No. 37: John Handley

Firm: Wells Fargo

AUM: $554.23 million

Location: San Antonio, Texas

Age: 38

Note: This profile is part of a special series devoted to On Wall Street’s Top 40 Under 40 ranking for 2012. Every day we take a look at an advisor who made the list to find out the secrets of their success.

“After my father retired from the Air Force, he went into the real estate business,” John Handley recalls, “and I helped him during summers when I was in college. I liked the way he had built up a book of business, with some strong long-term relationships. My father was always sociable, but I could see that his network of friends expanded greatly after he went into real estate.”

Handley decided he wanted that type of career, built on relationships and helping others, but he wound up taking a different path to get there. Handley’s opportunity came when Norwest began acquiring banks in Texas in the 1990s.

“After graduating from Texas Tech I was among the first trainees to be hired in this area,” he says. “In early 1996, I was offered a position in Victoria, Texas, as an assistant to four advisors. Norwest had taken over a book of brokerage accounts when it acquired the bank there. Our job was to retain clients by convincing them to stay with this big bank from the North, which had just come into town and taken over a bank that had been around for nearly a century.”

The first client assigned to Handley was an older local attorney. “I was so excited,” he says, “I called him on the phone and began talking as fast as I could. ‘Slow down, boy,’ he told me, and invited me to his office. I was nervous but I managed to convince him that we were here to stay. We wound up retaining his business and the business from other large clients.”

Sixteen years later, Norwest has morphed into Wells Fargo and Handley is still working there. “It’s a small community,” he says, “and you can get to know the people here. We’ve kept some of these clients for years, sometimes working with their widows and their estates and even with the next generation in some cases. By doing a good job and demonstrating the value you provide, you can earn people’s trust and show them that you’re not just trying to sell them something.”