2014 Top 40 Under 40 Countdown: #11-#20
On Wall Street annually honors the industry's top 40 advisors under age 40. This year's honorees, ranked by their production, are leaders in their fields. See which advisors ranked 11-20, and learn more about their success stories.
Later this month, On Wall Street will also unveil the top ten regional advisors under age 40.
To read the web-only version of this slideshow, click here.
Production: $3.642 million
AUM: $398 million
Jason Stephens got his start in the profession right out of college – literally.
"I graduated on a Saturday in May and started in the industry on the Monday [after]," he says.
"At the time, I had a five-month-old son. I had to start work right away," says Stephens, who studied accounting and finance at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
He chose to become a financial advisor because of the opportunity to work closely with successful people from diverse careers in reaching their financial and retirement goals. Today, Stephens operates as part of a seven-person team in Naples, Fla.
The group specializes in estate and retirement planning for affluent and high-net-worth investors. Many of their clients are snowbirds or northern transplants who are former business owners or retired corporate executives.
The key to the team's success has been diversification, Stephens says.
"After a year or two assessing the market in South Florida, I realized that the way to really service the clients was to have expertise in different areas," he says.
"One person can't be an expert in everything," Stephens says. "So we've got an expert in fixed income, equities, lending – we've kind of rounded it out."
Naples, which is on the west coast of Florida, is a hot spot for the type of clients with whom Stephens works.
Most new clients come to him through referrals, which he describes as the "highest compliment" because it means that he has been playing a key part in achieving clients' retirement goals and dreams.
"The clients have been with us and have been enjoying retirement for a couple of years, golfing and boating and doing what they love. That's a great testament to what we can do," Stephens says.
Image: Jason Stephens
Production: $3.683 million
AUM: $555 million
Peter Strope, a longtime UBS advisor, not only helps run a three-advisor practice in Canonsburg, Pa. that manages more than $800 million in assets. Strope also oversees an internship program that has helped other advisors get their start in the business.
"It's not fax this, fax that. It's analyze this cash flow, report that. It's really in depth.," he says.
Strope, a CFP who has 15 years of experience in the industry, explains that having a mentor early on in his career was critical to his own success.
"My old partner, who was a female practitioner that started in the 70s, was a single mom and CFP. She taught me the values of the business and having a strong work ethic. First one in, last one to leave," he says.
Strope's practice is focused on serving affluent and high-net-worth clients. He says the biggest challenge is staying flexible and prepared for the unknowns of the business, pointing to constantly changing economic and market conditions. Advisors, he says, have a responsibility to stay abreast of market changes.
"This is not a business where you come in and punch a clock and make the same widget every day. In fact, the widget in the afternoon is different than the one in the morning, and the one from last week is ancient history," he says.
For Strope, this is not a problem, but rather a plus as he enjoys figuring out how things work and determining solutions for problems. Researching is one aspect of the job that he particularly likes.
"I joke that I've been to the end of the internet and back," says Strope, who adds that he couldn't see himself in any other job.
Image: Peter Strope
Production: $3.693 million
AUM: $895 million
For Thomas Kane, the strongest reason to become a financial advisor was the deep bond of the client-advisor relationship.
Kane, a Chicago native who played football at Drake University in Iowa, participated in the student program at J.P. Morgan, which gave him the opportunity to interact with ultra-high-net-worth clients.
"The biggest thing for me was the clients, seeing that you could work with the most successful people in their respective fields. You really get to understand how they became successful, and you help them continue to be successful," Kane says.
Today, he and his two team members run a practice at UBS in Chicago focused on that type of wealthy clientele.
Their success is predicated in part on a smart division of labor, Kane says.
Although each team member is involved in every client relationship, they all have different specialties, he says.
One is focused on portfolios, while the other is a certified public accountant and helps coordinate with accountants and lawyers. Kane is the primary relationship member of the team.
"I can travel to see a prospect five or six times a year because of that division of labor," he says.
That helps earn clients' trust, which Kane says is one of the biggest challenges in the business.
"Finding ways to connect with them on a personal level is always a challenge. In the ultra-high-net-worth space, that is particularly difficult for a young person to do," he says.
The other key to their success is staying focused on their specialty: ultra-high-net-worth clients, Kane says.
"We didn't take on institutions or something that was not a core competency of ours," says Kane, who describes the practice as a "virtual family office" for the roughly 65 clients.
His laser-like focus hasn't just resulted in a successful practice. It has also created the deep personal relationships that originally attracted Kane to the business.
"I kid that if I got married, all our clients would be invited because we're that close to them," he says.
Image: Thomas Kane
Firm: Morgan Stanley
Production: $3.766 million
AUM: $472 million
For Sean Lannan, a Minneapolis native and Northwestern University graduate, financial advice is very much a family business.
