unlike the experience, the advisor or their team are having. And then as we invest more and more into the front end, what will power the client experience going forward? So there is a common experience that our advisors and their clients will be able to provide.

Jack Sharry: It seems it’d be the best of both worlds where you’re, if I’m new to Hightower, I get to bring along the systems I’m familiar with, whether it’s financial planning tools, or aggregation tools, or what have you, you’ll accommodate or work with that. So I can keep it personalized, but also enjoy the scale of a large organization to take stuff off my plate that I really don’t want to spend time on.

Scott Holsopple: Yeah, that’s right. And you have a team and of people, you know, our tech teams call it 50 People, you have a team of people that are always staying on top of the industry and saying, who are the leaders that we should be working with? And so it’s not fully open architecture, right? We don’t manage any piece of technology. But I think oftentimes, when we’re saying, Hey, that’s not within our ecosystem, here’s why. And here are some solutions that you might be able to take advantage of that we think are better, yeah, that will provide a better experience. And so it provides for a consultative situation or environment, where we’re coming together as partners, because that’s what we are at the end of the day, you know, we only benefit if they benefit by growing their business. And so it is kind of this unique relationship, in my opinion.

Jack Sharry: So we skipped over where I usually start, which is the gets a little bit on your background, let’s go back to that, before we start looking ahead. How do you wind up doing what you’re doing? Where do you come from? What do you do before you did this and talk a little bit about that transition, if you will.

Scott Holsopple: So I’ve always had a kind of a fascination with the markets and investing and this idea of the benefits and the value of financial advice, you know, growing up and seeing my parents not get the best financial advice, and then starting to explore the industry was something I’d done since college. And then it kind of did the traditional investment banking and private equity path out of out of college. And found my way to affirm it had a real domain expertise in financial services, which matched up with my own personal interest in it, and had the opportunity to invest and work with a team or firm called the mutual funds store, which before joining Financial Engines was called $10 billion plus mass affluent. And the founder of that company had co-founded another business, it was an online financial advisor called Smartform. K. And he wanted somebody to come in and build it. And this was mid 2000s, called 2006 2007, when we started talking, and I was young enough and naive enough that I was like, Yeah, this makes total sense, I can definitely go run a company. I joined a firm in my mid 20s, as an online financial advisor. And I thought I was prepared to run a run a business, not only was I not prepared to run a business, but was also 2007. So like, right into the teeth of a downturn, and, and the business was pretty successful. You know, at its peak, I had about 10,000 clients, and I was as the CEO of the business communicating to these clients about what they should be doing was something that was for the most part, their largest financial assets, sure, you know, right into the financial crisis. So, you know, it was a fantastic learning experience really kind of grounded me in the value that that advisors could provide. And from there, we ended up selling it through the mutual funds store, when new investors came in, spent a couple of years they’re working and thinking about the value proposition that they’re providing to their advisors or to their clients, and then joined focused financial partners after that. And then about a year and a half ago, jumped the board about Hightower, just because I saw this really unique opportunity in the industry, as well as it’s kind of how high tariffs fit. And based on all my experience, it sits in this unique position that we think is smart. The market gets developed every day.

Jack Sharry: So talk about that, because there are a few, you’ve named a couple and there’s a couple more probably, that you could name. What differentiates is ITAR. What is it that you guys do that’s better differentiated?

Scott Holsopple: Yeah, I think it starts with who we’re looking to partner with, right? So, you know, within guy you can call broadly, the aggregation space, you can work with people that are like wanting to retire and go away. You can work with people that want to continue doing everything in their business. I think we sit in the middle, which is we’re very growth minded. I think what you see is a lot of the headlines around the inorganic growth. So the partnerships we do through M&A. But I think we spend as much or more time thinking about how do we help our firms grow more organically? Because we think the core of a healthy business is organic growth. If you’re not growing organically, you depend on the inorganic growth and it becomes somewhat of an addiction. And so I think we’re different because we don’t leave you alone. We don’t put you in a one size fits all model. We try to say where can we add value and scale to areas of the business that are critical to having a business but don’t necessarily hit the end client experience and the way that we’re defining what the client receives. So as we’ve talked about a lot of the back and middle offices is in our core. And I think increasingly, what you’ll see is, we’re going to start investing, or we have already started investing in the front of the house. So we recently were approved for National Trust charter, you know, we’re building out a lot of things in the family office environment. And so in a manner that provides all the tools and resources and service offerings that our advisors could need, but at their discretion, and I think that’s the unique thing about us is we re preserve what I think of as the functional independence of these firms that have bought into the idea of partnering with somebody, but still want to really define who they are. And so you know, when we think about investing in front of the house and offering things like a National Trust, charter or estate planning services, or things like that, it’s all at the behest of the advisors, they’re helping us a drive, what we develop and how it’s developed. But then they get the vote, and they get the vote by saying, this is right for my clients, or it’s not. And so I refer to that as like a healthy tension, which is, you know, we can launch whatever we want. But our advisors get to vote every day, whether it’s good for them for their clients or not.

