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Management and Management Systems at an Ameriprise Financial Services' Branch

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Management and Management Systems at an Ameriprise Financial Services’ Branch

My father taught me about the stock market when I was very young and growing up I always had had an interest in investing and the markets in general. After high school, developing a career as a financial consultant seemed very appealing. I found a company, which I will refer to as “XYZ Financial Advisors,” that would sponsor me so that I could get the necessary licenses to register as a financial advisor with the plethora of agencies that require it. After a month of study, I easily passed the exams that would allow me to practice as a professional financial advisor.

About six months later, I realized that the management of the advisory firm I was working for just didn’t support the staff underneath them and I made a decision to leave the company. I knew I had found the right field вЂ" I loved, and still love working in the industry вЂ" but I needed to find a system that would help me succeed.

The next month I had an offer to join the ranks of Ameriprise Financial Services, a Fortune 300 Advisory firm, provided that I got a different set of more specialized licenses. This meant more intensive study and a prolonged unemployment, but the opportunity was too good to pass up. It was at this point that I decided to go back to school as well. I figured as long as I was going to be at home studying, I could kill two birds with one stone. Today, I am in pre-appointment (training) program at Ameriprise’s Redwood Shores, California Branch.

I didn’t realize it at the time I joined, but the differences in management styles and systems at Ameriprise made a huge difference in not only the efficiency in which business was done but also in the morale of the advisors in their day-to-day work. Management systems at the branch office of Ameriprise Financial Services in Redwood Shores, California are well constructed and supervisors there are well versed in good management techniques. Those same ideas may have been either inadequate or missing at “XYZ Financial Advisors.”

Functional and Dysfunctional Control Systems

When I worked at “XYZ,” I noticed immediately that everyone was essentially working for themselves. Managers were forced to maintain their own client book because even they didn’t receive a salary. Everyone below the corporate level worked on commissions only.

As a young, entrepreneurially minded, advisor I liked that I was, for all intensive purposes, unaccountable to anyone as long as I maintained my legal and ethical standards. I did have some contact with my direct manager. Once a week, I would go over my calendar with my manager, talk about what I expected, and he would say “good luck.” However, without anyone actively tracking my progress and helping me develop my skills as an advisor, I quickly began to struggle. Six months later, I decided I wanted out.

My experience at Ameriprise has been distinctly different. Everything I do is closely monitored to ensure not only my success, but the companies. I check in with my manager every day. My week is scheduled for me вЂ" ten weeks in advance to accommodate any changes that need to be made вЂ" and my numbers are compiled daily and reported to the home office once a week. I attend an interactive web based training three times a week and I participate in scheduled video conferences with upper management as they track my progress.

Another control system called the Activity Management System, or AMS, is used to track the momentum of each advisor’s practice. Essentially a “living” spreadsheet, this system tracks and predicts ongoing business activities and compiles a moving average to determine areas of strength and weakness. With this knowledge, the advisor can redouble his or her efforts in order to correct any foreseen problems.

While I occasionally feel like I’m being smothered, I realize that these control systems are in place to ensure the success of the company. Every advisor gets standardized training and must meet minimums in proficiency to ensure a consistent client experience. “Where the business is the product, how the business interacts with the consumer is more important than what it sells.” (Gerber, 1995, p. 118)

This extensive training is an example of organizational goals within an output control system. The goals of a consistent quality of client experience are achieved by making sure that all advisors meet minimum standards and that management be actively involved in the development of those advisors. In becoming involved with their subordinates, managers help their advisors develop personal goals that align with the branch’s and company’s objectives. “It is vital that the goals set at each level harmonize with the goals set at other levels so that managers and other employees throughout the organization work together to obtain the corporate goals that top managers have set.” (Jones & George, 2007, p. 294)

Management Techniques

While “XYZ” utilized a management model based on personal accountability and an individual advisor’s desire to make money, Ameriprise focuses on a “vision based” model of leadership. Ameriprise defines vision based leadership in several pieces. Conflict Proficiency and Proactivity are key elements in this model.

Conflict Proficiency is a concept that realizes that problems will arise within the organization, not just between personnel, but in scheduling and interdepartmental affairs and other, broader areas. By requiring leaders within the organization to be conflict proficient, Ameriprise sets a standard that, even when problems arise, solutions must drive the individuals, offices and the company as whole, to their goals. As Winston Churchill said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

“Proactivity” means that at times when problems are not present, potential problems are to be identified and solutions are to be in place to correct weaknesses in the operating structure of the company. This could be as simple as helping a new advisor manage his calendar or as complex as restructuring the regional management in an effort to create more unification between branches and everything in between.

Proactivity also requires an organization to



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