His father was a financial advisor who sparked an early interest in the business.
Today, Lannan is part of a team in Chicago with seven other advisors. Their specialty is retirement planning.
"I've enjoyed being helpful to people for what I think is a huge transition in their life, maybe their biggest transition," Lannan says.
He and his team find new clients primarily through referrals.
"That is probably our biggest achievement," Lannan says.
"This practice group runs on referrals for the most part," he says. "And those referrals come to us because this team has performed well, and we've earned the trust and confidence of our clients who refer their friends and colleagues to us."
Next year, the team itself will go through a transition by adding a new advisor.
The new addition will help meet the biggest challenge of having the right team members in place in order to keep the quality of service high and therefore continue growing, Lannan says.
The key to successfully onboarding new team members is to maintain open lines of communication, he says.
"As they take on new responsibility, they will encounter challenges, and they need to be able to come to us if they need help," Lannan says.
That was his own experience when he joined the team 18 years ago.
In fact, the team extends that philosophy to the whole group, Lannan says.
"We keep our doors open throughout the day," he says. "We encourage that dialogue so that people on this team can learn from one another."
Image: Sean Lannan
Firm: Merrill Lynch
Production: $3.783 million
AUM: $544 million
Scott Thisted's career at Merrill Lynch started before he even graduated from college.
Thisted, a Colorado native, interned with the wirehouse during his junior and senior years at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo., where he studied business and finance.
Upon graduation, he landed a position as an associate financial advisor with Merrill Lynch in Denver. Thisted has been with the firm for 16 years.
"There are so many complex and moving parts to wealth management, investments, estate planning, etc., that it was intriguing to me to be able to help families navigate this complex world and provide them customized solutions based on their specific goals, needs and objectives," he says.
Today, Thisted operates as part of a seven-person team serving corporate executives, business owners and affluent families. He also serves these clients during professional transitions such as the sale of a business, an initial public offering and retirement.
Thisted's biggest career accomplishment so far is helping put together his team, which comprises "bright, hard-working and caring colleagues," he says.
The biggest challenge in his profession is time management, Thisted says.
"Managing my time between work and family is a huge juggling act for me. That said, I overcome these challenges by waking up earlier -- normally I wake up at 4:45 a.m. -- working smarter and working more efficiently," Thisted says.
His goals for 2015 include continuing to work closely with his colleagues, spending time with family and going skiing.
Image: Scott Thisted
Firm: Morgan Stanley
Production: $3.804 million
AUM: $480 million
Dan Hoffman says he's basically been at the same desk for 18 years as part of a Chicago-based advisor team specializing in retirement planning. Hoffman, who studied finance at DePaul University, interned with the team as a college student, and loved the long-term planning aspect of the business.
"Each of our clients today has a written financial plan that we help create. When I started out – this idea of helping someone put together a long range plan and helping them track it and make sure their on track – was appealing to me," he says.
Hoffman says that long-range planning proved its value during the financial crisis, as their clients were able to weather the turbulence.
"Being there for our clients is a real value for any financial advisor," he says.
Hoffman's eight-advisor team finds new clients primarily through referrals. He explains that their biggest challenge is balancing scale with quality.
"We want to deliver a certain experience to each one of our clients, to be accessible to them, to give them high quality of attention, to never have too many clients," he says.
The group puts a lot of effort into balancing and reallocating their resources and time in order to keep that quality of the client-experience high. To do so, they will bring on a new advisor in 2015.
Hoffman says the priorities for him going forward include helping his team grow, particularly the younger members, and providing existing clients with the level of service they need and expect.
"Our belief is that retirement can be one of life's greatest moments. Making most of the financial opportunities takes planning and help," he says.
Image: Dan Hoffman
Firm: Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management
Production: $4.086 million
AUM: $915 million
Jim Fink likes a challenge, and building his practice was no easy feat.
"I did it the hard way. I picked up the phone and [started] calling," Fink says.
"A lot of people can't survive that process. I was fortunate to have some success," Fink says.
He got his first taste of the business during an internship at Alex. Brown & Sons that he completed while studying at Loyola College in Baltimore. After a rotation through the private-client group, Fink knew what he wanted to do.
He joined the firm, which was completing a merger with Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management, and eventually transferred to his current office in Greenwich, Conn.
Fink's practice primarily consists of high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth clients. And he continues to work the phones in search of new prospects.
"I still do it today. I try to build the business every day," Fink says.
"You got to call, you got to get in contact with new people," he says. "It's a constant focus, and it has to be because it's a competitive business."
Fink, a native of Rochester, N.Y., says that his biggest accomplishment so far is surviving in a tough business environment.
"It's so competitive. There are so many advisors trying to find the same person," Fink says.
"It's differentiating yourself in order to get that meeting, and once you got it, telling a story that is unique," he says.
But that competition keeps Fink energized.
