Career Crossroads: The Right Path for My Future in Wealth Management

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I’d like to start by introducing myself.  My name is Nick Schiavi and I recently joined the Detterbeck Wealth Management team in the hopes of learning wealth management and becoming a Certified Financial Planner.  As I approached the end of my college days, I thought I had everything figured out.  I was about to graduate from Northern Illinois University with a Bachelor’s degree in Finance, Marketing Minor, and a Professional Sales Certificate.  I studied these subjects with the intent of pursuing a career in wealth management.  This seemed like a fairly straight forward career path at the time with the thinking that strong advisors are good with numbers, comfortable with communication and receive the proper training.  I had no idea there were so many different routes this career path offers.

Out of school, I accepted a job with an insurance company and thought I was on my way to becoming a financial planner.  On the first day of training, we were required to cold call and set up meetings with the goal to sell life insurance.  The company did a great job selling the in-training representatives on the idea a whole-life insurance policy is the best place to put your money for retirement.  The other trainees and I were impressed when learning a policy and reinvested dividends grow tax free and can (somewhat) diversify a portfolio.  It made me wonder how many other/better approaches there are in the field.  If a whole life insurance policy is the answer to everyone’s long term financial needs, then why doesn’t everyone just do that?  Why is the field so complex and difficult?  Why do hundreds of books and dozens of TV shows analyze this topic to no end?  I knew there was more to it and I wanted to learn.  So… I decided on a new path and set out to interview at as many financial services companies as possible, and this time, do as much due diligence as I could before making a decision.

I started my search by applying to all of the major wirehouse and brokerage firms with the assumption they were the best at what they do and train their employees to be the best in the industry.  That is what I had heard and believed.   However, the more I interviewed, the more it dawned on me all of these companies are similar in practice to the insurance company that first employed me.  The business model they use is to have their employees pass the licensing test, start selling the products and achieve required sales goals to keep their job.  Many times I was told I could give it a shot, but it would be better to get a sales job for a couple of years and come back when I was ready.  Why would I get a random sales job to become a better financial advisor?  If anything, it seemed I might forget most of what I just spent four years studying in school.

What I really felt was most important was to find someone to mentor me in the industry. I was ready to work long and hard to learn the complexities of investing, planning and overall comprehensive wealth management.  I wanted to believe there are advisors who succeed by being investment experts and wealth managers, instead of being great salesmen.  Don’t get me wrong, sales is great and arguably the most important aspect to any business.  I just felt a financial planners’ best skill should be financial planning, not sales.  The tides turned when I received the advice to look on NAPFA.com and search fee-only advisors in my area, ultimately leading me to exactly what I had been looking for at Detterbeck Wealth Management.

Since starting at DWM, I have learned a lot and now respect how many different hats a strong wealth management team must wear in order to best serve clients.  One of the first things I learned is how little people know about the industry and how easy it is to believe that the big firms are the best place to invest your money.  It reminds me of golf, it is a game of opposites; if you swing left, the ball curves right- swing right, the ball curves left.  Wealth management is similar.  It is normal to think having your money with a big firm is a good idea, it makes sense to think they are the best at what they do (given all the marketing dollars they have to convey that message).  In reality, it is the RIA (Fee-Only Advising) firms who typically have the best client-centric culture rather than a company-centric mentality.  At DWM, it’s about providing value to customers.  These are the advisors who place their clients’ interests first in a fiduciary manner and do not make commissions on sales.  RIA firms like DWM bring clients on slowly to fully understand their needs and create the best possible plan.

All in all, the start to my career has been great.  Coming out of school I wanted to learn this industry and had no interest in “faking it until making it.”  There is no faking at DWM; every time I am given an increase in responsibility it is because I have been trained and fully understand what I am doing.  I’m new to the real world, but this seems like the proper way to run a business – especially one focused on helping people achieve their personal and financial goals.

Nickolas SchiaviEditor’s Note:  Please join us in welcoming Nick Schiavi to our DWM team.  Nick joined our firm in late April as a service associate and is training/learning/working toward becoming a junior advisor. Welcome aboard, Nick!