David Tyrie, managing director and head of personal wealth and retirement for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, discusses his 26 years in the securities business.

I was born on the naval base in Norfolk, Va. When I was seven, my family moved to New Hampshire, about an hour north of Boston. My dad was with the naval special forces and then worked as the general manager of a manufacturing company. My mom still owns the private kindergarten she started 40 years ago. My mother's passion and empathy, and my father's belief in hard work, accountability, and being a team player, have threaded their way through my career.

My first job, at 15, was at McNeil's Ice Cream Shop in town. The owner gave me my first business lesson in the Pareto Principle, the 80-20 rule. He said that we were supposed to give good service to everyone, but the customers who visited the shop often should be served like they owned the place. He was so wildly successful that I never had to think about that lesson.

I started college at St. Lawrence University in upstate New York as an engineering major. However, I took a psychology course and enjoyed learning about what makes people tick so much that I switched majors.

After graduating in 1987, my financial services career began at MFS Investment Management in a training class of 50. Two months later, the market crashed and all but six were laid off, which was a dose of reality. Then I moved to the retirement side, which was complex, and found that I liked the challenge.

Five years later, Fidelity recruited me. After building Fidelity's database marketing system, in 1995 I took a leadership role to start the firm's website for retail clients. I had never run a business unit like this before, so it was a risk, but it was also an opportunity to make a difference. The dot-com world was just coming into vogue. Companies were trying to figure how to incorporate the web into their businesses. It was a lesson in listening to clients and matching business development to their needs.

I moved to Putnam in 1999 as head of corporate internet strategy, and then into the retirement area again. Putnam had a low capture rate of 401(k) rollovers, so I helped them tackle that challenge. Eventually I ran their retirement business.

In 2010, I moved to my present position at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. I believe this company can make a big impact in the retirement arena. The next 10 years will be all about advising baby boomers, the driving force behind our industry today. Roughly 10,000 boomers turn 65 every day, and they live 30 years longer than past generations. Planning for their later years involves considering innumerable parts. The challenge is to simplify the complexity so that people understand their choices.

In our free time, my family can often be found surfing. On a Saturday morning, there's nothing more fun for my wife, my four children, and me than to roll around the waves. You can usually find us on Second Beach in Rhode Island, on Nantucket, or at a beach in New Hampshire.

As Told to Pat Olsen