The wealth management industry celebrates the best advisors: those with the biggest book of business and the fastest revenue growth are recognized with awards and club levels. But an integral part of every advisors success is the branch manager.
These too-often unheralded laborers are the mentors and matchmakers of the industry, marshaling resources when their advisors need them most, introducing potential teammates and sitting in on client meetings in order to provide feedback. The best branch managers get their star advisors to shine, and give extra coaching to those who may be struggling to reach the next level of production.
Maybe its being able to leverage a different element of the firm or another advisor where they can take their business, and do something differently or do something better that they are already doing, Morgan Stanleys Paul DiGiallonardo says. Ive always had a belief that if they are a financial advisor here, then they are already successful. So how can we expand on that?
Indeed, this may not be a surprise to many, but in a business that is essentially built on relationships, the successful often have had valuable mentors early in their careers.
As Raymond James & Associates Frank Amigo observes, his current achievements have their roots in the roles played first by his parents and then his mentors in wealth management: Without any of those pieces, I cant say that Id even be in this business let alone successful in this business.
For the critical role these leaders play in their advisors and firms lives, On Wall Street partnered with New York Life/MainStay Investments to honor the top 100 branch managers from across the nation. This list was then narrowed down by a panel of judges to the top 10.
Read more: Top 100 Branch Managers
Though each has done it in his own way, these industry leaders have built successful branches and helped their advisors achieve new levels of production. Read on to learn more about this years top 10.
- Firm: Morgan Stanley
- Title: Senior Vice President, Branch Manager
- Location: Peoria, Ill.
- Years in industry: 21
- Advisors managed: 41
- Branch AUM: $4.3 billion
- Education: BBA, Pace University
In a business this relationship-based, it may not be a surprise to hear DiGiallonardo say that the people he has worked with have been instrumental in his success.
My branch manager in Chicago at the time [when I was an advisor] really brought me along and encouraged me to look for management opportunities at the firm, he says.
I was really fortunate to have a managerial mentor at the time, DiGiallonardo says.
Today, the Brooklyn-born DiGiallonardo oversees 41 Morgan Stanley advisors in Peoria, Ill.
DiGiallonardo says he tries to be a leader in his branch by acting as a conduit for his advisors and staff in order to ensure that their clients are getting the best possible services.
I view myself really as the individual who has their back, that is out there trying to champion their efforts, DiGiallonardo says.
He regularly meets with each of his advisors to see what their needs and goals are and how he can help advance them.
Maybe its being able to leverage a different element of the firm or another advisor where they can take their business, and do something differently or do something better that they are already doing, he says.
Ive always had a belief that if they are a financial advisor here, then they are already successful. So how can we expand on that? DiGiallonardo asks.
THE RIGHT STUFF
An important contributor to the success of his branch and the advisors in it, DiGiallonardo says, has been cultivating a positive work environment, one that encourages collaboration and inclusiveness.
DiGiallonardo says he maintains an open-door policy, welcoming into his office anyone in the branch who wants to talk with him.
If you create the right culture within your office space, it helps in every facet of your business, he says.
You are retaining the right people, he adds. You are recruiting the right people into your organization, and you will see the business continue to grow.
DiGiallonardo says the efforts have paid off: His branch has averaged about 5% revenue growth per year since he took over in 2008, and has about 50% market share in the community.
He has also recruited about one advisor per year, which he says is high given their market share.
For me, Ive been very blessed to work with some very wonderful people who have allowed me to think differently and grow as an individual, DiGiallonardo says.
I would compliment that by saying that the firm has done a very good job of being able to see the talents of where individuals are and move them forward, he adds.
When I think about where I started and where I am today, the people have made the biggest difference. -- Andrew Welsch
- Firm: UBS
- Title: Managing Director
- Location: Houston
- Years in industry: 24
- Advisors managed: 31
- Branch AUM: $15 billion
- Education: MBA, Colorado State University
DiNunzios financial professor at Old Dominion University in Virginia made all his students read The Wall Street Journal every day. He wanted them to understand how the issues in their textbooks came to fruition and had consequences in peoples lives.
He was fascinating, DiNunzio said. It sparked my interest in finance.
