He continued to follow up with Wallace, and 18 months later when the team was expanding, Wallace asked Cull if he would like to join. Cull answered, "Absolutely," and twelve months later he was an advisor on Wallace's team in the Buckhead office in Atlanta.
Wallace's eye for talent paid off. At the age of 33, Cull ranks in at number six on this list and has carved out a sizeable niche on the Global Corporate and Institutional Advisor Service team primarily focusing on Fortune 1000 companies.
In his role, Cull works to administer a number of employee benefit programs from 401(k)s to investments and deferred compensation plans. He's comfortable talking modern and post-modern portfolio theory and says his first focus is finding the right asset allocation by blending active and passive management. A calculated blend of investments, including using managed futures or certain hedge strategies, helps keeps clients on course. "Over time, especially with experience, I've found that most investors make decisions based off emotion and one of the primary drivers of decision-making has been when deviation of the portfolio is to the downside," Cull explains. "So in order to mitigate deviation to the downside you incorporate some lowly correlated or alternative type investments."
One of the portfolio management skills that Cull has found most valuable, however, is his ability to listen. "I'm able to use that to my advantage obviously in getting to know them and picking up hot points or sensitive points to their life," he says. "And I can apply those to how I develop a strategy for them." Moreover, Cull is an equity partner who has thrown in his book of business with 12 others on his team, which makes his position a challenge and "selfless," as Cull describes it, given that he must mentor and develop other advisors and associates, help oversee the office, and balance that with client work. But it's also the place he directs the most gratitude. "The team environment that I have been involved in for the last eight years is really the primary catalyst for my success," Cull says.
ó Mason Braswell
Peter Princi, 36
Morgan Stanley / Boston
$2.21 billion in assets
Peter Princi's path to his advisory career included a short stint in professional baseball. Princi worked for the New York Mets for two years after competing in the sport throughout college. "As a pitcher, if you give up a hit in the ninth inning, you can't dwell on a bad pitch," Princi says. "And in the investment world, you're going to get some wrong ideas that make it into your portfolios, and what you can't do is get emotional about it. You have to know when to change things." Princi also spent his college years preparing to become a financial advisor, getting an internship with legacy Smith Barney advisors in Cape Cod, Mass., during the off-season. Today, his clients include business executives, business owners, real estate owners and even some professional athletes, particularly in baseball.
This marks Princi's fourth year on On Wall Street's Top 40 list, while his assets under management are up from $1.52 billion last year. He credits that growth to the relationships with clients that he has spent 13 years building, and which often lead to new referrals.
Princi does not have any equal partners on his team, meaning that the business is roughly 95% his. He takes the lead for the seven-member team as portfolio manager, while he also draws support from a junior partner, analysts and assistants. The team structure means that Princi does not have the distractions that come with multiple partners. "I like to come in here and focus on research, managing money and talking to clients daily," he says.
Princi recalls the difficulties of starting out as a 24-year-old with a limited network, and says that building his business with the first $100 million in assets was probably the most difficult. He made up for his lack of experience by becoming an expert in stock options and incentives, and then worked aggressively to get out in front of executives in the Boston area. "I would know their stock better than they did, and really help analyze it from an outside perspective," Princi says.
It is those same research skills gives Princi an edge with clients. That means being better read than his rivals and having an opinion on everything that will affect a client's portfolio, from China to Europe to interest rates or the fiscal cliff. For now, his team is de-emphasizing corporate bonds while expecting that any dips in equities could reap big rewards in U.S. stocks. The team has also shifted its geographic focus in the last two years as countries like Greece started making headlines. Now, their stock portfolio is 95% U.S. and 5% international. "You need to be flexible in this business. You need to be nimble, and although you can study the capital markets dating back 80 or 90 years, the beautiful thing about this job is it's a challenge every single day," Princi says. "The markets change. You're thrown different curveballs every single day."