A Manager’s Journey to Independence

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In the words of the great Bob Dylan, “The times they are a changin’.”

When I started as a trainee over 25 years ago there were several big household “wirehouse” names such as Merrill Lynch, Shearson/American Express, Prudential-Bache Securities, Smith Barney and PaineWebber (where I began).

Brokers were by and large transactional. Many, who had weathered the brutal bear market of ‘73 and ‘74, had built up a customer base by marketing CD’s when rates were in the high-teens in the late 70’s and early 80’s.

Everyone talked production, not assets under management. The long bull market in government bonds was beginning, trading zero-coupon treasuries was in vogue, and a popular strategy for clients’ retirement accounts was putting half into stocks and half in zeroes to “guarantee” the principal.

But the landscape has shifted. Brokers call themselves financial advisors. We talk about assets under management, holistic planning, and offer a wider range of services to help our clients and differentiate our practices.

Most of those names are gone in large due to consolidation. We’re primarily left with the big four: Wells Fargo Advisors, UBS Financial Services, Merrill Lynch (under Bank of America), and Morgan Stanley. It’s hard to distinguish corporate culture at one from the other.

Meanwhile, the independent market has grown exponentially over the past 10 years. I’ve mostly watched from the sidelines at wirehouses and a super-regional in that time, but last year, I finally decided that I needed to “skate where the puck is going” as Wayne Gretzky said and founded my own firm, Bridgeway Wealth Partners.

In the lead-up to actually setting up shop, I spent months doing due diligence, attending conferences, and making trips around the country to visit various firms, learning and gathering as much information as possible about independence. I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t miss the technology and resources I had at a larger firm and that I could honestly tell my clients that I would have as much or more to offer in terms of products and services.

I also wanted to create a firm that would fill in the gaps for advisors who like myself wanted to leave the large firm for independence but still be “hybrid” with the ability to do both brokerage and advisory business.

I realized that I had all the resources I needed to make that happen, but then came the hard part. Which broker-dealer should I affiliate with? What about a custodian? What about these 200 software companies who all seem to have a compelling pitch?

Do you want to be a 1099 or is being part of a company medical plan on a W-2 platform the way to go? Is the opportunity to receive equity in a firm important or do you want to just get the highest cash payout possible? Do you need a full-suite of separate account managers? Trust services? What are your real estate needs? Do you want your own brand?

As you can see the list of considerations is quite extensive and each question prompts another one.

But I can say after a year that I believe I’ve found the answer. Bridgeway is multi-custodial, which gives us competitive pricing and product access. We have a top of the line platform and technology.

I’ve put in the time to do the research, and now I’d like to pay it forward. The road towards independence is not for everyone, but for those who are interested, I invite you to reach out and contact me any time to find out more about what Bridgeway and independence could offer.

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Brian Reichberg serves as Managing Partner, and is the founder of Bridgeway Wealth Partners headquartered in Manhattan in New York City. He has served as a leader in the financial services and investment industry for 25 years. Brian has consistently added value within each role he has held and possesses progressive achievements in the areas of recruiting, new business development, and motivating financial advisors.

Brian initiated his career at Paine Webber where he was rapidly recognized as a top ranked trainee. Brian capitalized on his effective leadership skills and built a book of business as he transitioned into a Wealth Advisor role at Smith Barney. He progressed through a series of positions and became one of the youngest complex managers in the firm, managing a 50-broker office in upstate New York. More recently Brian served as the Managing Director and Branch Office Manager at Oppenheimer and Co. He directed all facets of a branch encompassing 100+ financial consultants and representing $75M in annual revenue and $11B in assets.


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