Adam Phillips had been at City National Bank in Beverly Hills, Calif., for nearly nine years when he left last April to join EP Wealth Advisors in nearby Torrance, Calif. He now serves as an investment strategist and advisor at the RIA, which has AUM of about $1.9 billion. At the regional bank — which RBC is now acquiring — his practice managed around $700 million.
Q: What was your main reason for leaving City National Bank?
A: For a wider range of entrepreneurial opportunities afforded by a smaller, locally owned, independent RIA. For example, in my old job at the bank, I wasn’t involved in business development. At EP Wealth, my role as an advisor includes helping our senior management develop big-picture growth strategies for the firm. So even though I’m a W2 employee, I get a bigger voice in this company’s direction than working at a regional bank.
Q: Why did you pick EP Wealth Advisors?
A: I wasn’t actively looking, but a mutual friend introduced me to Brian Parker, EP Wealth’s managing director. We met for lunch one day, and he told me how he and his best friend since middle school, Derek Holman, had started the firm. They were former UBS advisors, and I was impressed by Brian’s independence and vision of how he wants to build a wealth-management company. His message really resonated with me, and over the next four months I met with Derek and other senior managers at EP Wealth. In the end, it really dawned on me that this is where I really wanted to wind up.
Q: How many of your clients came with you?
A: A very small percentage. But at the same time, I’ve seen early success here. I’m now working with about 40 new families. So this has been a real grass-roots effort on my part to start over and educate people about the need for comprehensive financial planning. It’s been a refreshing experience for my career and very rewarding for me on a more personal level.
Q: What was the hardest thing about the transition?
A: At first, I was open to the idea of going after my former clients very aggressively. But after talking with Brian and other people at EP Wealth, I decided it made more sense to start fresh in terms of building strong, long-term relationships with people. My former clients not only had their wealth-management assets at the bank, but they also had everything else there as well — from their home loans to individual and family savings accounts. Asking people who had been doing business there for years to move certain parts of their portfolios to a new place seemed to me a little unrealistic. So although I made them aware that I was moving, it wasn’t an aggressive effort on my part to bring them to the new firm.
Q: Is your fee structure at EP Wealth different from that at the bank?
A: On the whole, I’m able to offer a more attractive fee schedule. But I’m also able to offer comprehensive planning services at no extra charge. My clients now can get a complete financial plan as part of our overall service menu. That was something clients had to pay separately for in my old position.
Q: How about your compensation?
A: It’s different. What is nice about working here is that my compensation is tied to assets under management. Before, I got a year-end bonus tied to all sorts of different production numbers. Here, my incentive is totally focused on growing assets by keeping clients happy. And that’s helped me to build a referral network unlike anything I ever experienced at the bank.
Q: Any advice for regional bank FAs who are thinking about making a move?
A: Don’t be afraid to build new bridges. It’s hard to get out of your comfort zone, especially if you’ve been somewhere for a long time and like working with a particular group of people. I really enjoyed my team at City National, but I wanted more independence in terms of the types of products and services I could offer clients. That freedom makes all the risks worthwhile.