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Mindy Diamond on Independence: Verdence's Leo Kelly on Breaking Away Twice

Leo Kelly, the founder and CEO of Verdence Capital Advisors, discusses life after Merrill and the choice to “breakaway” twice: first by joining Hightower and 5 years later by launching an RIA.

“Happy, but not satisfied.”

It’s a common refrain we hear from top advisors and their teams who are ultimately driven to change not because they are unhappy with the status quo. But, instead, because they feel a pull toward something better.

Such was the case of Leo Kelly and his team at Merrill, The Kelly Group. Having built the business to some $600 million in assets under management, the pull of entrepreneurialism and being a true fiduciary to their clients was too strong to ignore.

So in 2012, they made the leap to Hightower Advisors and in 5 years doubled their business.

But by 2017, Leo felt Hightower was going in a different direction than they were. That motivated them to make yet another leap, this time to full-on independence, launching Verdence Capital Advisors.

Five years later, the firm is now managing $3 billion in client assets—more than doubling the business once again.

So what’s driving all of this incredible success? Leo shares that and more with Mindy Diamond, including:

  • The initial pull toward independence—and why they opted to make the leap from Merrill with Hightower instead of launching their own RIA.
  • The choice to leave Hightower 5 years later—and what they are able to do differently as Verdence Capital Advisors.
  • The firm’s hyper-focus on culture—and why descriptors like “collaborative” and “family” are not just terms in a value proposition but a way of life.
  • The value of designing the firm “as if the client is the architect”—and how that has translated to enhanced growth.
  • Their platform-based business—and how providing access to client resources helps the advisors who join them deepen connections with clients, create new relationships, and grow their businesses.
  • Plus, Leo talks about the strategic minority investment from prominent capital backer, Emigrant Partners—and the value of taking on the right partner at the right time, and much more.

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