Can you hear that? Listen very carefully, it's barely audible at the moment but over the coming months it will become deafening in the run up to the minimum qualifications deadline.
It is the sound of the clock ticking as time runs out for getting the best price for your client bank.
It is widely thought that the unintended fall out of the Retail Distribution Review will be a rush to sell up rather than become Level 4 qualified ahead of 2012. And I am inclined to agree.
Surely there's no rush though, as that's over three years down the line? Wrong. The qualifications deadline might be some way off but that does not mean that you have the same length of time in which to leisurely secure a good price for your business.
The importance of factoring in a decent handover period when selling a client bank cannot be overplayed - it can make or break a deal.
To the buyer it can be the difference between 90 per cent client retention and 0 per cent. The more rushed the handover the less likely the old adviser's clients are to stick around. Crudely put, the sliding scale of client retention reflects the time dedicated to a successful handover: more hours = more clients.
Best case scenario you devote two years to it, at a stretch an absolute minimum of six months, any less and the clients walk. So what you are effectively paying out for is a list of names which ultimately end up generating income for another IFA.
It is not just the buyer who benefits from a well planned and phased hand over. Not only does it afford the seller the peace of mind of knowing that his or her clients will continue to receive the same professional service they have become accustomed to, but the adviser selling the business will also ensure that the seller pays a fair and accurate sum for their book of business.
The acquisitive firms out there use this and other criteria to judge the value of your firm. And as consensus appears to be that as 2012 nears there will be a glut of adviser firms looking to offload their client banks, those that leave it to the last minute run the risk of devaluing their businesses still further. A double whammy.
For those practice owners looking to leave the industry ahead of the 2012 deadline the message is simple but stark: act now or risk compromising the value of your business.
While for those practices on the acquisition trail now more than ever their focus needs to be on profitability. The saying "turnover is vanity, profit is sanity" to my mind has to be the mantra for the successful business model of the future and both sellers and buyers would be well advised to pay heed.
A week might be a long time in politics but when it comes to buying or selling an adviser's client bank, a year can feel very much like a week.
Sheriar Bradbury is managing director of Bradbury HamiltonIFAonline
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