While the ultimate decision to make the leap to independence varies from advisor to advisor, one deciding factor they often share is the desire to “do better” for their clients.
As Morgan Stanley breakaway Jeff Thomas put it, he did not want to have his epitaph read, “Here lies Jeff. He made rich people richer.”
And no doubt, Jeff knows how to make people richer. He built a business from scratch to over a million dollars in just five years, and it kept growing from there—on up to a billion dollars in assets under management while at Morgan Stanley. But as his business grew, even though he was happy in his personal life, he felt he lacked purpose.
Jeff realized that it was time to go deeper in the planning process with clients and create a closer connection between their values and the resources available to them.
After 25 years of working for the biggest names on Wall Street, Jeff and his team concluded that they could only pursue that vision by starting their own independent firm. So, in April 2017, they left three-quarters of their billion-dollar business at Morgan and launched a completely fee-based firm called Archetype Wealth Partners in Houston, Texas.
Their goal: To provide a next-generation, conflict-free platform where advisors and clients could flourish.
And some three years later they more than doubled their assets to over $500 million as of this recording.
Jeff is a stand-up guy, with accolades that include being named to Morgan Stanley’s Chairman’s Club, plus recognitions from Barron’s and Financial Times. He’s also an author, capturing the story of his journey in Trading Up: Moving From Success to Significance on Wall Street.
In this episode, Jeff shares how independence has changed his perspective on the wealth management industry, including:
- The defining moments that led him and his team to consider independence—and why they chose to build their own firm from scratch.
- Their decision to go “fee-only” right out of the gate—and how they reconciled leaving the bulk of their assets behind.
- How they were able to double their asset base so quickly as an independent firm—and whether they could have achieved similar growth at Morgan.
- What he’s gained in the independent space both as an advisor and a business owner—and how that compares to what was available to him in the brokerage world.
- The benefits of having a niche business—and how that impacts Archetype’s bottom line.
For Jeff, independence was the only path he could see that would provide him and his team the ability to move from “success to significance” as he puts it—and serve their clients as true fiduciaries. And one might say, they’re succeeding in that mission and then some. It’s a great story of how an advisor, driven by purpose, can build the business of his dreams—with valuable lessons for employee advisors and business owners alike.
Mindy Diamond is CEO of Diamond Consultants in Morristown, N.J., a nationally recognized boutique search and consulting firm in the financial services industry.