Stephen Taylor and Charles P Balducci

Stephen Taylor and Charles P. Balducci

If I Knew Then What I Know Now . . .

In which seasoned advisors get to give one piece of advice to their younger selves.

Stephen Taylor;

Professional Wealth Counsel,
Miami, Fla.


The advice:  It takes confidence to be who you are, stick to a few things you do well, and not trying to be all things to all clients. Be confident in the things you do well. It’s futile to try and please everyone who happens to walk in the door. Rather, go after the clients you want to walk in the door. 

Background:  When I began my practice, I was determined to impress clients and prospects with my knowledge and expertise with any issue they presented. If a client brought up an issue, my response would be, “OK, I can help you with that.”  Then I would go away and spend hours researching the issue so I could respond to the client’s interests. I eventually concluded that this approach was self-defeating and not sustainable. My first approach was understandable but way too reactive. My clients were getting shortchanged because I wasn’t doing what they really wanted me to do: to be myself, stick to what I know, and present a core that I believed in. 

Pertinent Anecdote:  I remember the day I realized the futility of trying to be all things to all people. I looked at my calendar. At 9 AM. I had a meeting on an insurance matter. At 11, there was a meeting on estates and probate. Maybe a lunch meeting on a particular investment product.  Then a 3 PM appointment to discuss the incorporation of a new business. I was being pulled in so many different directions that I could not be efficient in my time management. I was spending less time in the wheelhouse where I was most comfortable and where my clients expected me to be. I realized I had to pick and course and stick to it. 

The Bottom Line:  The checkbook doesn’t lie. Pick a course and stick to it. That’s the path to financial success. For the same amount of time and effort, I found I flat out make more money by focusing on a few things and doing them well.  

Steve Taylor is an Attorney and Certified Financial Planner based in Miami focusing his practice on wealth management. He has represented clients at all stages through the wealth management process and brings a unique perspective as an attorney. Taylor received a BBA degree in accounting from Oglethorpe University, and a JD from the University of Florida College of Law. He has been board certified by the Florida Bar Board in Elder Law. Taylor and his wife appeared on the ABC show “Shark Tank.”

Charles P. Balducci

Managing Director—Snyder/Balducci Group, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management
New York, NY


The advice:  Be more protective of your time, the most constrained resource you have. That means making the hard choices to create a fee-based practice immediately. 

Background:  When I started, I made two common mistakes. First, I spent too much time opening as many accounts as I could. Second, I was too fixated on educating clients on the hottest new products du jour. I would do both things differently now. On the first count, I hit capacity constraints serving less affluent clients and thus missed opportunities to gather higher net worth clients. On the second count, I spent too much time and energy educating clients about new products designed to beat benchmarks, when it would have been far better for me to focus on understanding client’s goals and constructing portfolios and solutions that would help achieve them.

Pertinent Anecdote: I spent an enormous amount of time presenting the thesis for newer products, tracking performance, revising strategies and at times ultimately abandoning certain products in the interest of my clients. All that time was lost with little to show for it. That’s when I decided to go to a fee-based practice. Since making that decision, our business has grown tremendously and I’ve been able to spend more time on the client experience and helping them reach their goals. 

The Bottom Line:  Lost opportunities can’t be recaptured. Radically improving my time management discipline and adding scalability in those early years would have enabled me to grow the practice much earlier. 

Since joining Merrill Lynch in 1997, Charles Balducci has worked with C-suite corporate executives, hedge-fund and private-equity principals, and entrepreneurs to develop strategies to help address concentrated stock positions, risk management and tax minimization. He also assists clients with advanced estate planning services, wealth transfer and philanthropic gifting strategies. He is a faculty member of the Optimal Practice Model, training financial advisors throughout the firm on best practices. He was named to the On Wall Street "The Top 40 Advisors Under 40" list in seven consecutive years through 2014 and to the inaugural Top 40 Wirehouse Advisors Under 40 in 2014 and 2015 by REP magazine. He was also named on Barron's list of Top 1,200 Financial Advisors in 2014.

Charles attended Pennsylvania State University, where he received a bachelor's degree in finance. He and his wife, Amy Marisa, live in Greenwich, Connecticut, with their three children, Sofia, Luke and Siena. Charles volunteers his time as Executive Board Member of the Global Lyme Alliance, the largest Lyme disease charity in the United States.

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