The Mission-Driven Advisor: Culture

Written by: Jeff Thomas

Are you a financial advisor that doesn’t feel a strong alignment with your firm’s culture?

You are not alone.

In Cerrulli’s “RIA Market Place 2018” report, “Culture” was cited as one of the top factors attracting breakaway advisors.

Boy, have I been there!

I spent 25 years at the two of the largest wealth management firms in the country. I worked at PaineWebber (which became UBS) for eight years and then Morgan Stanley for 17 years.

A NEW STRATEGY

In 2010, I was sitting with one of my mentors, Ron Blue, when he said “Jeff, everything I start gets bigger and better after I leave. I can’t believe the wealth management firm I started has grown to 15 offices and $50mm of revenue.” Then he chuckled.

The first thing that came to my mind is that my office in Houston did more that $50mm in revenue and there were six such offices of Morgan Stanley in Houston alone. In that moment I had total clarity about my professional purpose in life! It was like God took everything I had ever done, learned and experienced and wrapped in one clear mission. I felt Him say to me “I want you to scale what Ron started.”

At that moment, I literally looked over both shoulders to see if there was someone behind me that could actually accomplish that mission! No one was there. My head was reeling. It actually sounded like fun to try and do it. I had worked in scaled environments all my life and had lots of opinions about what I liked and disliked about those places.

CONFIRMATION

I snapped a question back at God, “It sounds like fun, but I’ve never scaled anything. Are you sure you’ve got the right person?”

I immediately felt Him chuckle and say “I equip the called. I don’t call the equipped.”

And there it was--my confirmation. I then asked “What should I do next?” The answer I got was basically “Wake up each day and ask me that. I’ll direct you.”

SCALING

So, I’ve been doing just that ever since. Because I felt I had some favor at Morgan Stanley as a large producer, I decided to try and scale the business where I was already planted.

I had started the Christian Focus Group at Morgan Stanley a few years earlier. At that time, while the Group was not officially recognized by the Firm, we had about 150 advisors on the email distribution list and I hosted a monthly conference call to encourage them.
After God delivered the mission to scale to me, I poured myself into growing the Group. Eventually, the Group received formal recognition by the Firm and it grew to nearly 600 members.

UN-ALIGNED

I dreamed of forming a “SWAT team” of advisors from within the Group. My team in Houston partnered with 50 or 60 advisors. Finally, however, we hit some roadblocks.

Our team wrote a brochure with “Morgan Stanley” and our team name on it that contained Bible verses. It was approved by the Firm’s print media department. Once it was approved, I sent an electronic copy to all 600 members of the Group.

The person who approved the brochure called me soon thereafter saying that her department had received so many requests for similar brochures that the lawyers had gotten involved and banned all Bible verses from company brochures.

That was one moment of “cultural un-alignment”. There were many others. Eventually the stack of un-aligned issues was so high in front of me that I could no longer see a way of accomplishing the mission God gave me at Morgan Stanley. I mourned the death of the vision taking place there.

THE PATH FORWARD

The dream came back to life, as I planned our exit and started Archetype Wealth Partners in April of 2017.

When people ask me, “What has been the biggest surprise you’ve encountered since starting your own firm?”

I always reply, “At Morgan Stanley, I used to spend the first hour of nearly every day negotiating with management to try and accomplish our team’s goals. I felt like we were accomplishing about 50% of what we wanted to do. Being a math guy, I figured that starting our own firm and getting that number closer to 100% would be, well, about twice as fun. The biggest surprise of starting our own firm has been that the fun of full cultural alignment has been exponential!!”

Going to work every day with a mission-driven, vision-aligned team (with no un-aligned parent company) is the most fun I’ve ever had at work!

I pray that everyone reading this finds such a place for them.


READ JEFF'S NEWLY RELEASED BOOK:

"TRADING UP: MOVING FROM SUCCESS TO SIGNIFICANCE ON WALL STREET"
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Jeff Thomas is the Founder/CEO of Archetype Wealth Partners. He has assembled an amazing team to provide an open architecture, fee-only (fiduciary) platform that offers a wide variety of investment choice to clients. Archetype exists to help families thrive across generations.



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