Author: Bronwyn V. Dewey

Crafting Your Legacy: 4 Succession Planning Considerations for Advisors

There is no doubt that 2020 has been a challenging year, as advisors shifted to mostly digital practices and navigated market volatility alongside their clients. Year-end will represent a welcome relief for many advisors who were forced to reevaluate their approaches over the last several months. But as the new year beckons, succession planning is one significant item that should be on every advisor’s checklist.

A well-designed succession plan preserves the personal and business relationships that advisors have developed within their practices. It is an essential element if a business is expected to continue beyond the advisor’s retirement. Yet, 73% of financial advisors do not have a written succession plan in place, and 60% of those without a plan are within just five years of retirement, according to a 2018 survey from the Financial Planning Association.

The strongest succession plan is considered early and evolves as your business expands; it is a living document that you adjust to align with your values and goals for your business as it grows. The plan is created with the owner in mind, but also has direct benefits for your clients, business associates and family. While you focus on doing everything in your power to better the lives of your clients daily, don’t lose sight of the fact that having a plan in place for your future impacts them as well.

If you’re unsure where to start, the following four considerations will lead you in the right direction. Great Valley Advisor Group (GVA) is here to help with every step.

1. Start by Taking a Step Back From the Day to Day

The first step in designing a strong succession plan is quite simple: Put pen to paper and translate your thoughts and goals into a concrete, yet flexible plan. Take a step back emotionally from your business, and gather the hard data on every aspect of your book. This includes total assets under management, types of assets, number of households, client demographics and more. These data points will be instrumental in reaching a reasonable and realistic valuation of the business.

Advisors tend to numerically overvalue their firm. And we understand why: Trying to put a number on something you have devoted your whole life to is difficult! GVA offers valuation services that provide an objective industry perspective on the dollar value of your business, but we also recognize that your practice is more than just a company. It is an integral piece of your family’s legacy and should be considered as such. Your loved ones should be incorporated into the succession planning process as well. When developing your plan, be sure to clearly outline what your family and beneficiaries will gain from the sale of the practice. Once the numbers have been clearly defined, you can begin to dive into the less quantifiable facets of succession planning.

2. Keep the Intangibles Top of Mind

Throughout the process of creating a succession plan, you should envision what you want your practice to look like after you have exited. Which aspects of the company would you most want to see preserved? These elements help define your legacy.

No matter your sales timeline, you have a responsibility to your clients. They work with you for a reason that likely relates to shared values. The advisor-client relationship is based on more than just trusting someone with your money; it consists of abstract constructs, such as the alignment of ethics and values. The successor who takes on the business also assumes responsibility for the company culture and should be made aware of what clients will expect. This intangible construct should be a key factor as you search for a successor.

3. The Right Partner Shares Your Philosophy

Choosing a successor is often what holds advisors back from beginning the succession planning process. The FPA survey referenced above notes that 67% of advisors worry the business will not be as successful if they are not at the helm. Overcoming this fear can be as simple as establishing trust with the right person.

Whether potential successors are courted internally or externally, plans should be considered early and often because they take time to design and execute. Some advisors choose to mentor a junior advisor already on the team or proactively identify a candidate through an internship program. When selecting an internal candidate, it is vital to foster open communication within the team to ensure everyone remains aligned with the end goal.

If you have not been able to locate the right candidate internally, you should start seeking outside partners. GVA provides support for advisors in this position, offering resources and tools to facilitate a successful pairing and transition process. Our network is expansive and opens the door for conversations with the right types of advisors. We help to identify someone who is both fit for the job and aligns with your values.

No matter how you find the successor, it is critical to do your research. Don’t choose a successor until you are absolutely certain they are the person you want to carry on your legacy. To GVA, finding your perfect match is the top priority. In some cases, the advisor match may be clear but the financing presents a challenge. GVA can help by providing capital up front to facilitate the transaction, so both sides can rest easy.

4. Continue Growing and Improving Upon Your Business Model

As you design your plan, identify areas of improvement for your practice. This process will make your business stronger in the immediate term and more marketable over the long term. Some pain points might not be easily addressed, but identifying them could help you choose the right buyer to improve your offering for clients. Be sure to document how you have resolved issues and overcome challenges, so you can share these relevant details with potential buyers.

GVA understands your business and respects what it means to you, your family and your livelihood. Realizing that you do not have to go through this sensitive, yet critical, process on your own can be the catalyst you need to embark on the journey of succession planning.

Connect with us on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook for our latest insights and team updates.

Your Scheduling just got Smarter. Great Valley Advisor Group Partners with OnceHub

GVA is proud to partner with OnceHub, the leading provider of smart scheduling solutions, to provide you and your clients with a seamless and professional experience when it comes to booking both virtual and face to face appointments. With the ScheduleOnce online appointment booking tool, you receive a link to a fully branded landing page with YOUR photo, contact information, and calendar availability that is easily accessible to clients and prospects who need to meet.

