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Regional Team with $700M Finds Freedom at a Smaller Bank

By Murray Coleman January 12, 2018

Working at a regional bank as an advisor has its rewards. So when Sam Oakley decided recently to find a new home, he found solace by staying in the same financial service channel.

But the 60-year-old leader of a Nashville, Tenn.-based practice that manages about $700 million is also moving to build a presence in the independent broker-dealer marketplace.

Oakley and his team have left Atlanta-based SunTrust to join a smaller player, Pinnacle Bank. Also headquartered in Nashville, Oakley says it has built a growing wealth management arm through a sister asset-management unit.

Pinnacle is also aligned with a major independent broker-dealer, Raymond James. As a result, Oakley believes his team now has an ability to tap into “the best of both worlds.” That came after he considered working with Raymond James on more of a direct basis.

“In the end, we decided that being a part of Pinnacle would give us the best advantage in terms of being able to utilize all of the resources of a large independent like Raymond James but still benefit from remaining in the banking channel,” Oakley says.

The longtime advisor sat down with FA-IQ recently to explain his move and tell how his team, which includes two other advisors and three staff members, is handling the transition.

Q: Did you consider joining a wirehouse instead of a regional bank?

A: Not seriously. I grew up in the regional and community banking channel. I really like working for a bank where all of the major decision-makers are local. I can literally pick up the phone and call our bank’s chairman and CEO if a situation arises. I’ve been recruited by wirehouses and I just didn’t want to deal with that type of bureaucracy and large organizational structure. I’ve now got the resources of a bank with almost $22 billion in assets along with the intimacy of working at a small boutique wealth management company.

Q: How does Pinnacle’s partnership with Raymond James support your practice’s growth?

A: Raymond James handles our back-office needs. That includes not only our financial statements sent to clients but also helping us with our technology systems. We’re one of the largest banks on Raymond James’ financial institution division’s platform. So we get a lot of concierge-types of service. They’re listening to us and responding to our needs. I feel like being a part of Pinnacle is giving us a seat at the Raymond James table.

Q: Does Raymond James help pick out your technology platform?

A: They provide the software and everything we use for both our back-office as well as our front-office functions. Our computers tie into Raymond James’ trading platform directly. We can also use their CRM systems for marketing to different segments of our clients. They also provide us with core planning software from leading third-party developers. Our relationship with Raymond James includes being able to access comprehensive and popular programs like eMoney and MoneyGuidePro. Raymond James and Pinnacle also offer their own separate proprietary software for asset and client account aggregation.

Q: What about independent research?

A: By joining a bank with such a close relationship with an independent broker-dealer, we’ve also got access to a broader range of independent market research. We can tap into reports and market insights provided by a very robust staff of securities analysts at Raymond James. But we also have available to us third-party investment research from leading firms like Dorsey Wright, Credit Suisse, Morningstar, Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters.

Q: Did you have to deal with the industry protocol making this move?

A: Yes, all three firms are members of the protocol – SunTrust, Pinnacle and Raymond James. That meant we could only take basic information about our clients with us. But I think the protocol makes things fair for all parties involved. Going into this move I realized that being in this business for 34 years and moving a big book was going to be a hassle. It’s a big undertaking but we’ve been fortunate in that we’ve got two big companies backing this transition.

Q: How so?

A: Pinnacle gave us extra staff to help make the move. Our new office is less than a mile away from our old SunTrust office. But what’s great is that the bank actually renovated an old retail branch building and made it into our very own office just for my team. That wasn’t the reason why we came here but it’s been a nice benefit of this move. Besides all of the support we’ve gotten from Pinnacle, Raymond James provided us with its own transition team. They sent people here to work with our staff in person to teach us our new systems and answer different client-servicing questions.

Q: Has it been difficult to explain why you made this move to your clients?

A: One of the benefits of this being my only move in 34 years is that it actually was very easy to explain to people. My clients understand that it wasn’t about trying to monetize our business. They really appreciated that we wanted a faster decision-making process and a more flexible support network. We know our clients better than any home office.

Q: How does this move support your longer-term growth plans?

A: I grew this team organically. New people come in as staff members. If they want to move into sales, then we’ve built a career path for those types of roles. That has been a big reason behind our success in the past and I expect it to continue to be a key driver of our growth going forward. Everybody on our team came over. As a matter of fact, the whole team is accepting less in compensation than at SunTrust. But we’re all in agreement that our longer-term prospects for growth are much greater in this environment.

Q: How do you see your practice growing?

A: I’d like to see us go from $3.5 million in annual revenue to more than $5 million in production. The technology is so much better here that we’re going to have to spend less time on paperwork. We’re going to have more time now to talk to individual clients and work proactively on their behalf. We’ve also got so much more autonomy and independence working for a smaller bank that it’s going to allow us to manage our client relationships more effectively.