Over the course of 24 years, DiNunzio bounced around from corporate banking to an asset management firm until he landed at UBS working in an institutional consulting firm.
However, he was not very passionate about venture capital, and admitted that institutional funds were very boring.
BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
It wasnt until DiNunzio was able to marry finance with real-world issues in wealth management that his passion truly emerged.
He began working in the private wealth sector at UBS in 2002 in San Francisco. He took over the Houston branch just over five years ago.
Today, DiNunzios branch of 31 advisors has grown their business 35% annually and he has retained all of his advisors, except one who retired.
When he arrived in Houston, DiNunzios children thought he had been demoted because he decided to remove all the formal offices, including his own.
Also, DiNunzios branch was the first to pull its management team out of their offices and have them work alongside the advisors in trading pods.
We have a unique office structure, he says. Its a very communicative culture, and were sharing ideas constantly.
Continuing the open-door theme, members of DiNunzios management team and advisors are constantly meeting with clients. 45% of my time is spent client-facing, DiNunzio says.
CLIENTS COME FIRST
However, while he works alongside advisors in client meetings, DiNunzio is fully aware his advisors are advocates for their clients.
Asked how he gets his advisors to do what he wants, he laughs and says, My advisors would never let me tell them what to do.
He adds, I havent earned that right.
DiNunzio takes this humble stance because he preaches that everyone in his branch should put the client first, the firm second and themselves third. He is no exception.
When we do the right thing, it pays us dividends down the road, he says.
WORKING IN UNITY
Looking to the future, DiNunzio said, It gets easier every year before laughing and adding, not so much.
DiNunzio compares being a branch manager in the wealth management industry to running on a treadmill.
There is a tremendous burden on us for ongoing education, he says.
However, DiNunzio believes that if the client is the focal point of the firm, and advisors and management are working openly with one another, then everything else will fall into place. -- Andrew Pavia
- Firm: Wells Fargo Advisors
- Title: Senior Vice President
- Location: Woodland Hills, Calif.
- Years in industry: 21
- Advisors managed: 50
- Branch AUM: $3.5 billion
- Education: MBA, Pepperdine University
Friedman will never forget the day he asked his dad for an Atari game system. He was seven.
Though Friedman could never convince his dad to buy him one, the lesson he learned that day led the now senior vice president and Wells Fargo Advisors branch manager down the path of finance.
My dad, in his infinite wisdom, said to me, Instead of an Atari, why dont we buy you shares of Warner Communications?
He remembers, I said, I dont want shares of Warner Communication. I want an Atari. Well, he adds. I lost the bet.
With the money Friedman had hoped would go toward the purchase of an Atari system, his father helped him purchase two shares of Warner Communications. The now-defunct company later merged with Time Inc., and his $100 investment quickly turned into nearly $500.
The stock split multiple times and I was like a mini Warren Buffet, he recalls thinking, Like any good client does, I went back to my dad and asked, What am I doing now?
CHOOSING A PATH
When Friedman began applying to college, he narrowed his dreams down to two distinct career paths.
I was either going to stay in the technical world or I was going to be a firefighter, because back then, firefighters were the coolest, he says.
It was when his father, then a financial advisor with Merrill Lynch, invited Friedman and his then-girlfriend to a premiere advisor trip, in Beaver Creek, Colo.
These guys were skiing, wearing robes in the middle of the day this looked far different than the life of a firefighter, he says.
After that trip, I went to a local office of Merrill Lynch out in Tucson, Ariz., and I applied for a job, he says.
After getting into University of Arizona, Friedman applied to a fire department near Tucson and later took a job as a part-time firefighter paramedic.
Merrill hired Friedman in 1995. He soon became a financial advisor in addition to his duties with the fire department.
SIDE BY SIDE
When Friedman transferred to his fathers branch in Southern California two years later, he took a job as a deputy sheriff with the L.A. County Police Department.
Today, he works alongside his father at Wells Fargo, and oversees nearly 50 advisors with a total branch AUM of $3.5 billion.
Now Friedman says he is living the life he always hoped he would have.
