Eye-opening experience fuels career change

Nov 11, 2012 @ 12:01 am

By Dan Jamieson

John Anderson had an idea that he wanted to work as a financial adviser, but he took a bit of a detour to get there.

Mr. Anderson, now 37, went to work for FedEx Corp. after graduating from Mississippi State University with a degree in management information systems. He stayed at the shipping company for nearly a dozen years, doing everything from programming to technology project management.

“Along the way, there were some things my mom was dealing with and some things I saw with my own adviser that got me digging into this [investment] field, looking to see if there was a better way to do it,” Mr. Anderson said.

He suspected that the advisers weren't always acting in their clients' best interests. For example, Mr. Anderson's mother was sold some questionable, high-cost mutual funds.

His self-study into the industry “was eye-opening,” he said.

It led Mr. Anderson to conclude that most people need comprehensive wealth management with investments allocated to low-cost index funds.

He began thinking about a possible career switch into financial services. But when Mr. Anderson checked around at various local firms, he didn't find a fit.

“I found too much in the way of a sales culture,” he said.

“I was kind of turned off by that,” Mr. Anderson said. “The independent route seemed to be the way to go.”

So Mr. Anderson did the unlikely: He started his own registered investment advisory firm, Cypress Wealth Management, in 2010. Working part time, he began managing assets for some personal contacts and family.

That unusual route for a rookie adviser shouldn't have been a surprise. Mr. Anderson has always had an entrepreneurial bug, and ran several tech-related businesses on the side while working at FedEx.

THE RIGHT FIT

But when some mutual contacts at Dimensional Fund Advisors LP introduced him to Jay Healy, founder of Century Wealth Management LLC of Memphis, Tenn., Mr. Anderson realized that Century was the very firm that he envisioned for his startup.

“Jay put together an outstanding firm that does [wealth management] very well ... It was exactly what I would have built from scratch,” Mr. Anderson said.

So last June, Mr. Anderson joined Century as an employee, with the ultimate goal of taking a stake in the firm.

He doesn't recommend that others follow his path and start their own firms.

“Out of college, they should find a good planning firm, a good RIA, get their feet wet, understand the industry, meet people and build relationships,” Mr. Anderson said.

Young people also need to have reasonable expectations, he said.

Some expect too much in the way of money, partly because of “the picture ... the financial industry paints in the movies, with Gordon Gekko types making all this money. That clouds people's understanding of what this is all about and the fact that this is a lot of work,” Mr. Anderson said.

In addition to working with clients and on Century's technology, he is studying for the certified financial planner exam.

“I enjoy understanding how all the small moving parts fit together” for a client, he said. “If you're not detail-oriented, I don't think you can enjoy this type of work.”

djamieson@investmentnews.com, Twitter: @dvjamieson

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