Jack Sharry: Talk a little bit about how you empower enable support advisors, I’m sure as they come on board, there’s some process to get them up and running and settled in. That’s one thing, but in an ongoing basis, different than sort of classic sales management top down, trying to get people to do what they don’t want to do. Yeah, I’m gathering this is quite the opposite. Rather, what do you want to do? And how do we help you do that? Talk a little bit about that? How do you enable Empower, support advisors to be their best selves? Shall we say?

Scott Holsopple: Yeah, no, I think a lot of it. We’ve talked about kind of the tech and the efficiency side of the operation-side, we’ve talked about the marketing side. And then we have our adviser engagement team, which is the team of consultants or advisors that are going to sit down with our firms and say, Okay, what are you trying to accomplish? You know, where are you strong? Where do you have some weaknesses? Where do we think we can impact that business together as a partnership, we kind of walk them through what our evaluation is of their business, you know, how we can help. And then together, we come up with a plan that stacks resources against it counters that out across the year. And then we actually sign like a statement of work, because we want, you know, we want to take it seriously. But we also want the firm to take it seriously. Because to your point, we can’t dictate what somebody does, you know, they get to decide what they do on a day by day basis. But if we come together, and we say this is a smart plan for the business, and we’re going to do things, we both have to commit to that, right. And so it helps us come back to things when they’re going well or not, we can always refer back to the plans. Okay. Does it still make sense? Are we still trying to achieve these things together? Or not?

Jack Sharry: So essentially, these your engagement team is or coaches, they’re trying to find out what they’re trying to achieve? How best to do that. And then how often do they check? I’m just curious, what’s the frequency of contact? And I imagine it’s sort of worked out at this part of that. So w but talk about that, if you would a little bit.

Scott Holsopple: Yeah, that’s exactly right. It’s part of the SOW. So how frequently are we meeting? How frequently are we talking? And you’ll have some firms that they probably talk to team on a weekly basis, sometimes more frequently, and you have other teams that are like, hey, you know, check in with us every six months. And it’s really about figuring out what’s going to work for them. Because if we come to somebody and say, you know, Hey, you want to talk to us every week or every month, but we only want to talk to you every six months. Right? That doesn’t work. And conversely, if they don’t want to engage with us on a weekly basis, it doesn’t work to tell them they should, right. Sure, sure. And so I think ultimately, you find this healthy balance, whereas over time, you know, they see the value that our teams can add to that to their business. And it starts to build, right. But each firm is a bit different. And so there’s no like, we have an approach to it. But that that approach is informed by the individual firm.

Jack Sharry: Yes. So talk a little bit about where all this is headed, and maybe start if you would, at the high level. So where do you see RIAS fitting into the big picture? Curious, your thoughts on the future of wirehouses? Were trying to look more like RIAs, I’m not sure how that’s going exactly. But there’s certainly that attempt, maybe big picture and then on down to where do you see Hightower going? So can you talk about what’s in store?

Scott Holsopple: I’m a big believer in wealth management in general. And I’m also a big believer, we’re gonna have to do more, right? If you look back at the industry, you know, 20 years ago, it was like, Hey, we’re differentiated because we’re independence. And we don’t charge commissions, right? And then people added on financial planning and then wealth management and now our more and more frequently talking about family office and alternative investments and things like that. And I think that’s just going to continue right. People want more for what they’re paying their advisors and I think that’s been enabled by technology, more and more. Right. So I think of this, as, you know, oftentimes we don’t see like absolute fee compression. But if you think about it relatively, and I doing more for my clients today than I was five years ago, the answer is almost invariably Yes. Right? And so we have to think about how we use technology and as an industry go beyond, hey, I bought technology, I’m going to do some stuff with it, too. How do I create an experience with technology? How do I create that experience, not only for my clients, which I think a lot of people think, you know, hey, do I have a portal and an online or a way to engage with clients online? But also what experience my providing to my team? And how am I enabling them to do more. And I think that the firm’s that will stand out in this industry, are the firms that can really think about it as experience first, and have that duality between what the client sees and what their team sees. And I think that requires scale. Because it’s a very specific expertise, to think about that as a client experience as a team experience, that I think it’s just going to be harder and harder for firms that are do not have that scale to stand out in the crowd. You know, as recently as five or six years ago, you know, billion-dollar firm was a big firm. Now, it’s, it’s not as differentiated, right? We’re talking about five $10 billion firms, you know, Hightower has over $100 billion. And so you’re seeing real scale come together with teams that are building a business, and thinking about the experience they’re providing to their advisors, to the team members to the clients. And I think that’s gonna be the magic in this industry. And I think that’s what’s going to cause true disruption is who can provide an experience to clients that is just intuitive and make sense. And people can grasp the value beyond trying to talk about investments or the financial plan? It’s like, how do you make people feel? And how does that translate into value for them?

