Registered Rep.: Your entry into this business 30 years ago was not what you had planned?
Jeffrey Shuster: No. As a young person, I'd had various aspirations, including becoming a doctor. But, when I was 18, an unfortunate car accident left me confined to a wheelchair. That event changed me from a pretty happy-go-lucky kid to a very intense and driven person. My mother, who has always been my greatest inspiration, told me I should become a financial advisor.
She believed that, when I met with prospective clients, they were sure to be struck by my sincerity, integrity and intensity. From there, I could do a lot of business with them over the phone, and not have to run around a lot. I earned a bachelor's degree with a dual major in finance and economics. Four days after graduating, I was accepted into [Wells Fargo predecessor] Bache Halsey Stuart Shields' account executive training program on Long Island.
I went on to build a $400 million business with 1,000 clients as a sole practitioner.
RR: To what do you attribute your success?
JS: My accident forced me to re-channel my efforts and energies into my business and practice management — and putting my clients' needs first. It also made me much more sensitive and compassionate to others' emotional and financial needs.
I became conservative about investing — and very aware of the importance of protecting clients from unforeseen risks.
As a result, I have a very strong multi-generational business, and a business that's been fueled largely by referrals. And I think it helps that I've never changed firms.
RR: How would you describe your business model?
JS: My clients are high-net-worth people with liquid assets of $500,000 to $40 million. The bulk of their assets are typically placed into tax-free or treasury bonds so that they can sleep at night. I listen intently to their worries and fears.
RR: What is your favorite book?
JS: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. She is not only an author but a modern-day philosopher as well. The book is all about being an individual, being different. It's fantastic.