One advisor was previously a mountaineer, guiding clients to mountaintops before he began helping guide their financial lives. Another managed the branch of a retail bank at age 18. These standouts and others made the cut in On Wall Street's latest annual ranking of advisors under the age of 40. The members of this elite group come from all walks of life, from small suburban towns, such as Patchogue, N.Y., to big cities such as Chicago.

Yet while these industry leaders have varied origin stories, their successes share similar foundations.

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