Philip Palaveev shows his command of practice management and literary artifice in "The Ensemble Practice"

October 24, 2012 — 3:34 AM UTC by Brooke Southall

1 Comment

Brooke’s Note: People in the RIA business may be good financial advisors but they tend to write almost unforgivably boring books. I consider myself something of a world expert on the subject. For the 12 years that I have covered this industry, I have received a steady flow of advisory books — mostly sent to me in an overnight envelope as if my receiving them were a time-critical matter. I never wrote about a single one of these books, though Mark Tibergien’s latest effort deserves a read. The exception is a book by an RIA that I never actually received. See: Two DFA advisors win big book contract after 'Dying banker’ article in NYTimes. I put most of these volumes of trite ideas expressed dully on two groaning shelves in my office at InvestmentNews because I generally didn’t have the heart to throw them out. They may be there to this day. So my highest praise for Philip Palaveev’s book is that I’m actually excited to write about it. As a journalist I admire its liveliness, and as a fourth-year entrepreneur, I admire its tackling of subjects that seem to slip between the cracks of many how-to books on this subject.

For a big wealth management firm to grow big and solid, it needs to have a good CEO who makes big, difficult decisions that are often unpopular but need to made anyway.

The person who becomes this CEO might best be you, and there is a mindset you need to get into and there are things you need to know in order to fill these shoes and accomplish your mission.

How to 'how to’

This is a central message that Philip Palaveev conveys in “The Ensemble Practice” (Bloomberg Press, 2012), — that firms with multiple principals outgrow and outperform ones that rely on a single principal.

What may set the book apart — along with the former Moss Adams and Fusion Advisor Network star’s obviously strong grasp of his material — is its willingness to delve deeply into how to do what it tells you to do.

Any book that instructs on the wonders and necessity of having co-principals is doomed to be marginal unless it really tackles the subject of how to deal with the downside of such delicate relations. See: Philip Palaveev hangs out his shingle with a new consulting model for RIAs and a money-back guarantee.

This book has sub-chapters with titles like “How to fight with your partner,” “Losing control of your own firm” and “People who don’t develop.” When I told Philip how these sections jumped out at me, he said he based it more on his own experience working through partnership issues than what he has observed from the sidelines as a consultant. It shows and the reader comes away grateful for Palaveev’s painful-as-sex-to-discuss lessons.

The 'we’ in Team

I e-mailed Palaveev and asked him to provide thoughts about how a busy consultant who was engaged in the start-up of his own practice found a way to write a book.

Here is the response that I received:

The book started as a collection of notes, questions and process charts that I found myself creating in the summer of 2011. At that time I realized that I am working with seven different mergers and involved in a dozen or so partnership compensation discussions. It occurred to me that we keep talking about acquisitions and equity models but we are missing the reality right under our noses — the best firms in the industry are partnerships, owned and operated by the advisors and functioning as a team. See: How a swath of billion-dollar-plus RIAs are posing a threat to indie advisors.

It was also the topic I had spend most of my time on working with clients and to a degree it also came from reflection on my own experience trying to create a better partnership and do things better in the businesses I have been involved in as owner/partner.

The book was written on airplanes travelling to meet with advisors and on the kitchen table on weekends. It happened between October 2011 and March 2012. I talk fast and I write fast and actually enjoyed writing. I always wanted to write a book but never thought about writing this one until [John] Wiley [& Sons Inc.] called me and offered to consider a book proposal, if I had one.

All of the examples in the book are real clients I worked with, and some were happening literally as I was writing the chapter. I really wanted the book to be practical — not some academic study of organizational models.

Advisor approved

The practice of colleagues “blurbing” other colleagues is a common practice in the publishing industry, but for what it’s worth, here are a few comments by credible RIA business stalwarts reacting to Palaveev’s literary debut.

“I found myself nodding along, laughing out loud and taking lots of notes about ideas would like to implement in my own business.” – Rebecca Pomering, CEO of Moss Adams Wealth Advisors LLC See: Advisor Spotlight: Moss Adams looks to branding for its next $2 billion of growth in RIA assets.

“Philip Palaveev has done something remarkable. His step-by-step examination of how to build and manage a complex ensemble advisory practice completely removes the intimidation factor from one of the biggest challenges in the financial services space. This is 'how-to’ writing at its most valuable.” – Bob Veres, publisher, Inside Information See: Bob Veres adds his bottom line to valuation debate started by Mark Hurley.

“This book holds the secret recipe I have long needed.” – Jennifer Hatch, president, Christopher Street Financial See: Advisor spotlight: How a former JPMorgan bond saleswoman transformed an iconic advisory into a business.

Politeness to Bulgarians

Palaveev is the first one to acknowledge the potential for the “blurbing” system to mask true feelings.

“The early comments have been very positive, although the cynical Eastern European in me (we are very cynical people) tends to think that most people are too polite to write me that the book sucks.”

Mentioned in this article:

The Ensemble Practice LLC
Consulting Firm
Top Executive: Philip Palaveev

Moss Adams
Consulting Firm
Top Executive: Rebecca Pomering

Pershing Advisor Solutions
Asset Custodian
Top Executive: Mark Tibergien

Share your thoughts and opinions with the author or other readers.


Elmer Rich III said:

October 25, 2012 — 5:00 PM UTC

We have commented before that our industry needs fewer stories/case studies and more research, evidence and data.

Surely the author would insist on testing of any “step-by-step” prescriptions. In fact, there is no way to know if what one advisor firm did, in the past at a specific location can be generalized to current conditions in different cites, markets and firms.

Finally, we always cringe when we hear the word “secret”!

Imagine if you went to your doctor and she said: “I have a secret treatment and here are the stories of patients I’ve cured.” No doubt you would want some statistical data and scientific proof.

Submit your comments: