Advisors reignite their passion for entrepreneurship and live their personal values
If you’ve ever considered a move to independence, you’re likely concerned about the logistics of running a business while servicing clients. Bryan Pieper and Greg Stingari of Trailhead Wealth Management and Ben Wright of Dye Creek Capital also wondered how they would be able to manage to tasks of going independent with continuing to meet client needs and spending time with their families.
Today, the trio of advisors is thrilled to have made the move. Their experiences can help you decide if independence is right for you.
Bryan Pieper and Greg Stringari: Turning the Wirehouse Model on Its Head
Bryan Pieper and Greg Stingari weren’t having fun anymore. Each had a successful career as an advisor working for a large firm, but a merger and acquisition changed the dynamics of the wirehouse they were associated with. The passion for entrepreneurship that had initially attracted them to the firm had dissipated. Resources were scarce. A top-down hierarchy was stifling.
Work/life balance was a struggle due to a long commute, heavy workloads, and the expectation to be in the office long hours.
And lastly, Pieper and Stingari weren’t able to deliver the exceptional client service that was a part of their DNA.
Three years ago, the partners launched Trailhead Wealth Management in Louisville, Colorado as an RIA. Although the transition to their own practice was somewhat daunting at first, recalls Stingari, the actual process went more smoothly than anticipated.
“We were a bit overwhelmed at the thought of launching Trailhead as an independent practice, but Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network (FiNet) made it easy,” says Stingari. “FiNet has been through these transitions so many times that they have a process that makes a transition successful. Bryan and I divided up the tasks on FiNet’s checklist. It took some effort, but we did a little bit every day.”
Pieper notes that the partners had launched a different practice in the past. “Our last experience was night and day better than our previous transition. With FiNet, the transition was exponentially easier,” he says.
Stingari sums up the benefits of being independent. “Every morning Bryan and I are excited to go to work. We love the culture we’ve created for our clients and our employees.” He adds, “We can work as long and hard as we want to and we can take time off when we want to: It’s our business.”
Flexibility is important to both Stingari and Pieper, whether its time to enjoy the plentiful outside activities such as hiking and skiing, or spending time with family. Although Stingari’s two children are in college, Pieper has three school-age children at home, and appreciates the ability to attend his kid’s events.
“It’s a better quality of life, for me and for my family,” says Pieper.
Trailhead Wealth Management currently has seven employees and one intern who Stingari and Pieper consider ‘family.’ Rather than structure their firm in the typical configuration of one support staff to many advisors, Pieper explains that Trailhead’s goal was to “turn the wirehouse model on its head.”
“Each of our employees develop specialties and expertise. We all interact with clients, allowing us to give great client service,” says Pieper.
Stingari concurs, “We pride ourselves on our service and our clients appreciate having a team approach. We love our employees and work hard for them and in turn, they work incredibly hard for our clients.”
Ben Wright: Making a Difference
The youngest two of Ben and Amy Wright’s four children had been born with Down’s syndrome, thrusting the Wrights into learning everything they could about raising children with intellectual developmental disabilities. What they found shocked them.
Once people with intellectual developmental disabilities leave the educational system, their unemployment rate is more than 80%, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Wright and his wife wanted to change that statistic. “My mission is to reduce this ridiculously high unemployment rate,” says Wright. “If every business would hire one person with intellectual developmental disabilities, we could have a huge impact on people’s lives.”
Wright decided to start at home. He envisioned hiring client hospitality associates who would greet clients, offering them a drink or something to read, and making clients feel welcome. However, he wasn’t convinced that the rigidity of the typical wire house environment would be conducive to hiring staff with intellectual developmental disabilities.
Wright wondered whether becoming independent would allow him to craft a practice that was congruent with his personal convictions. With Wells Fargo FiNet’s encouragement, Wright opened the doors of Dye Creek Capital in Wilmington, N.C. just over two and a half years ago. In addition to Wright, the firm includes Sandra Henry, a registered client services associate and wife Amy who supervises the firm’s Client Hospitality Team. Dye Creek Capital employs eight part-time client hospitality associates, each with intellectual developmental disabilities.
“I took a chance that Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network would follow through on their promise to let me create a firm to advocate for people with intellectual developmental disabilities,” says Wright. In fact, Wells Fargo FiNet created the official job title of client hospitality associate so that other firms can follow Dye Creek Capital’s model.
Dye Creek Capital’s client hospitality associates job-share a full-time schedule of about 30 hours per week. While some associates work four-hour shifts several days a week, others are in the office only one or two hours per week.
Flexibility in scheduling is key in making his model work. “Don’t think only in terms of a 40-hour work week,” advises Wright. “Hire someone with an intellectual developmental disability for an hour or two a week and give them a job that they can be successful at.” What you’ll likely discover, says Wright, is that the number of hours per week—as well as the job responsibilities—expand.
Wright is clear that the client hospitality associates are not registered nor do they work on client accounts. Their main focus is to engage with clients—something that benefits both clients and the associates.
Spending time with Amy and the kids is a top priority, and Wright finds that he is better able to organize his day to maximize work productivity yet still have time to catch a soccer game or attend a school play.
“There’s is no implied pressure that you need to be sitting behind your desk. There is no need to be at a Monday morning meeting with a wholesaler describing their company’s annuity products,” says Wright. “I can control what I focus on based on what’s important to my clients and to me.”
As a bonus, his office is just two miles from his home. “It takes me eight minutes to get to work,” says Wright.
Wright is thrilled he made the move to independence. By building a firm that he hopes inspires other businesses to hire people with intellectual disabilities; Wright is living out his convictions.
For more information on how Wells Fargo Financial Advisor Network can help you create a firm that aligns with your values, call 866-485-5383 or visit wfafinet.com.
Investment products and services are offered through Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network, LLC (WFAFN), Member SIPC, a registered broker-dealer and a separate non-bank affiliate of Wells Fargo & Company.