Edward Sudzina, one of this year’s Top 10 branch managers, is a leader who never forgets to make his advisers at Raymond James a priority.
Describing himself variously as a "servant-leader," an "open book" and a "player-coach," the Clarkston, Michigan-based senior vice president and complex manager says he prides himself on being responsive to the needs and concerns of his employees. Even as he leads a regional expansion of Raymond James in upstate New York, he remains closely connected to each of the 66 advisers he manages, including making the effort to have at least one meal with each of them throughout the year.
Sudzina works hard to instill that ethos when he works with advisers who are making the transition to branch managers within his complex, a move that demands a major shift in priorities.
"Your focus was on you and your clients throughout your career — now you have to eat last," he says. "Every action and decision you take has to be for your advisers and staff — they eat first. If they're not acting in that manner, then they won't stay in the position very long."
Sudzina plans to open a new branch office in Syracuse within the next six months, addressing a notable gap in Raymond James' presence between Albany and Rochester.
Already responsible for eight branches in Michigan and New York, the 19-year industry veteran has designs on opening another location in suburban Buffalo, and he intends to continue to build out his team's presence in Michigan, where he has been building a complex since taking over the Auburn Hills office in May 2001.
With $4.2 billion in assets under management, Sudzina says his complex is very much in "growth mode," which, for him, is nothing new.
Sudzina, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy and Michigan State University, completed Prudential Securities' management training program, after which he returned to Michigan and took a position with Raymond James at the Auburn Hills branch, a turnaround job if ever there was one. "It was a branch on fire," he recalls.
The manager was summarily dismissed on Sudzina's first day in the office, and many of the advisers were already planning to jump ship. But Raymond James had assured Sudzina it was committed to making Auburn Hills work, even if he had to "bring this branch literally down to zero," he recalls.
Sudzina, then 32, addressed the troubled branch at the outset, telling them, "More than anything else, I'm going to be listening to you."
Many advisers were already halfway out the door, and Sudzina embarked on an aggressive recruiting binge. Million-dollar producers weren't interested in his pitch, but he brought on many young advisers looking for an opportunity to grow in the collaborative atmosphere he was trying to build.
"We really did everything together," he says. "We had each other's backs — that's how we built trust and camaraderie."