When most retirement plan advisers want to catch up on
industry trends, they go to a conference or webinar; but where do the speakers,
leaders in the field, get their information?They may belong to a study group.
More or less formal adviser study groups have been around
for years. A current group was inspired by one of the founders’ fathers, who,
himself, belonged to a study group in the 1970s and ’80s. The appeal of the
best groups is the same now as then: Top-tier managing partners can meet and
share ideas, best practices and challenges at a level impossible in other
Sources disagree, though, on how common the groups are, and
the phenomenon is hard to track. “Under
the radar” is how two describe the groups. To share valued information requires
trust, mutual respect and comfort with other members, so new admissions are few.
Still there is much to be learned from the experience of these
groups and best practices they name. Firms might ultimately even want to start
The blueprint for the group begun by Daniel Bryant and Jim
O’Shaunessey, owners of Sheraton Road, with several other LPL (then NRP) firms,
could be a model for professional study groups in general.
The partners decided to host a two-day retreat, inviting about
20 other “leaders in the institutional investing consultant space, to come and just
talk about best practices where we could all learn from each other. These were people
we trust and respect immensely,” Bryant says. “There was no judging, no
competitive or professional jealousy.”
The fact that all were at different stages of growth and had
different ambitions was irrelevant, Bryant says. Even if a firm was smaller,
such as Channel Financial, and was “growing out a different animal” than
Sheridan Road, each had things they could teach each other. This is still true
eight years later.
Over that time, they have explored such topics as how to
grow a practice; how to attract and retain great employees; how to leverage
technology; customer relationship management (CRM), billing, basic practice management
and business oversight; as well as deliverables to a client. What does the
client need? What are the tools and things you provide the client? How do you
manage a committee from a fiduciary standpoint? These are all crucial points of
discussion, Bryant says.
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