Best part of all… If you are currently utilizing GVA’s Online Portal, this service is included!

ScheduleOnce Reviews and Pricing - 2020

This solution directly integrates with both your Salesforce and Outlook calendar!

If you would like to sign up for this service, please email Colton Pence, stating you would like to sign up and either Colton, or another member of the GVA team will reach out.

Great Valley Advisor Group Adds Bernicke Wealth Management

The $530M Wisconsin-based independent RIA joins GVA advisor network to take advantage of compliance support and enhanced technology resources

Great Valley Advisor Group (“GVA”), a technology-driven full-service registered investment adviser (“RIA”) that partners with select independent financial advisors to support growth and provide access to superior practice management and business strategy resources, has added Bernicke Wealth Management (“BWM”) to its network of advisors. BWM joined GVA via its hybrid affiliation model.

Based in Altoona, Wisconsin, BWM is an independent wealth management firm that provides comprehensive investment management, estate and tax planning strategies for wealthy individuals and families. Under the leadership of Founder and President Ty A. Bernicke, the firm has grown to a team of 21 employees and manages over $500 million in client assets. BWM aligned with GVA as it sought the opportunity to maintain its independence and grow, and it will take advantage of GVA’s expansive advisor network, as well as the technology and compliance solutions.

“GVA is dedicated to supporting advisor growth and long-term practice success by providing access to best-in-class technology and compliance solutions,” said James J. Spinelli, Chief Operating Officer and Managing Director at GVA. “As the BWM team diligently searched for the right partner, GVA stood out as a natural fit.”

“We are an independent firm and safeguarding this independence was of chief importance to our team,” said Bernicke. “We sought a partner who we could trust to help us grow our business and who would support the practice philosophy that is core to our work and client service. The real value in joining GVA is realizing the distinct competitive advantage the partnership provides in terms of compliance and technology solutions. We’re excited to join the GVA network and take advantage of its benefits.”

With a centralized focus on helping financial advisors grow and achieve long-term independence in their businesses, GVA partners with select advisors and offers customized and integrated technology tools, comprehensive compliance oversight and back-office services, asset management, succession solutions, and proprietary advisor billing and compensation software. Advisors can affiliate with GVA by joining the RIA, utilizing its Office of Supervisory Jurisdiction (OSJ) or via a hybrid model. The GVA advisor network includes 26 offices across the country, who collectively manage over $3.25 billion across its advisory and brokerage businesses.

“We recognize that independent advisors have worked tirelessly to build their businesses and emerge as leaders in the industry,” added Spinelli. “Yet they face mounting challenges to maintain these levels of success. Our goal is to help them grow their businesses by removing some of the operational and compliance burden. For example, in addition to our in-house compliance team, we also partnered with Cipperman Compliance Services for external oversight. GVA gives advisors and their teams the flexibility to focus on client service and creating solutions for their clients.”

BWM joined GVA on June 18, 2020. The firm will maintain its BWM branding and Wisconsin headquarters.

GVA Welcomes Millstone Wealth Management

Millstone Wealth

Great Valley Advisor Group (GVA) is excited to welcome Travis Hansberger and Tyler Pahl, along with the entire Millstone Wealth Management team to GVA’s RIA Only platform. Millstone Wealth Management reports having served approximately $220 million in advisory assets*. They join us from Thrivent Financial.

About Great Valley Advisor Group

Great Valley Advisor Group (“GVA”) is a technology driven full-service Registered Investment Advisor. GVA partners with select independent financial advisors by providing customized technology, investment strategies, compliance, and back-office solutions. With access to multiple custodians and third party money managers, our advisors have the choice and flexibility to run their business the way they want. For more information, visit

*Reported assets and client numbers have not been independently and fully verified by Great Valley Advisor Group.

GVA Philadelphia Phorum 2016

Don’t Miss Out! Great Valley Advisor Group is happy to host their annual conference this upcoming April to all our current advisors. This two day event will provide an update on the current GVA business model, compliance and technology updates, and industry speakers who will answer all your questions on how to best serve your clients.

Don’t Miss Out!

Great Valley Advisor Group is happy to host their annual conference this upcoming April to all our current advisors. This two day event will provide an update on the current GVA business model, compliance and technology updates, and industry speakers who will answer all your questions on how to best serve your clients.

Sign Up Now


April 20 – Meet & Greet
April 21 – Presentations at The Hub
April 22 – Breakfast
*More details to follow


Hotel Sofitel Philadelphia
120 S. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103

The Hub
30 S. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Other Topics to Include

An annual review of industry & LPL Financial updates, new changes at GVA, and more.

Financial advisors technology is constantly changing. Are you prepared?

With Special Guest

John J. Canally Jr

John J. Canally Jr., CFA

Chief Economic Strategist
John is a Senior Vice President and Chief Economic Strategist for LPL Financial. He plays a major role in the development and formulation of LPL Financial market and investment strategies.