When John Lindsey of Westlake Village, California left his longtime firm three years ago to go independent, he did not realize his story would become such an inspiration to other advisors or that his reason for leaving, a desire to plan his legacy, would become a rallying cry for his wealth management practice.
John, a longtime top producer, was not even planning on starting his own business.
In his late 50s, he simply wanted to bring his 28-year-old daughter, Christina, in to partner with him. Christina was a top REIT wholesaler, and had previously interned at the firm. He believed that together they could offer more robust services to clients – and greater confidence and continuity for the future.
Problem: John says that working with his successor and continuing to build the business, while planning for his ultimate exit, was not possible at his old firm. He was not allowed to develop a true succession plan.
So, after months of preparation, he left to form Lindsey and Lindsey Wealth Management – a decision that led to costly legal battles over non-compete agreements, and an ultimate arbitration victory in July 2013.
“No one with my tenure in the firm ever left,” John explains. “When you have $170 million book, I knew they were going to come after me. … After I won the court case and arbitration, I looked at how many advisors are abused by the system. Firms will sue you as a deterrent. It’s death by litigation. … But I have big broad shoulders, and I decided I’m going to tell my story.”
John created The Bold Advisor blog to share his experience, and to encourage other advisors going independent. In recent months, he was still receiving one to two calls per week from advisors seeking his input on their potential moves. His best advice is to be prepared to spend some money on legal fees, but to hold your ground. In most cases, he says, firms recognize that clients have a right to hear from their advisor – that it is in everyone’s best interest.
In researching options, John turned down several more lucrative offers from competing firms, but has no regrets about his independence choice. Nearly 70% of his clients chose to move with him to his new firm, and he retained all but $10 million of the assets.
Since moving, John has continued to grow, with $200 million in AUM, bringing on his daughter, and building on his website and social media presence. He utilizes LinkedIn and Hoot Suite to disseminate his blog posts.
He believes continuing to talk about his story gives him more credibility, both in the industry, and with clients. “The blog posts going on The Bold Advisor are being read by clients. I’ve been able to pick up two to three clients directly from social media. Certainly, people like to hear about the little guy winning – a David slaying Goliath story. That helps with clients. They’ve got an advisor who will stand by convictions, morals and ethics regardless.”
Social media is also helping John bridge the gap to the next generation, with his daughter Christina. “I’ve got eight or nine years left. She’s got 30-40 years left,” he says. “She got 6,000 likes on the Facebook post announcing her coming on board.”
Bottom line: John says that doing right by clients is what guides him. “I love working with people, and helping people. It’s not always about the money. It can’t be. Things often fall in your lap because you do something and don’t get paid for it, but something happens later. Do what’s right for the client. The rest of it takes care of itself. That’s the way it is.”