If you’ve followed our blog for the past few years, you’ve seen various updates and observations from industry conferences. One such conference is Charles Schwab’s IMPACT conference. I’ve attended this conference on three separate occasions in three distinct locations—2013 in Washington, D.C., 2014 in Denver and 2015 in Boston.
This year, I’ve been invited to speak at IMPACT in Chicago. This is both a tremendous honor that we’ve worked really hard for and something that we still half-way expect to be a mistake. Although I’m speaking in a smaller, break-out session capacity, it seems downright silly to be in the speaking lineup with the likes of power players like David Cameron (former British Prime Minister), Theo Epstein (baseball guru) and best-selling author Michael Lewis (Moneyball, The Big Short). On the investing side, a slew of high-ranking Schwab officials are speaking along with big industry names like Mario Gabelli and loudmouths like Jeffrey Gundlach. And yet there I am…it’s website official.
So how did we get here? I’m not totally sure. But here’s what I do know.
- For the past several years, we’ve emphasized hiring young, smart people. We’ve prioritized bringing in capable and adaptable talent and under the leadership and patience of Matt Burton (the firm’s founder), that seems to be paying off. Currently, Narwhal is home to 14 employees—12 full-time and two interns. Ten of those employees are under the age of 30. And our firm is coming into its own because of these hires, not in spite of these hires.
- As part of this initiative to bring in fresh faces, we got rid of our firm’s minimum account size in an effort to also attract younger, impressionable clients. Though we remain a word-of-mouth shop with no formalized marketing plan or advertising schemes, we have been able to work with a number of non-traditional (read: young) clients and grow a network of young people who are passionate about earning, saving and investing.
- Last summer, we launched Tusk Media and an accompanying audio/video podcast called “The Investing Podcast” (creative name, I know). A few weeks ago we began beta testing a new show called “Young Bucks” geared specifically to young folks (iTunes and YouTube). Through various distribution channels, Tusk Media’s work has been viewed more than 400,000 times.
By my estimation, it is those three action-points (hiring young people, working with young people and talking to young people) that put us in a unique position. You see, the investment advisor community is largely terrified of millennials. Firms don’t know how to hire and engage with young people, they don’t know how to attract young clients and they fail to retain second- and third-generation clients who inherit family wealth. It’s still early in the game-plan, but we think it’s working and so, apparently, does Schwab.
Our contact at Schwab tipped me off on the application process back in March. I knew what I wanted to talk about at an event like IMPACT—millennials and how we’re not actually as complicated or stupid or avocado toast-dependent as we’re made out to be—but I didn’t know quite how to get in the door. I presented and refined multiple pitches to Schwab and finalized my submission in late May. In early August, I learned that I was “in” and this week my session (Reaching Millennial Clients with Millennial Employees) was posted for registration on the website.
To let you a little more behind the curtain, I think it’s important to note that these initiatives—hiring young people, engaging with young people, launching podcasts, speaking at conferences, etc.—are not intended solely for the benefit of younger clients. We have not compromised our calling as stewards of investable assets in these pursuits nor have we de-prioritized existing clients. To the contrary, we believe that a crucial component of managing assets is being able to offer long-term solutions to complex challenges like inter-generational wealth transfers. Being intentional about working with and for young people prepares us to do just that. We want to know the next generation of clients as they prepare to inherit wealth. That enables us to do our job better.
Further, our hiring has been intentional to increase the level of service and performance offered to clients. Over the past few years, our Investment Committee has increased from two to five people and we’re pleased with the efforts and contributions of Ben Nye (our Senior Equity Analyst hired last July), Matt Krebsbach (Investment Analyst hired in August of 2015) and Sam Frost (Junior Investment Analyst hired last July). Hannah Mostellar has been a welcomed addition in supporting the firm as an Executive Assistant. Garrett Palmer, a former intern, is progressing nicely as the firm’s Assistant Compliance Officer and is critical to our daily data tracking and portfolio reporting processes. Scotty Valiani, a familiar face to those who have been around our office, is working full-time in an operations capacity overseeing things like IT and office management while pursuing studies. Our research intern, Akash Prasad, is learning tons under Ben’s tutelage and our Tusk Media intern (Greg Moyer) is fantastic at taking our ramblings and turning them into an internet-ready broadcast.
All of these hires happen to be young, but more importantly they increase productivity and service at Narwhal. And no recent hire embodies that commitment more so than Andrea Walker. Andrea is our new (and first) Director of Client Services. As we continue to grow in staffing and place an emphasis on specialization, she will become the lead in day-to-day client services. We aren’t going to force an overnight transition of powers, but over time she will gradually become increasingly involved in handling non-investment-related client requests. Her extensive experience at Crawford Investment Counsel and Artisan Partners (two respected firms in Atlanta) caught our eye and her industry knowledge is robust.
We are excited about the opportunities ahead and are grateful for the opportunities to work with such great clients.
Please see our General Disclosure.