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Renaissance Advisor Sees Commonality in His Diversity

By Thomas Coyle December 20, 2016

For a financial advisor at a small firm, David Steele gets a lot of press.

In the year or so since he launched San Francisco-based RIA One Wealth Advisors with his brother Jonathan Steele, he’s been written up in the Wall Street Journal, the San Francisco Chronicle and other publications — in addition to being featured in a video interview in FA-IQ.

But then Steele isn’t just a financial advisor. Besides running and co-owning One Wealth, which manages $300 million, the ex-JPMorgan Securities broker owns half a dozen eating establishments in the Bay Area, works as a restaurant consultant, promotes concerts and festivals, and owns a chain of yoga studios.

As though that weren’t enough, he’s also a visual artist with several gallery shows under his belt and a creative writer whose first play premieres next summer at San Francisco’s prestigious PlayGround studio.

From Steele’s perspective, however, all these pursuits are rooted in two things: hard work and precise planning.

“It’s all the same,” says Steele. “People tend to dwell on the differentiators.”

Instead of seeing the processes involved in establishing a successful eatery as radically different from those related to helping a client devise a thoughtful, resilient and detailed financial plan, Steele contends they’re identical — at least in outline.

David Steele

Similarly, just as producing a music festival involves coordination with artists and their management as well as facility staff, unions and a slew of vendors, being at the center of a client’s financial life means close and careful coordination with accountants, attorneys and other trusted professionals.

“Everything I do is the same,” Steele emphasizes. “I mean that as a positive: I find these processes very interesting and enjoyable.”

Even Steele’s artistic endeavors call for something in common with his other businesses.

“It’s just work,” he says. “Writing the play was work — sitting and typing — not, for me at least, a spiritual undertaking.”

In addition to seeing a clear throughline in a diverse portfolio of interests and business activities, Steele keeps things straight in his mind by putting One Wealth Advisors firmly at the center of his work life.

“I spend the most time on my financial business,” Steele says. In this sense, he adds, his work as a financial advisor is the hub of his professional interests, and the rest — from restaurants and music festivals to yoga studios and his own art — “are the spokes.”

With functional similarities clear in his mind, and a sense of centeredness around financial planning keeping things stable, Steele can reap the benefits of having other activities feed into his wealth management practice.

Among One Wealth Advisors’ clients are music-group managers, musicians, restaurant owners, writers and others connected to Steele’s non-financial business interests.

Without really trying — One Wealth Advisors isn’t in full-bore business-development mode — Steele says his client roster has gone “from zero to 20% or 25%” creative types in the last five or six years.

It helps that so many of his clients — especially the artists among them — are themselves multitaskers who don’t mind tackling new challenges.

“It all works together,” says Steele. “I’m not making a direct analogy with my own work here, but the artists I know who work in different disciplines do it with a sense of universal principles.”

Adds Steele: "Like my work with clients, their work is based on setting and achieving goals and on discipline and focus.”