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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

This is How You Engineer a Sales Turnaround

Reported by Tommy Fernandez

When Brad Ross joined Highland [profile] as president in June 2012, the firm had suffered through four years of outflows.

He needed to take drastic action, and that's exactly what he did, Ross recently told MFWire.

One of the first things that I did was spend a lot of time getting to know what the capabilities on the distribution side, and frankly, across the board, it needed to be upgraded. We set about the first 90 days towards developing a plan for assessing the talent, upgrading the talent and basically restructuring the firm. The goal was to get the firm to a position, when January 2013 came around, where the ship was going in the right direction and we were in positive flows.

That plan includes aggressive hiring. The business plan Ross and his team put together in 2012 had different stages of hiring through each quarter determining how they were doing in sales.

We have a plan that we want to achieve between now and the first quarter of 2014, have 20 wholesalers in the field, regional directors, and a minimum of 10 internal sales people in Dallas, and then 4 hybrids covering the RIA channel. At the same time, we have an active search for a director of marketing That is create a position to help us reach out to our broker-dealer clients and continue to grow our brand awareness.

Currently: they have 16 wholesalers and eight internals, which included 13 new hires, including six wholesalers and seven internals.

As a result, the firm reported positive flows as of January and has had increased sales every month this year.

Next up on the hiring agenda, building up the firm's national accounts team. Actually, one of the first hires Ross made last year was Steve Dedyo as head of national accounts.

"We have very deep relationships within the wirehouses," Ross said. Ross also plans to grow the national accounts team, which currently consists of Dedyo and two other executives, by at least two more. The platforms are a big focus for Highland.

"The platform business is the great leveling of the playing field. You are not going to grow if you funds are not positioned correctly on the platforms," he said.

Among the more recent wirehouse placements was with Morgan Stanley. Highland now has relationships with the major warehouses as well as Raymond James and LPL.

Ross is also working to rationalize Highland's product line. For example, when he took over, the firm had 21 funds. Now the have roughly 15. His aim is to focus the line down to about a dozen when all is completed.

"It is an evolving process," he said. On the demand for alts, Ross said that the demand is evolving. He sees much of it coming from the RIAs, private banks and the wirehouses.

"All of my fine competitors and our firm are learning that it is an evolving marketplace for alternatives," he said. 

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