Ex-Morgan Stanley FA Stops Trying to ‘Move Big Boulders’ over ‘Tiny Glacier’
After nine years at Morgan Stanley, advisor Todd Sherman left last week to join Raymond James’ employee channel. At the wirehouse, his Mount Laurel, N.J.-based team managed more than $460 million and produced annual revenue of about $5 million. Also taking part in the move are his partners Jason Sobin, Michael Francisco and Brian Baskin. Over the course of his three decades in wealth management, Sherman has also worked at Merrill Lynch and UBS.
Q: Why did you decide to leave Morgan Stanley?
A: Nine years ago when we joined Smith Barney we were able to work in a smaller advisory environment. Ultimately the firm around us got bigger and bigger. We just felt like the wirehouse environment was getting more driven by revenue and production levels. Too frequently we were confronted with challenges by management rather than being offered more resources to support our clients. So in the end our primary reason for leaving Morgan Stanley was to create a more boutique practice that wasn’t so focused on serving the masses.
Q: That’s not in terms of products, right?
A: Yes, we’re talking about responsiveness as an organization to different client needs as they arise. Proactive support to our clients in a succinct, timely manner – especially for more sophisticated investment and planning needs – was becoming more difficult as Morgan Stanley got bigger. As a major player we felt like their management was becoming more set in their ways. In some respects it was like trying to move big boulders over a tiny glacier. I came to understand after 23 years as an advisor – and watching these big Wall Street firms grow – that bigger isn’t always better.
Q: Did you look at going independent?
A: We did, but honestly we’re a team that remains in growth mode. Within five years we plan to expand our AUM to $1 billion. But we want to be very selective in targeting the types of families we want to serve. In that respect, taking on the added duties of running a business would only take away from our time working with clients and growing our client base.
Q: What about technology solutions?
A: We’re really enjoying an improved technology platform. The client interface at our previous firm was very rigid and not all that intuitive. It made offering sophisticated solutions in an easier manner to our clients rather difficult at times. Now we’ve got technology on the front-end that our clients already are telling us they really like. As advisors, we’re also enjoying a more seamless connectivity between working in the office and working remotely.
Q: So working out-of-office is less restrictive at Raymond James?
A: Yes. A major annoyance in the past has been merging email and calendar functions on the go. The feeling we get here is that they’re not afraid to let us be fully integrated with everything we use across all of our platforms. So little things like sending messages electronically and keeping our schedules up to date are seamless to our staff now – regardless of where we’re at or what system we’re using. We’re also not required to log into a lot of different sites all of the time.
Q: How about your compensation and career path?
A: We feel like this move is going to be fairly revenue neutral over time.
Q: Where do you see growth coming from then?
A: The real opportunity we see in making this move is being able to build our business in a more flexible way. We’re now going to be able to create our own distinct voice to market our services and get out our message to clients. We aren’t under any pressure anymore to use boilerplate communications templates or incorporate some mass-market corporate logos. We’re also getting a lot of support from Raymond James to build a more robust social media presence. Personally, I’m really looking forward to being less restricted in terms of writing original market commentaries for our clients. As a group, we just feel like all of the shackles to growing our practice are largely gone now.