Model Citizen

John Ridley, Wheat First Union, Bowling Green, Ky.When Wheat First Union opened a branch in Bowling Green, Ky., five years ago, officials wanted to hire a pillar of the community to run it, says David Acey, the firm's marketing director. They chose John Ridley as managing director."The golden objective is to serve the community," Ridley says. "The benefit is getting to know someone to do business

John Ridley, Wheat First Union, Bowling Green, Ky.

When Wheat First Union opened a branch in Bowling Green, Ky., five years ago, officials wanted to hire a pillar of the community to run it, says David Acey, the firm's marketing director. They chose John Ridley as managing director.

"The golden objective is to serve the community," Ridley says. "The benefit is getting to know someone to do business with--not the other way around."

Ridley entered the securities industry 11 years ago, after he and his wife, Roiann, sold the successful business they built from scratch in 1977. Their corporation included two retail garden centers, a landscape contracting business and a Lawn Care national franchise. Their business survived the high unemployment and inflation rates of the early '80s. "You could hardly run a business under those circumstances," he says. But after 10 years, Ridley realized they would have to expand the corporation significantly or make a career change.

It was March 1988, not long after the October 1987 crash, when Ridley applied at a regional brokerage. It wasn't hiring rookies, but he offered to work without pay while in training. The firm accepted his offer, and he ended up as the branch manager before leaving to open the Wheat branch.

"To be a successful financial consultant, it only takes one split second," Ridley says, meaning that a person needs to make a conscious decision to be successful and then do everything it takes to get there. "You make every decision as if you're a million-dollar producer." And that's exactly what Ridley is today with 125 million in assets under management.

His uses a three-part planning approach that involves developing, implementing and monitoring a client's strategy. But when he first meets a prospective client, they rarely discuss investment opportunities. "Finding the right investment is not necessarily a problem. It's getting to know their needs," he says. "I'm not trying to sell them a product."

Ridley makes it a priority to connect clients with other professionals who can help such as CPAs or estate planners. "I don't want to be everything to everybody," he says. In fact, he gives his clients a personal investment-policy statement so they know exactly who he is, and he asks his clients for a similar statement so that he can know them better.

Ridley's community ties are strong and long-standing. For example, Dero Downing has been with Western Kentucky University since 1946 and knew Ridley, his brother and even his mother, as students. Now Downing employs Ridley as one of three managers of the College Heights Foundation's funds.

Downing and the other trustees rely on Ridley because of the confidence and respect they have for him as an individual. "Also, we felt he had a grasp and understanding of our role and mission, as well as a sense of devotion to his alma mater," Downing says.

Ridley's philosophy of serving the community resulted in his receiving the firm's James C. Wheat Community Service Award after just two years with the company. He's active in his church and local fund-raisers, and has also worked to preserve the architecture and history of Shakertown, Ky., a religious settlement in pre-Civil War times.

True to his devotion to others, Ridley deflects the credit for his success. "My faith is the main thing," he says. "My wife, children, mentors in the community and, last but by no means least, the team players in my group--that's where the credit belongs."--Michelle Petty

Outstanding Traits:"John takes a personal interest in each of his clients. He goes beyond being a broker. He will counsel them on other areas they need to address in their financial lives."--referral source John Grider, CPA, Bowling Green, Ky.

"He's very enthusiastic, works exceedingly hard and there is always evidence of his interest and his concern."--client Dero Downing, a trustee of the College Heights Foundation, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Ky.

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