Many people dont get the chance to build friendships and relationships with their parents, but Ive had the luxury of 20-plus years of being able to work side-by-side with my father, he says.
This industry has allowed us to have a father-son type of business and practice that has given us those gifts, Friedman adds. -- Andrew Shilling
- Firm: Wells Fargo Advisors
- Title: Senior Vice President
- Location: Seattle
- Years in industry: 12
- Advisors managed: 30
- Branch AUM: $2.5 billion
- Education: U.S. Military Academy at West Point and University of Michigan
Gnau took a unique path to the world of banking.
After graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1996, the future branch manager set off to join the Army. He served a four-year tour that took him as far as a military base in Seoul, South Korea.
As a Signal Corps officer, he recalls, I would engineer a network across the entire South Korean peninsula so that we could drop a phone, (or) drop a laptop in the middle of the woods or anywhere in the country, and securely communicate across the peninsula and back to the United States.
Personal finance was not the direction that I went straight out of college, he says. But I had always been a passionate investor and interested in money.
Gnau says that he began investing in his first IRA while he was attending college. He completed his tour of duty one month before the Sept. 11 attacks. That year, he went back to school and later received his MBA from the University of Michigans Stephen M. Ross School of Business.
Speaking about his work with financial advisors, Gnau describes a simple, straightfoward set of expectations from the rank and file.
I want people that have high integrity and put their clients first and foremost, he says.
They must be service-oriented, he adds, knowing that if you do whats right for your client, at the end of the day, everything else gets solved for.
Gnaus biggest day-to-day challenge has become managing risk. Thats why he ensures that his team of advisors stays current on regulatory news and policy changes that can impact their business.
In the military, he says, were always training for the possibility of deploying or serving your country.
Gnau adds, And Id say its critical that were always training or developing professionally. If our clients are coming to us for advice, we have to be the best of the best, Gnau says.
He notes that work-related education has also helped him prepare for the industrys transition to digital technologies that can help build business.
With the emergence of digital wealth management tools, he says the challenge has become, How do we connect in todays world with our clients when we know everyone is turning around a smartphone, a tablet, and at the end of the day, are doing a lot of stuff online?
While Gnau always tries to go above and beyond the call of duty in the workplace, he says family is the most important part of his life. He values the lives of his employees just as much.
Ive been happily married for 19 years now to a college classmate I met 23 years ago at West Point, Gnau says. I always keep in sight the fact that the most important thing for me and for anyone is family. -- Andrew Shilling
- Firm: Raymond James & Associates
- Title: Managing Director, South Florida Comlex
- Location: Miami
- Years in industry: 28
- Advisors managed: 59
- Branch AUM: $6 billion
- Education: BA, Florida International University
A branch manager is essentially an advisors business partner, Amigo says.
Within that partnership, Amigo likes to see himself as the go-to guy for any need his advisors have. He explains, If we view them as having their own business, then how can we help them grow their business?
Some advisors are happy with where they are. Thats fine too, he adds. Its my job to help them maintain what they have.
Amigo, wearing the hats of both mentor and matchmaker, troubleshoots an array of problems for his advisors, such as finding potential teammates and tapping outside educational resources.
Its a similar role others have played at key moments in Amigos life and career.
STRONG WORK ETHIC
Amigos parents, who immigrated to Florida from Chile in 1967, strove to see him succeed. They taught him the benefits of having a strong work ethic. They also encouraged him to associate with successful people who could help him in his pursuits.
They left a lot behind and they had to re-establish themselves here. My dad worked three jobs just to save enough to buy a house, Amigo says.
I wouldnt say we were struggling, but we were certainly the lower end of the middle class, he says.
We worked for everything we had, Amigo adds.
LEARNING THE ROPES
Amigo received his start in the business as a Merrill Lynch trainee in 1988, after graduating from Florida International University.
He says he benefited early in his career from having two great mentors.
Advisors Robert Simpson and Robert Clark had showed him the ropes on everything from marketing and accounts, to dealing with clients.
Without any of those pieces, I cant say that Id even be in this business let alone successful in this business, he says.
Amigo spent the first 10 years of his career as an advisor. Though hes a branch manager today, he still keeps a few clients.
