My path to becoming a financial advisor has not been a smooth one. However, it has afforded me life lessons that fuel my passion and the work I do for my clients. I have been challenged by my colleagues to author my origin story as a means of sharing those lessons as well as providing a peek into the not so glamorous parts of the financial industry.
Growing up, I was initially enticed by the stock market in high school. I do not remember the name of the class. But we had a competition of building a portfolio of stocks over the course of the semester. There was no rhyme or reason as to what we “bought”. For the most part, my classmates and I bought what we liked or penny stocks, hoping they would rise quickly. After all, it was fake money! The excitement, risk, and competition of the activity is what got me really interested in the stock market and investing. It wasn’t until after I completed coursework in my college years that I decided my passion lay more with becoming an advisor as opposed to a financial analyst.
Becoming a financial advisor
After college, I started my career as a Financial Advisor at AXA in their Retirement Benefits Group. AXA provided a great start, but I knew I wanted to expand my experience beyond the world of 403(b)s. When I was contacted by a recruiter from Morgan Stanley, I saw it as an opportunity to challenge myself. I hoped the firm’s name recognition and training regiment would help me develop as an advisor.
In my first year at Morgan Stanley, I worked in their Client Advisory Center in Washington DC. I had the opportunity to connect with clients from across the country. The experience I gained in my first year was the best training/motivation I could have asked for when joining such a large firm.
However, I missed home. I desired to return to the Lehigh Valley. Therefore, I entered the three-year Advisor Training program at Morgan Stanley’s office in Allentown. I was one of approximately 70 advisors across the country to enter the program in June of 2016. I am proud to say I was one of only seven advisors to graduate from the three-year program.
Growing up, I always was a part of a team. Whether it be my 15-year career as a soccer player, a track athlete, or being a part of a fraternity. I desired that same feeling of camaraderie and kinship in my professional career. Unfortunately, I did not feel a large broker-dealer was going to fulfill that need. As a result, I moved to a smaller broker, looking to find a more encouraging environment for myself and my clients. My high hopes were dashed when promises were broken and the same roadblocks I faced at a larger broker-dealer were still present, even in a smaller-sized firm.
While working for a large broker-dealer and other mid-sized financial firms I learned a lot about the financial industry as a whole.
The client is not always put first. As a young advisor, I had my own assumptions of how one should serve clients. When growing my business, I focused more on building relationships than meeting quotas. Unfortunately, this is not always the norm. At times, I would become frustrated when client meetings were more focused on returns than on financial planning and the best interest of the client.
Bigger is not always better. While there, I felt the large internal research teams and analysts to be very helpful. At the time, I also thought the technology I had access to was superior. Six years later and with more experience under my belt, I now realize that valuable teams and partnerships don’t always come from inside of the company. I have also found that great technology isn’t limited to the larger firms. I honestly feel the technology utilized at Morton Brown is far superior to what I had access to in larger firms. There is also something to be said for being smaller and more nimble, especially in such a challenging year as we had in 2020.
Advisors are not always supported. In an aging industry, advisor support is key. When I felt fully supported by my firm, I did my best work for my clients. I felt that certain pay structures and commission tiers didn’t always encourage the advisor to do their best work on behalf of the client. The lack of mentorship and support of senior advisors felt limiting. In an aging industry, more junior advisors are not supported as they should be to help fill gaps as aging advisors retire. Broken promises, competitive atmospheres, and inconsistent support all feed environments that limit growth and potential.
These lessons fueled my passion and drive to be better and do better. Since then, I focused my career on joining a Registered Investment Advisor.
Finding my home
After joining Morton Brown Family Wealth in 2020, I realize just how big of a difference the transition has made in my professional and personal life. Here are just a few.
Embracing the fiduciary model. I love that ALL our relationships are fiduciary. As an RIA, we are legally obligated to do what is best for our clients. It is hard to imagine that this is not required of all financial advisors but, unfortunately, that is not the case. Many large broker-dealer registered representatives, depending upon the role that they are playing with the firm when interacting with clients, may not be subject to the same fiduciary duty that RIAs owe to their clients.
People make all the difference. Honestly, the main deciding factor in me joining Morton Brown was the team. The age and experience of the firm’s Founding Principals was encouraging, both of whom have over 15 years of experience yet are both on the younger side of the industry. That is a rare combination to find in this industry. I also appreciate their strong ambitions to grow the firm and include their team in that process.
Finding professional focus. Knowing what I wanted to do and finding the right place to do it has been a challenge in my career. I am happy to say Morton Brown has afforded me more clarity in both aspects. The firm’s commitment to serving families and providing a top-tier wealth management experience has allowed me to build upon my financial planning experience. Over the years, I have gained clients from across the United States. While I am pleased that Morton Brown has the technology and capabilities to serve any client, I am also excited to plant my roots more deeply in my hometown and serve more Lehigh Valley families.
While the paths we walk are not always straight, the lessons learned are invaluable in life. I am proud of all I have accomplished thus far as a financial advisor, and I am excited for what the future holds. I look forward to being a part of Morton Brown Family Wealth, a growing financial team that is quickly becoming the go-to wealth management firm for families looking of in-depth planning discussions. I am encouraged to use my experience to serve more and more Lehigh Valley families into the future.