When Matt West became a broker four years ago, he chose to join a team because “there was no way I could reach the financial goals I had set without being in a team,” says the Houston-based Merrill Lynch rep.
When Jamie Delio became a broker a year and a half ago, he wanted to start off solo rather than join a team. “I wanted to go trial and error,” says the New York-based Prudential Securities rep. “I wanted to learn how to deal with rejection because I knew it would help me in the long run.” Delio chose to join a team later.
Most new reps feel it is increasingly difficult to build a business alone. They say joining with an established broker or team makes a lot of sense.
Teaming With Experience
The team route includes some obstacles though, according to a recent graduate of Merrill's broker training program, who requests anonymity. “Senior people want proven track records, so what does a new broker fresh out of college and the training program offer? Not much.”
The Merrill rookie would have preferred to link up with a team, but says it's not easy finding one. You have to search — and you need a little luck and good timing, too.
Take the case of Delio. From the beginning of his career at Prudential, he was arriving at the office at 7:30 a.m. and departing at 11 p.m. To say the least, people noticed. One of those people was Lloyd Goldfarb, who spotted Delio at a company dinner cruise and chatted with him. A few months later, in January this year, Goldfarb reeled Delio in as his 50-50 partner in a team that goes by the name of the Goldfarb/Delio Investment Group.
“Lloyd approached me and said that if I ever need help closing an account with a working lead that he'd be willing to go along and provide that ‘older perspective,’” Delio says. “That interested me. I felt with my youth and energy I'd be able to use Lloyd's pipeline of contacts and start bringing in a number of accounts, which is exactly what has happened.”
Today, the Goldfarb/Delio team has more than $50 million under management, up 30% since the team's inception.
Marketing Master Meets Workaholic
West, meanwhile, happened to call a friend at Merrill who said, “It's amazing you called. I was just thinking of you. There's a guy here who reminds me of you. I used to think you were hyper until I met him.”
The friend introduced West to John Desenberg, and the pair clicked. They're now a team (The Desenberg Group) that has gone from $870,000 in production in 1997 to $1.2 million in 1998, $1.9 million in 1999 and $2.9 million in 2000.
“When I met John, I knew it would work if we combined his workaholic nature with my marketing experience,” West says. “And our business has just exploded.”
While West acts as the internal force running the office, Desenberg is out landing accounts.
“I could never have done this on my own,” West says. “I have to hand it to John. He's a great strategic planner. He looks for what's hot at the moment. Say it's 401(k) rollovers or stock options, I start marketing and John starts closing.”
Why Reinvent the Wheel?
About five years ago, Doug Munson was working out at a gym when he ran into Charles Andriole, the Prudential Securities rep who handled his portfolio. Munson was a sales rep for a dental laboratory at the time, but he wanted to become a broker.
“While Charlie and I were talking, I demonstrated my skills in sales,” Munson says. Not long after that, Munson joined The Andriole Group in New Haven, Conn.
“When I decided I wanted to become a broker, I envisioned myself building a business that replicated what Charlie had done,” Munson says. “So when we started talking and he indicated that he'd be interested in me joining the team, I thought to myself, ‘Why should I go out on my own and try to reinvent the wheel when Charlie has already put together an infrastructure?’”
Bringing Fresh Skills to the Mix
Amy Trotter's addition to Larry Sorce's First Union Securities team in Barrington, Ill., re-energized the group, creating new concepts and business approaches. Trotter was a bond trader for 10 years. When First Union consolidated its bond operations from Chicago to Charlotte, N.C., Trotter didn't make the move. She took six months off and decided to become a rep. The next step was finding a team.
“I toyed with the idea of going out on my own, but at this stage of my career I was used to quicker transactions with trading, and I didn't think I could give it the time and energy commitment, especially since I have children,” Trotter says. “So I contacted a friend at [a First Union Chicago] branch, inquiring about partnership opportunities with a senior broker.”
Trotter's friend mentioned Sorce. “I knew Larry. He had a quality business and is a quality person,” Trotter says. “That's what I was looking for.”