Since joining Raymond James & Associates in 2001, Amigo has grown the Miami complex from 16 advisors, managing about $540 million in assets, to more than 60 advisors, managing about $6 billion in assets.
POSITIVE WORK SPACE
The advisors were recruiting are larger and larger. Part of that is the business, but part of it is the firm. Its now viewed much more as a top tier firm, he says.
He adds that a key part of the success of his recruiting efforts and that of the advisors in his branch has been to create a positive work environment that employees want to be part of.
Im not going to say that every day is a beautiful sunny day, but overall, we have a great group that works really well together. That, to me, is my greatest accomplishment, Amigo says.
And it is not just me. Its everyone else I work with, he adds.
Ive gotten some cool accolades, but that is nothing like feeling good coming to work here, Amigo says. -- Andrew Welsch
- Firm: Wells Fargo Advisors
- Title: Managing Director, Complex Manager
- Location: Portland
- Years in industry: 22
- Advisors managed: 142
- Branch AUM: $8.2 billion
- Education: MIM, Chancellor University
We get pulled in a million different directions. Every manager does. So you got to get back to, What is the main thing I need to get done? Mandlin says.
For Mandlin, a top 10 branch manager for the past three years, the main thing is helping his advisors achieve success.
Although he arrives at his office at 8:15 a.m., Mandlin is already checking his email and taking stock of his tasks for the day at 6:15.
I just want to be as responsive as possible, he says. If there is anything that has happened overnight that needs my input, I want to be there to give it.
Once at the office, Mandlin checks in with his advisors and employees. A significant part of his day involves strategizing with different advisors and teams.
I think where people find value in me is that Im thinking about the organization not as it is, but as it could be or should be. So I have a vision for the organization and each person, he says.
The rest of his day involves checking in with advisors hes already strategized with to see how their plans are coming along and how he can help those plans come to fruition.
Thats where the execution comes in. Great thinking is exciting, but it has to have the follow-through, he says.
Mandlin might give a team homework, telling them to consider doing more marketing and press outreach in order to connect with more clients.
The next day, hell sit down with the team members to see what theyve decided and determine how he can help make it happen, whether its moving in a different direction or connecting them with the right resources.
And to make sure he does the follow-up with each advisor and team, Mandlin takes voluminous notes during these meetings and keeps to-do lists.
Its about accountability of me to the advisors, Mandlin says.
After the strategizing and execution comes what Mandlin says is the most important part: celebrating success.
And its not restricted to just parties or dinners; Mandlins Portland branch office has a wall showcasing the achievements of his advisors, from new club levels to charity work.
He says the wall, which he created when he took over the office in 2012, helped create an office atmosphere of mutual support.
A big part of enacting change is to celebrate when things go right, he says.
We notice everything, Mandlin further explains. We know when people have births. We know when people get new titles. We celebrate the heck out of that. Its very personal ... We really celebrate with people. I think thats a big part of what inspires others.
He also notes that advisors achievements are starting to pile up at the office.
Were going to have to get a bigger wall here in a few years, he says. -- Andrew Welsch
- Firm: Wells Fargo Advisors
- Title: Managing Director, Market Manager
- Location: Richmond, Va.
- Years in industry: 26
- Advisors managed: 57
- Branch AUM: $5.8B
- Education: BA, George Mason University
Withers graduated with a degree in banking. But, just as he was entering the workforce in 1986, he had to alter his course.
I fell into this business, Withers says. It was a time where the banking industry was shrinking dramatically. There werent very many opportunities, so I started as a financial advisor.
It didnt take him long to get acclimated. Right out of college, Withers rose through the ranks rapidly. He has been with Wells Fargo for 22 years, during which time he has also trained advisors and worked as a regional sales director.
The Jacksonville, Fla., native has moved several times, working in Florida and St. Louis before landing in Richmond, Va., where then-Wachovia Securities operated their flagship offices at the time.And while those have since relocated, Withers says his Richmond branch is thriving.
Beyond working one-on-one with advisors, Withers says an integral part of his job is setting the tone, providing leadership access across the markets and setting the tone for growth.
