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The Road Less Traveled

The Road Less Traveled

An unusual story about a financial advisor who left an independent b/d to join a Wall Street firm.

Philip Noble always wanted to create a legacy. After graduating from the College of Wooster in 1976, he spent more than a decade working for Fortune 500 companies in the benefits and pensions field. It was going well, but something was lacking.  He wanted to build a business that he could leave behind. With that in mind, in 1990, he opened his own firm called Noble Wealth Management, affiliated with a life insurance company, and quickly attracted small business owners who had pension design and estate planning needs. As a business owner, Phil enjoyed building a culture for his firm and running the day-to-day business, but he began looking around for a b/d that would help him accelerate growth. Soon after, he affiliated with LPL Financial, attracted to the additional products he would be able to access and the extra services and support that he felt would add value for his clients. 

Twelve years later, Phil came to another crossroads. His firm had quadrupled in size—he was generating more than $1.3 million in mostly fee-based revenue on around $115 million in high-net-worth assets—and he was facing new challenges. He needed to find a chief operating officer to help run the growing operation, possibly hire another advisor, groom his son Michael to eventually join him in the business and still serve his clients in the high-touch manner they enjoyed. He also knew he had to establish a succession plan. With that in mind, he spent close to a year in conversations with FP Transitions (a provider of succession planning services in the industry) yet found that he would need 15 years to make FP’s succession solution work.

A subsequent series of conversations and events changed his life. Phil had never considered leaving LPL, but he began to think about it after talking to a recruiter about all of the paths open to him and the succession planning offerings available at the wirehouses.

As he examined his priorities with the recruiter’s help, Phil eliminated two firms, and decided to meet with two others, including Morgan Stanley Smith Barney (MSSB). After meeting with MSSB, Phil removed the other firm from consideration. “When I met Scott Brown, branch manager, and Jeremy Seck, complex manager, from MSSB, it struck me that these were good people and I could see myself teaming up with them,” Phil said.  “They had a good understanding of my needs, excellent solutions, and good people who took me through the process.” 

And then he got cold feet, fearing he would lose control over the business he built.  He wanted reassurance that he could continue to advise his clients in an unbiased manner, without worrying about proprietary products.  “It wasn’t until Scott, Jeremy and others at the top of the firm assured me of those items and reaffirmed their serious commitment to the advisory part of the business and helping me grow, that I became 100 percent comfortable and knew that my clients would be, too.’’ Phil’s transition and succession planning needs were also addressed in a way that reflected the value of the business that he had built and assured a smooth transition into the business for his son through the firm’s training program. That program, called the Former Financial Advisor Program, allows financial advisors to receive commission payments for a fixed term of up to five years after retirement.

In November, Phil and his assistants joined MSSB in Toledo, Ohio. Within four months, he had transitioned 100 percent of his clients to the new firm and could not be happier. “Now I can spend all my time advising clients and growing my practice without the distractions of running the operation and worrying about succession planning. We are right on track for the 20 percent growth target we were falling short of before, since we have more investment opportunities, including alternative investments, that we never had previously.  Michael is coming into the business next year and that is the fulfillment of a dream for me; the legacy that I wanted to create.”           

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