Deciding I Was Not A Salesman
During my college years I thought I wanted to pursue a career in law, and more specifically, estate planning. While getting my MBA, I interned one summer at a local law firm that practiced solely estate planning. I really enjoyed my time there, but I realized I was more interested in the financial planning aspect than the legal side – it was the people and relationships that I found fulfilling. So, I decided to nix the legal career, and I began looking for an opportunity to work with various wealth management groups. Upon completion of my MBA, I took a position at the local Prudential Financial office.
After accepting the job, I was placed in their training program, which included studying for various licenses and learning about the products “Pru” offered. After completing the program, they felt I was ready to meet clients – yes, as a recent college graduate with 2-months of “training” – because apparently all it takes to meet with clients is to pass an exam. Needless to say, it was not a high bar.
During my time at “Pru”, I was part of a very successful agency. We were the first agency to win “The Trophy” (#1 agency in US) 4 years in a row. One would think we had the best advisors. However, we just had the best sales organization. As I mentioned before, we were taught how to “sell” various investment products. I knew this is not how I wanted to grow a practice (through selling products), so I went from working with my manager to seeking out different veteran advisors who I thought ran their practice similarly to how I would want to run mine. I was able to learn a lot from these advisors and implement their strategies with my clients, but I still felt like what I was offering my clients from an investment standpoint was not the best. I really believed I could find something better for them.
At this point, I started to get recruited by various firms local to me – Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, and other small boutique firms. I thought this would be my opportunity to find a better solution – an investment platform for my clients – so I took the opportunity to meet with them. They all gave their sales pitch on why their company would be the better fit for me. While I did find that they were able to offer my clients better investments (and maybe more cost-effective investments by having an ETF vs Mutual Fund – or a portfolio of individual stocks vs ETF), none of them talked to me about a specific investment idea; it was always the diversified portfolio and “stay-the-course” mentality – which is what I wanted to steer away from.
In about this same time frame (after taking the job at Pru), I would talk to my uncle Greg about what he was looking at both personally and at his job as an institutional portfolio manager. He would tell me about specific investment ideas he was looking at both in the credit markets and through real estate. It pained me to know I could never get my clients into these opportunities (that is, the opportunities that institutions have with investing) even though it made a ton of sense for client portfolios.
After much discussion, Greg realized that people were not getting the investment advice they thought they were getting and that they could benefit from an investment department working on their behalf. He decided to start Ballast Capital and after my long search for an investment strategy catered to clients, I was willing to take the leap and join him.
While it may be unclear as to how an aspiring law student in New York ended up the Investment Advisor Rep for an Iowa firm, the journey for me was clear. I needed a solution for my clients, and Ballast was just that.