Jack Sharry: Talk a little bit, if you would, about the zooming in and around everything you’ve described are best practices. And so do you try to catch people succeeding? Do you try to play that up as here’s some folks that are doing things a particular way that’s really working? How does that all work?

Scott Holsopple: Yeah, absolutely. So a lot of best practices, but we also try to keep it simple, right? I mean, this isn’t outside of management, tech, environment and regulatory environment, which can be quite complicated. You know, ultimately, what we’re doing is meeting clients in a way that provides value to them. And so I think as much as possible, what we try to focus on is a few number of things that can add real value to a business. You know, we’re not trying to be all things to all people. And I think even when you look at best practices of firms, you know, what we’re trying to do is, yes, identify those best practices, but then figure out ways to institutionalize them across Hightower. Right. And so they become just a way of doing business. And that’s not like, sexy to talk about that. Yeah, it’s process. It’s a thoughtful process that is repeated on an ongoing basis. And so that’s where our adviser engagement team spends a lot of time is institutionalizing this idea of growth in a business that doesn’t rely on one or two or three people that just kind of innately do it. How do you bring a growth mindset to a firm, and in our opinion, that’s identifying behaviors that occur frequently enough that they can become learned behaviors? Yes, you know, if you’re going to do something once every six months, you’re just not going to learn it. But if you do it every day, every week, if you manage against it, and you bring visibility to it in an organization, I think you can really transform these businesses, not only from a growth perspective, but just a culture and a mindset perspective, as well.

Jack Sharry: Yeah. For everything I read in here, you guys are getting that done and getting it done well. So as we look to wrap up, we try to stay around 30 minutes for our discussion on these weekly podcast. What are the three key takeaways that you’d like to leave our audience with that they might benefit in, in their own practice their own their own business?

Scott Holsopple: Yeah, I think it starts with, you know, what are you trying to achieve? Yeah, I think one of the bigger values that we provide is we pull people out of the business of the day to day we’re many people, including ourselves, get wrapped up and say, What do you want to be in the next five or 10 years? What would be successful? So start with what you’re trying to achieve? And that will allow you to step back and say, Okay, what do I need to achieve that it often comes down to how you’re structuring your business, the people that you have in the business, how you’re coaching and developing those people? And so once you’ve identified like what you’re trying to achieve in the next five or 10 years, you stepped down say, Okay, what is the organization require to do that in terms of people probably So this technology value proposition, and then you step down further into the tactics of building that business. And I think, you know, we’re in an ever more competitive industry, technology is enabling us do more things, firms with scale are really deploying assets and specialties and expertise in a way that’s never been done before in this industry. And I think, you know, it’s gonna require us to be more thoughtful. So, at the end of the day, like, the final thing is we’re all providing the experience, whether we like it or not, whether we identify it, acknowledge it, we provide an experience in an ongoing basis. And to step back and say, Am I okay, with that experience? Am I proud of that experience, I think is going to become critical. So it might not be three things, but I think we have to step back and say, what do we want to be when we grow up? What are we trying to accomplish? And what’s the experience we’re delivering on a day by day basis? Yeah. And do those fit? Do those go together? Or do we need to make some changes to allow us to achieve that?

Jack Sharry: One last question, my favorite question that I asked each week, what do you do outside of work that those that know you inside work might find interesting, surprising, something you’re particularly passionate about or get excited about? Or just have some fun doing?

Scott Holsopple: Yeah, so I love the outdoors. And most recently, my seven year old daughter and I have started rock climbing together. Oh, wow. It’s a lot of fun to see her, like scaling the wall kind of fiercely scaling the wall. It’s great. I’m looking forward to like all the lessons that will teach her and I love to do it too. It’s one of those things that you know, I think some people say golf can never be perfected. But you know, rock climbing is very similar takes a ton of technique, a ton of thought. So it’s a fun thing that to do on an individual basis. But a great way for me to bond with my daughter as well.

Jack Sharry: One of things I enjoy most about this particular question you have family tends to be at the heart of the answer, and you’ve certainly not disappointing in that regard. So Scott, this has been great, really enjoyed our conversation, glad we could share with our, our ever growing audience, for those who are listening to us. If you find this kind of conversation and our weekly get togethers with people across the industry if please like, share, pass it on to friends, tune into past podcasts for some really interesting stuff that we’ve been talking about, including this conversation with Scott Holsopple from Hightower Advisors. So Scott, thanks so much for being with us today. And I look forward to our next conversation.

Scott Holsopple: Yeah, thanks for having me. It’s great to catch up and talk a little bit.

Jack Sharry: That’s terrific. Thanks.