He also likes the personal bonds he builds with his clients and serving their needs.
"You're always trying to meet or beat client expectations," Fink says. "Expectations are constantly changing."
Image: Jim Fink
Firm: Morgan Stanley
Production: $4.2 million
AUM: $1 billion
Perhaps one of the toughest periods of Luis Miguel Gonzalez Ocque's career was around the time of the Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. bankruptcy in 2008.
Ocque was a financial advisor at the firm then, and his team was working around the clock.
"I lost like 20 pounds. My team was working at full capacity," Ocque says.
He and his team, who work at Morgan Stanley in Miami, weathered the crisis and have since thrived, in part due to his prospecting skills and their willingness to be there for clients during such catastrophic events.
"When I am prospecting clients, I think I have a good edge there. I love talking to people," Ocque says.
"I like to talk with them in good times, but I even like more talking with them in tough times," he says. "If you put yourself in front and help them navigate the storm, then they are going to like you."
The practice once comprised about 70% institutional and 30% high-net-worth clients, many of whom were based in Venezuela, Ocque says.
A change in government policy in that country forced him and his team to dramatically reorient their practice so that it now comprises about 30% institutional and 70% high-net-worth clients.
"It was hard because we had to change our dynamic," Ocque says.
Going forward, he wants to develop a more U.S.-based clientele as a hedge against future disruptions. Ocque thinks that his tight-knit team is up to the task.
"We are very close, having managed so many storms in the past. I consider them family," Ocque says.
Image: Luis Miguel Gonzalez Ocque
When you ask Brian Bennett why he has been so successful at a young age, his answer is pretty simple: "I work too much, and I probably care too much."
He pours himself into serving the best interest of his clients, a task that sometimes requires working around the clock. "Really having the best interest of the clients at heart means staying up at night thinking of their concerns, how to best prepare to proactively meet their goals and dreams, addressing concerns and problems," Bennett says.
He got into the wealth management business almost by accident. Faced with the decision of studying medicine or finance at SUNY Binghamton, Bennett opted for the second option when he took an internship under a financial planner at Merrill Lynch. "She focused on financial planning, which really appealed to me," he says. "I liked it, and I liked talking about money. It was the way to go."
As a young financial advisor, Bennett says that it was difficult to gain clients' trust because of his age. He appealed to clients by being as conservative as possible. As his career progressed, Bennett began to understand the personal aspect of the business. Some of his clients, he says, had absolutely no idea what they were doing at first. Recently, Bennett was introduced to a client with what he calls a "potluck" of investments as their money was all over the place. They weren't aware of their expenses or their tax situation. And estate planning hadn't been talked about, either.
"We spent hour after hour after hour basically trying to understand and expose everything," Bennett says. "One aspect by one we were able to get them consistent income that was more tax advantaged."
Bennett's team's dogged work ethic paired with having long and important conversations with clients have resulted in several referrals. "And sometimes, I'm not shy," he says. "I ask for referrals."
Bennett's advice for young advisors is simple: Put in the time and keep learning. "If you're a professional in any industry you're going to be working extremely hard," he says. "In this industry, because of the fluidity of the markets and information, you need to be reading constantly and putting yourself out there consistently with your clients to get ahead of their goals."
Image: Brian Bennet
When Bruno Miranda immigrated to the United States from Brazil as a teenager, all he knew about his future was that he wanted to study finance in college. His life changed forever when he applied for an internship at Merrill Lynch during his senior year.
Miranda went in blind, not knowing what to expect. But during his internship at Merrill, he discovered a passion for wealth management.
"I had no idea that this was an opportunity that existed," Miranda says. "I went in not knowing anything at all about the wealth management market or the international business -- or even that I could cover Brazil," he says. Miranda was ecstatic that if he chose this career, he would be able to help investors from his home country.
Immediately after graduation, he took the Series 7 exam. Miranda continued working under the wing of a senior financial advisor at Merrill. Together, they switched their firm over to UBS. Miranda's mentor has since retired. It is Miranda's 15th year with the wirehouse. He credits his success at such a young age partly to finding the right home for his firm and also for focusing on the quality of accounts rather than the quantity.
"Slowly, we got where we are today by diversifying our business and product lines while not being too aggressive over the course of 10 to 15 years," Miranda says. "There are quite a few stories of people who started very small with us and have consistently grown their assets."
Miranda's advice for young advisors? Find a great team and mentor. "Position yourself into an established team and learn as you help and learn from someone else's book," Miranda says. "When you're young, you learn a lot from other advisors and don't have to build a business from scratch."
Miranda continues to preach what he learned as an intern years ago. "It's all about patience and not being too aggressive," he says.
Image: Bruno Miranda
On Wall Street annually honors the industry's top young producers. Advisors ranked numbers 11 to 20 share how they got there.