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Mindy Diamond on Independence: A $500M UBS Breakaway Success Story

Steven Tenney, founding partner and CEO, Great Diamond Partners, discusses "what's in it for clients."


In all of the conversations we have with breakaway advisors, we hear a consistent theme around the motivation to make the leap:

To improve the ability to serve clients.

And, ultimately, enhancing service delivery—such as improvements in platform and technology, and the ability to freely communicate —typically leads in one direction: Business growth.

But while many advisors are building their businesses in the wirehouses, more and more are finding they are hitting a wall when they try to serve clients without conflict or limitations.

Yet changing firms or models comes with some risk—one of the most critical being client portability.

It was a risk that UBS advisor Steven Tenney and his team found was worth taking—because after a two-year due diligence process, Steve was convinced that the RIA model would allow them to provide better service and advice to clients.

Steve joined UBS in 1993 when it was still PaineWebber and built a business managing approximately $530 million in assets. But in 2019 they decided it was time to make a change. After 26 years with the firm, Steve and his team left UBS to launch Portland, Maine-based RIA firm Great Diamond Partners.

As Steve shared in an interview shortly after his launch, it was the “vastly improved technology, advanced planning resources and tools, and the fiduciary environment” of the RIA model that was the tipping point.

In this episode, Steve discusses that “tipping point” and much more, including:

  • What prompted him to start exploration—and why he didn’t instead opt for another wirehouse or traditional firm.
  • Why Steve felt that taking a recruiting deal would only be better for him—and not for his team and clients.
  • How Steve and his team reconciled leaving some deferred comp behind—and when they realized it was worth it.
  • How they addressed the concern over whether their clients would follow—and what they did to ultimately retain 95% of their clients and rebuild their database.
  • How scale compares as an independent—and why working with a firm like Dynasty Financial Partners gives them the scale of a much larger organization.
  • The value of being an independent firm when it comes to referrals—and why their strategic partners are now more apt to refer business.

Steve’s thoughtful due diligence focused on “what’s in it for the clients”—a guiding principle that drove their decision-making process and ultimately the success of their transition. Yet it’s what he and his team realized that is most compelling: That clients can actually be the real beneficiaries when their advisors go independent and gain increased freedom and control.

It’s a conversation that goes beyond “independence”—cutting to the heart of what matters most: The clients.

Listen to the podcast

Listen to more episodes of Mindy Diamond on Independence: A Podcast for Financial Advisors Considering Change.

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