Under his leadership, the branch held over 128 different client events last year in order to bring in clients. He has also implemented several training and coaching opportunities for the advisors under his wing.
My advisors participate in home office events and training programs 2 to 1 to the average training program, Withers says. We also leverage coaching opportunities. Last year, I had 30 financial advisors actively engaged with an outside coach.
Withers says facilitating these relationships between his advisors and potential mentors, as well as with the community, is a large part of the branchs success. The acknowledgment from the clients about the engagement has been excellent, he says.
The Richmond branch leads Wells Fargo in community support campaigns, according to Withers. He has personally served as chairman for the United Way campaign in central Virginia, where he was responsible for getting his associates engaged and has organized volunteer hours.
Each year for the last three years, I have gotten a grant for $25,000 that we were able to put back into our community on top of the other things we do because of our associates engagement across the marketplace, he says.
As for the future, Withers wants to continue growing his branch. 15% more than the year before has been a constant theme the past several years, he says.
And its been successful, because over 50% of the advisors in his market grew more than 15% in 2014.
Im kind of at that stage right now where I want to be the best at what Im doing, Withers says. I dont see a move in my future other than trying to grow our Richmond presence, our market presence.
He also says his branch has surpassed 150% of the average financial advisors productivity in the Richmond market. -- Maddy Perkins
- Firm: UBS
- Title: Executive Director, Complex Director
- Location: San Francisco
- Years in the Industry: 15
- Advisors Managed: 45
- Branch AUM: $17B
- Education: MBA, Anderson School at UCLA
At 35, McCashin is the youngest branch manager in the top 10.
The superlative youngest is something Ive had to get accustomed to, he says.
The Pittsburgh native had his first taste of the financial services industry as a high school intern. After studying finance at Penn State, he became a trainee at PaineWebber, which was later acquired by UBS. While many of his friends were moving into investment banking, McCashin was attracted to wealth management because he liked the relationship aspect of it.
McCashin, who got his first office when he was only 26, says it can be a challenge to be both young and in charge of a branch where many, if not all, the advisors have a lot more experience than you.
You have to overcome the preconceived notions of what a 26-year-old branch manager is going to be like, he says.
McCashin says a lot of young branch managers typically make one of two mistakes: They either come out guns a blazing, acting like theyve got it all figured it out or they are too timid.
The former position quickly alienates an entire branch while the latter results in the manager not being a leader within the branch.
Its amazing how many younger branch managers will take one of those two paths. Advisors are very bright people when it comes to personalities, and they pick up on either one of those very easily, he said.
McCashin says he avoided either path, trying to daily and proactively help his advisors locate the resources and solutions they need, and, on occasion, be willing to challenge an advisor to move in a different direction.
A significant part of his day is spent meeting with advisors, listening to their concerns and helping them resolve issues.
Its not uncommon for me to have 10 conversations with a particular team on a single issue, he says.
Hes also quick to point out that he inherited a well-functioning office, observing that he is careful about bringing in new advisors into that atmosphere. The last thing I want to do is mess around with that.
THE RIGHT GUY
At this point in his 15-year career, hes helped oversee or assisted in building new branches in New York and California.
I joke with people that Ive been with this company since the day I graduated college. Chances are Ive seen it before or have some background in it, he says.
And to what does he attribute his own success? The advisors hes worked with.
Most of the times when I took a leap or took the next move up, there was almost every time a significant advisor who stood up on my behalf and said This guy gets it, McCashin says.
Theres been a series of times when people sung my praises or said I was the right person when they didnt have to, McCashin adds. -- Andrew Welsch
- Firm: Janney Montgomery Scott
- Title: Senior Vice President, Complex Manager
- Location: Pittsburgh
- Years in the Industry: 25
- Advisors Managed: 27
- Branch AUM: $3B
- Education: BBA, University of Notre Dame
Foley didnt know he was going to be an advisor. After graduating from University of Notre Dame, Foley enlisted as a naval officer. It wasnt until he left the Navy that a new career opportunity arose.
I talked to a guy who was in the Notre Dame Club of San Diego, Foley says. He told me, If you work hard, you should be very successful. It was like someone waved a red flag in front of my face. I became obsessed with getting into this field. Once I did, I fell in love.