Even Sorce was unaware of all the benefits Trotter would be bringing to a 50-50 partnership now known as the Sorce Trotter Wealth Management Group. She added a high level of organization to the team by creating spreadsheets listing the top 150 clients and asking Sorce the last time he met with each of them.
“Also, when we're out with a client, I can ask a certain question that Larry might not be able to,” Trotter says. “If Larry brings up a new idea, the client might say, ‘Why didn't you tell me about that five years ago?’ So instead, Larry says, ‘Amy knows a lot about this topic that I haven't been able to introduce to you before,’ and he hands it over to me.”
Whether it's a fresh mix of skills, sales experience, marketing talent or a boundless supply of energy, rookies have something unique to offer veterans as part of a team. And in today's tough business-building environment, more rookies are seeing the advantages of teamwork as well.
Registered Representative welcomes your comments on this story. Contact Senior Associate Editor Rick Weinberg at [email protected] or call 800/621-0720.
Tips for Teaming
Look for a senior broker in a team with:
Organization. “You don't want to be with someone who's disorganized, someone with papers all over the desk,” says Jamie Delio, a junior team member at Prudential Securities in New York. “That creates a bad impression with clients.”
A quality business with a high level of integrity. “Don't inherit someone else's problems,” says First Union Securities' Amy Trotter, a Barrington, Ill.-based rep. “You don't want to deal with irate clients after you're in a new position for a week because of something your partner said or did prior to that.”
A compatible business plan, similar goals and objectives. “You have to share the same vision, the same thought process as far as investment philosophy and methodology,” says Doug Munson, who joined an established team at Prudential Securities in New Haven, Conn. “For example, a commission-based broker is not going to work with a fee-based asset manager.”
A compatible personality. “It's important to have someone you can socialize with, someone with a similar personality and someone you can joke with,” Delio says.
On the other hand, says Trotter: “If you have a partner who's too similar in personality and business style, you might be continually stumbling over each other. It's better to play off each other's strengths.”
The type of business and persona you want as role models. “You should meet with other brokers who are successful, people you want to emulate,” Munson says. “Find out what they're doing and see if it makes sense to you.”
A high client satisfaction number. Look for a team with a rating of 90% or higher, says Matt West, a Merrill Lynch rep in Houston who joined forces with an established broker.
A clean, annuitized business. “The biggest mistake [young reps] make is wanting to buy stock because of the commission,” Delio says. “That's a big mistake, especially in a market like this. You see the slightest turn and those numbers aren't going anywhere, and your clients are very dissatisfied.” Look for a senior broker who's a solid long-term investor and conveys that approach to clients.
The Matter of Money
When it comes to salary for a rep on a team versus one who is going solo, there is quite a difference.
“If I were out on my own, I wouldn't be making anywhere near the kind of money I am with my partner mainly because I'd be busy trying to drum up new business,” says Amy Trotter of First Union Securities' Sorce Trotter Wealth Management Group in Barrington, Ill. “Financially, it was a much better move for me to join a partnership.”
Trotter's compensation, like her partner Larry Sorce's, is based on production. “I'm not compensated X amount per year,” she says. “I'm compensated based on our production, so I have an incentive to increase that business. That was a key for me. As a former bond trader, I was motivated by my monthly numbers.”
At The Andriole Group of Prudential Securities in New Haven, Conn., if the team hits certain growth thresholds, the relative share of compensation to the junior partners will increase.
“That way, it keeps us all motivated so we can continue to grow,” partner Doug Munson says. “At the end of the year, we take a snapshot of the revenue, add it up and distribute it based on the partners' percentage of business.”
Charles Palmer, a third-year rep with First Union's Slater/Kennedy Investment Group in Philadelphia, was attracted to the team concept. “It allows you to take a prudent approach to the industry and your clientele instead of having to focus on numbers,” he says. “Being in a team affords you the opportunity to develop relationships because you're being compensated for your time.”
But for Palmer, salary is “the only downside,” he says. “I'm locked into a fixed salary or what they call a ‘giveaway.’ It's a portion of the production of the group. The upside is that if it works out, I have the opportunity to get on the grid and a chance to get a percentage of the gross.”