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Elite JPMorgan Advisor Learns from Clients How to Succeed

By Murray Coleman November 16, 2017

This report is part of an ongoing series examining members of the FT 400 list of elite brokerage-based advisors. The rankings score FAs based on six criteria: total assets, asset-growth rates, experience, credentials, online accessibility and compliance records.

Advisors typically face some form of adversity in their careers. For Sal Tiano, figuring out how to keep one step ahead of the competition is more than just a matter of survival.

“This can be a very fluid business,” says the Palm Beach, Fla.-advisor. “Learning how to be opportunistic while always putting your clients first is key to thriving in this industry over the longer run.”

Tiano knows firsthand about adapting to unforeseen events. He started at Drexel Burnham shortly before it collapsed. After Smith Barney bought its retail arm in 1989, the fledgling advisor still had a job. It wasn’t one he found fulfilling, though. “I wanted to work in a more entrepreneurial environment,” he recalls.

So less than two years out of training and still striving to build a practice, Tiano took a chance and moved to Bear Stearns, which JPMorgan Securities bought during the financial crisis in 2008. Tiano has never looked back and now has worked there for 26 years.

“Working at the same firm for so long has certainly been a huge asset in building a loyal client base,” Tiano says. “It’s created a greater sense of stability and helped me to develop a higher level of trust over the years – both with the families I serve as well as this firm’s management and staff.”

Staying in place is just one part of his long-term growth plan. The veteran advisor, whose team now manages about $2.5 billion and produces annual revenue topping $12 million, also points to a constant effort to diversify his business experience.

The member of the FT 400 list of elite U.S. advisors, who is listed as a top 10 producer at JPMorgan, says he’s finding that branching out as an entrepreneur is helping to bring in new clients and engage more effectively with those he already serves who are also business owners.

Sal Tiano

Today such client segments make up more than half his book, Tiano observes. That comes after he joined on a strictly part-time basis a budding partnership with a fellow hockey coach he met through his involvement in a local sports league. The offer involved buying into an equipment store that specialized in hockey and lacrosse equipment.

After working out a detailed business plan and bringing in others to the deal, that lone outlet has turned into a national chain, Pure Hockey. “Growing from one store to 54 with more than 1,000 employees, I’ve learned firsthand how easy it can be to slip and skin your knee,” Tiano says. “It’s given me more respect for entrepreneurs with a passion to follow their dreams.”

The side venture does give Tiano an edge over advisors who talk to business owners on a theoretical basis, suggests Rick Penafiel, a JPMorgan regional director who’s known the veteran FA for years.

“Sal is always trying to stay in front of what’s happening in this business and trying to better understand what his clients are going through in their financial lives,” Penafiel says. “He’s an advisor who keeps positioning himself with clients as a true insider who can sit alongside of them to negotiate complex financing deals and introduce new ideas based on his own experiences as an entrepreneur and wealth manager.”

While urging younger colleagues to show loyalty to their firms, Tiano suggests they don’t stand still in their careers. “The workforce is changing dramatically – with so many products and investments available today it’s impossible to keep up with everything on your own,” he says. “Find a team you can work well with and can help mentor your education and growth as an advisor.”

When Tiano first started out, he sought out experienced advisors and offered to make cold-calls for them. Then he’d let the veterans take over the conversations, taking notes and learning their techniques. But after reaching a certain level of sales wins he started noticing a bit of complacency setting in.

As a result, Tiano made sure to inject a strong work ethic into his practice. He maintains a strict work schedule, doing research in the morning before arriving at his office before 7 a.m. His days often stretch into the early evenings. Even so, he carves out time for his family.

“A lot of my clients who’ve achieved a high level of success tell me that one of their biggest regrets is not spending enough time with close friends and family,” Tiano says. “In a sense, they’ve become my mentors and we’ve learned to lean on each other over the years. Learning from their experiences has helped me to become a better listener and advisor.”