Despite the career change, Foley hasnt forgotten what he learned during his service. He says he learned invaluable lessons about discipline, organization and leadership during his time in the Navy skills he brings to the table every day at his Pittsburgh-based branch.
With about 27 advisors under Foleys leadership, he says the branch manages just under $4 billion in assets and conducts more financial planning projects than any other branch in the Janney system.
When it comes to management style, Foley says he wears two hats.
Im a cross between a coach and a partner, he says. If they need help or they need a problem solved, Doors open, tell me how it is.
One of the most difficult challenges of Foleys career came when a senior advisor was diagnosed with cancer. He asked Foley to cover his clients while undergoing treatment. Foley earned the clients trust. While he did not make many changes, Foley says he did help one of the biggest clients overcome fear of the market by converting him into a financial planning client. Eventually, the advisor returned.
The neat thing was he could really focus on getting healthy, Foley says. When he came back, he was pretty emotional that I had done that for him and supported him through that. It deepened the relationship greatly.
Foley says he doesnt necessarily think of himself as moving up the ladder to regional director in the future. He says working closely with the advisors under him is what makes him love his job.
Unfortunately, another advisor has been diagnosed with cancer. But Foley is going to help her too.
What really excites me, and what I think Im good at, is rolling up my sleeves and working with people closely, Foley says. Youre going through those events with people. Theres a level of intimacy that you dont get if youre playing the regional director or something like that.
Foley says its not just about keeping the business in order, but making sure hes working hands-on with his advisors. He stresses the importance of being unafraid to lead rejecting the conventional idea of what a manager should do.
The connotation for me is youre a guy signing forms. Youre not leading, he says. Going back to my Navy roots, I put a premium on that leadership. -- Maddy Perkins
- Firm: UBS
- Title: Managing Director
- Location: Boston
- Years in the Industry: 31
- Advisors Managed: 150
- Branch AUM: $27B
- Education: BS, University of Connecticut
Duceys parents wanted him to be a lawyer. This was a request he was more than happy to fulfill until the summer before heading to law school.
A family friend was able to get Ducey a $5-an-hour summer job making cold calls at Morgan Stanley in New York. He was hooked and law school was out.
Ducey was working at Morgan in the early 1980s, when the market was catching fire, as he described it, and worked his way up from making cold calls to sales assistant because he harassed his manager until he let Ducey into the training program.
Not long afterwards, Ducey relocated to Connecticut to work as a financial advisor with E.F. Hutton.
Around a decade later, the family friend that introduced him into the business moved into management, and would later help convince Ducey to do the same.
Around 1999, Ducey became a nonproducing manager for E. F. Hutton, but in 2008, at the height of the financial crisis, he moved to UBS and became the branch manager in Boston overseeing 150 advisors.
I think it gives me a unique perspective, Ducey said, speaking of his years as an advisor and his current management role. But people put more weight on a person who has had that experience, at least in my case.
RALLYING THE TROOPS
The pressure seems to be paying off as his employees have adopted a community based ideology that he created known as Best in Town. He believed creating a moniker like Best in Town in Boston would rally his staff together in an attempt to actually be the best wealth management team in the area. Ducey admitted that at first his advisors thought it was hokey, but have now adopted the phrase and identify with it.
People really do like coming to work, and were growing, he said.
Staff members have even made t-shirts and mouse pads that sport the Best in Town phrase.
Ducey explains that keeping this credo in the forefront of the minds of his advisors is important because it helps them tackle obstacles.
The biggest challenge is also the biggest opportunity, he said.
Were in an evolution where advisors are evolving from being asset managers to being holistic planners or advisors, Ducey added.
One way he helps his advisors in this process is to sit in on client meetings with them, using his own experience to help them in their approach.
I can provide some credibility to what the advisor is saying, Ducey said.
And advisors cant brag about themselves, but I can, he added.
Ducey seems to like, or at least thrive under, the pressure, admitting the buck stops with him when it comes to anything local. Im the CEO of UBS in Boston, explaining he takes responsibility for the company as well as the branch. I need to represent us in Boston. -- Andrew Pavia