Firm: Morgan Stanley
Location: New York, N.Y.
Years in the biz: 27
Years with firm: 3
Specialty: Asset allocation.
Shelley Bergman is dedicated. You can tell by the hours he puts in at the office (12-14 hours a day) and the fact that he's always available to clients, nights and weekends. (“Ask my wife,” he says wryly). You can tell by the fact that his business has grown 25 percent over the past three years, certainly not easy years in the markets. You can even tell from the pride with which he recalls his first job in the brokerage industry. He graduated a little early from college, immediately took and passed his Series 7 and went to work for Janney Montgomery Scott. “While all my friends went off to Europe and enjoyed their summers, I put my feet on the ground running,” he says, with great satisfaction.
Before joining Morgan, Bergman worked at Bear Stearns for 20 years. But he was so unsettled by the Bear Stearns hedge fund blowups in 2007 that he lost trust in the firm and got out in January of 2008, a year before the firm itself collapsed. He took his entire team of seven with him to Morgan Stanley when he left. “I think I have the best team in the business,” he says.
Bergman believes the best way to succeed in the business is to treat every client like they were your first and biggest client, and to under-promise and over-achieve. In other words, if his team is expecting to achieve returns of 7 to 10 percent over the long term, they'll tell the client to expect 6 to 8 percent. “We win business because others over-promise,” he says. And he tries not to take on any clients who “want to hit the ball out of the park the whole time.”
Today Bergman's team works with 75-100 families, but he focuses on high-net-worth entrepreneurs between the ages of 35 to 70 and his asset minimum is $5 million to $10 million. Most of his relationships are discretionary. On the discretionary accounts, the team runs a balanced portfolio with individual stocks and bonds. Over the past two years, it has also introduced an ETF model. Bergman does not outsource any of the asset allocation or stock selection; he does it all himself.
Being a financial advisor is a lifetstyle, he says. “I don't think this is a really difficult business if you're honest, you're available all the time, which we are, you're in constant contact with your clients — you don't hide.”