In 1970, when I was in fifth grade, my family moved from Chicago to Grand Rapids, MI. Then, when I was a freshman at Grand Valley State University in Annandale, MI, my parents moved to Indianapolis. My older brother and sister and I stayed behind and I helped my brother buy a house. I moved in with him, quit the football team, and went to work full-time while carrying a full course load.
I took an accounting class and liked it so I decided to major in it. At the end of my sophomore year, a friend and I went home to Michigan to eight inches of snow and 10-degree weather. We decided we could be broke anywhere, so why not be warm? We transferred to Florida State University. I joined a fraternity and got a job serving dinner at a sorority house.
My first job after college was as an auditor at Main Hurdman, a public accounting firm that eventually became KPMG. Then I worked for an insurance agency, where I learned the art of selling. The owner sent me to the Dale Carnegie Professional Selling course. I eventually became an instructor and taught the course part-time, at night, for eight years. That had a benefit far beyond any financial reward. I became an effective public speaker and learned how to coach salespeople and develop effective training programs, all of which have been valuable in my career.
In 1989 Merrill Lynch recruited me. The concept of financial planning was new. Some advisors were afraid to ask clients how much money they made. I had done people's tax returns and had no problem asking. You learn how to profile people. You also learn that the product is a commodity so the way to differentiate yourself is by your competency. I spent a lot of time learning about estate planning and wealth transfer strategies.
I was an advisor for almost six years before I became an associate director under Joe Gannotti, a senior leader in Chicago. It was like serving an apprenticeship. Then I assumed a director role in Oak Brook, Il and took Joe's place in 1998 when he retired.
In 2000, I moved to San Francisco to start what is now our Private Banking and Investment Group in the Pacific Northwest. Bonds were yielding 6% tax-free in California at the time. No one wanted them. They wanted Cisco, Intel and other tech companies. Seven months later the bubble burst and they found out why the bond yield was so good. I stayed five years and then returned to New York to run the Private Banking & Investment Group nationally. In May I was promoted to my current position.
Our company has helped raise funds for the American Cancer Society through our Employee Giving campaign. I became interested in doing more and was recruited as chairman of the Manhattan Region Financial Services Cares Board. By July 2011 we had raised $1.6 million. Cancer touches everyone in some way. Funding research for a cure is critically important.
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