My road to a career in wealth management started in the hospital…
Perhaps it was because the Great Bull Market had only started to germinate in the early 1980’s that a career in the medical field was still most popular with my generation. That lasted as long for me as a volunteer position in the local hospital. Discovering my severe aversion to blood and the eye-opening experience of what working in a hospital was really like, I simultaneously experienced a growing intrigue of analyzing companies and investing in the stock market as I saved for my first car.
I would go on to work a summer internship in a local brokerage firm in San Diego, where the head of research would occasionally take me under his wing and invite me to attend an annual shareholder meeting. “Read the footnotes in the financial statements, that’s where all the dirt can be found”-- one of Irving Katz’s favorite pieces of advice. How true.
Leading up to my final semester at Berkeley, I interned at Raymond James headquarters in St. Petersburg, Florida. Not only the headquarters, but about 30 feet from CEO Tom James’ office. I was assigned to Tom Hamilton, who became a dear friend and mentor. Almost a year after that internship and finishing at Berkeley, I was employed by Accenture and living the life of a miserable junior staff consultant. Taking a much-needed break one Memorial Day weekend, I took a redeye flight out to Florida after an 18-hour shift. As I wandered down the halls of Raymond James to visit with friends, I rounded the corner and almost bumped heads with Tom James. After exchanging brief greetings for a few seconds, Tom asked me, “Happy?” Before I could consciously form a response, the word “No” came from my lips. “Meet me across the street after work, let’s talk” Tom said. Two weeks later I was back in Florida, with a new job.
Within the first year or so, I had established a large following within the Raymond James network of financial advisors. My expertise was in analyzing an investment product called a closed-end fund, the predecessor of the exchange-traded fund, or ETF. In about the third year of my ascent through the ranks of the closed-end industry, I received an offer to join a small boutique out in Santa Barbara. My boss at the time didn’t seem to think I was serious about the opportunity -- that was until he found that I sold my car and listed my house for rent in the local paper (there was no Craigslist or Zillow back then). Once again, Tom James was the catalyst that made things happen in a way I had not anticipated -- “Let him do it here,” Tom ordered. The “do it here” was the green light giving me approval to launch what was essentially an asset management subsidiary within Raymond James, as opposed to joining the boutique out in California. Tom didn’t give free handouts -- there was no startup capital provided. I was fortunate in that the asset management division was headed up by my original mentor, Tom Hamilton, who provided me not just with guidance, but the confidence necessary to succeed. Within just over a year, the business had eclipsed $100 million in client assets, which back then was a substantial raise, especially with no track record.
The next thirty years provided me with incredible opportunities, as I expanded my horizon and mastered as many aspects as possible, including not just managing investment portfolios, but product management as well as the multi-faceted role as president of several mutual fund organizations. While I would never trade the journey for anything, it became clear to me as I completed my third decade in the industry that I needed to return to my passion of focusing exclusively on the end client - helping individual investors.
Tailwind Wealth Management was launched in 2017, and now serves as fiduciary for 84 accounts and more than 30 households. I no longer have a two-hour commute, nor do I have to attend dozens of questionably relevant meetings throughout the week. Instead I can focus entirely on helping my clients achieve their financial goals so that they may live their dreams.
Finally and most importantly, I am able to work in an environment that allows me to be a more consistent part of my family’s life.