Nashville stays vibrant with young blood

This country music stronghold also has roots as "Wall Street of the South'

By Joyce Hanson

Dec 8, 2013 @ 12:01 am (Updated 1:50 pm) EST

Nashville, Tenn. may be known as Music City for good reason, considering that Dolly Parton, Taylor Swift, Keith Urban and the Grand Ole Opry all call it home.

But the country music business shares its century-old roots with the financial services industry in Nashville, whose banking, insurance and securities district gave rise to yet another nickname back in the day: Wall Street of the South.

In fact, “The Grand Ole Opry” gained national fame in the 1930s, thanks to its long-running radio program broadcast late at night on the radio station WSM. Its call letters stand for “We shield millions,” the motto at the time of its sponsor, Nashville-based National Life and Accident Insurance Co.

Today, both the music and financial services industries remain strong.

“Nashville is only known as the Music City because of the history of financial services in this town,” said Keith Newcomb, founder and owner of registered investment adviser Full Life Financial.

His own path toward becoming a financial adviser reflects the city's history. Starting out as a music publisher in his college days, Mr. Newcomb eventually licensed his rights to EMI Music Publishing and went to work as a broker at J.C. Bradford & Co., Nashville's only broker-dealer to survive the Great Depression.

Although J.C. Bradford no longer exists, having been folded into what is now UBS AG, many of Nashville's independent advisory firms were founded by people who started their careers at J.C. Bradford, he said.

Because of the metro area's diverse economy, which also includes health care companies, legal firms, technology ventures, auto manufacturing and large-scale distribution centers, Nashville offers a deep client base for RIAs.

WELL-EDUCATED

With 19 colleges and universities in the area, according to the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, the city boasts a relatively well-educated population.

U.S. Census Bureau data show that 23% of Nashville's citizens have a bachelor's degree, versus 18.2% nationwide, and another 13% have a graduate or professional degree, versus 10.9% nationwide.

Further proof of the local economy's relative strength is its unemployment rate of 6.9%, which is below the nation's rate of 7.3%. But because Nashville's population skews younger, with a median age of 33.6, versus 36.8 nationwide, median household income also is lower, at $43,399, compared with $52,762 nationwide.

“Nashville is kind of a hot spot right now,” said Andrew Quinn, an adviser at Quinn Financial Partners who grew up in the area and whose mother is also an adviser at the firm.

“The city has seen a ton of growth. People want to live and work in Nashville,” Mr. Quinn said.

“There's a new convention center downtown, hotels are being built, there's a foodie scene, and younger people are moving in,” he said.

"SOUTHERN FLAIR'

“Nashville has that Southern flair, and the way it plays out in the wealth management business in terms of clients is that it's very relationship- and referral-based,” Mr. Quinn said. “In the Southeast, it may be a longer courting period, but it's stickier because it's a longer-term relationship of trust.”

Mr. Quinn and another adviser at his firm, both in their 20s, attend meetings of the Middle Tennessee chapter of the Financial Planning Association. Many of Nashville's RIAs are involved with the chapter.

For example, Royce Monk, a dually registered adviser who has been in the business for 40 years and keeps her office on Nashville's Music Row, co-founded the group that preceded the local FPA chapter.

Mr. Newcomb, meanwhile, thanks to his music-publishing connections, is a friend of Ms. Monk's husband, Charlie Monk, a popular radio host known as “The Mayor of Music Row.”

“It's a small community of advisers,” Mr. Newcomb said. “We all know each other.”

As for Ms. Monk, she said she helped found the FPA chapter because she enjoys helping young advisers, as well as her songwriting and administrative clients in the music-publishing business.

As further proof of the tight links in the adviser community, Ms. Monk's partner is also a friend of her youngest daughter.

“I'm a sort of mother figure,” Ms. Monk said of her succession plan with her partner, Michelle Proctor.

“I don't want to die and take all this with me. That's the same joy I find in the FPA,” Ms. Monk said.

Robert Bolen, president of Envision Wealth Planning, headquartered in the affluent Nashville suburb of Brentwood — who also knows Ms. Monk — said that other groups he attends for networking are the Chamber of Commerce and the CFA Society of Nashville, a group of chartered financial analysts.

“If you're a credentialed person — and even if you're not — all you have to do is like the stuff you're hearing to network,” he said.

“The old money says, "Well, who's your daddy? Where'd you grow up?'” Mr. Bolen said.

“That's the blue blood in Nashville, and I'm not that,” he said. “It helps to have the new blood coming through here with all the new transplants arriving.”

Nashville isn't all about the music.

Sam Davis, a portfolio manager at TBH Global Asset Management in Brentwood, found a niche serving clients in the health care industry.

“I love the Nashville area because we have a healthy business community that also invests in its art, scenery and culture,” he said.

“The beauty of Nashville is that you get great educational institutions as well as a thriving business climate.”