Seven Questions With Tony Sirianni: Hilltop Securities, Inc.
AdvisorHub’s CEO Tony Sirianni sits with established leaders of the largest firms, as well as up and coming disruptors, so advisors can get a sense of how each firm addresses the same issues from different perspectives.
David E. Geschke is the CEO and President of HilltopSecurities Independent Network and Director of Retail for HilltopSecurities Inc. He is responsible for the oversight of the firm’s Private Client Group and independent network advisors.
- Why did you get into this business in the first place?
I come from a humble background, so the brokerage industry always interested me. But there’s one moment in particular when I realized I had found my calling. One morning, I got a call from a client of mine. Her husband had just passed away the day before, and she told me her husband’s last words were, “Call Dave. He’ll take care of everything.” I realized then how this industry has the power to impact and change people’s lives for the better.
- Looking back at the changes over the last 15 years, which have been the most damaging to your business in your opinion? What have been the most exciting and positive?
In terms of most damaging, a variety of factors come into play. When it comes to advisor recruiting, large upfront money deals and long-term notes aren’t helping. Advisors are making decisions based on a check instead of what’s best for the client and long-term notes are holding advisors hostage. In the end, firms no longer have to be responsive to advisor’s needs for retention purposes. Equally damaging is the recent trend in proprietary products and pay for play incentives. Not all clients have the same needs and goals, and it’s never a good idea to incentivize an advisor to push product that may not be suitable. Lastly, the Bernie Madoffs and other rogue advisors that make the headlines have tarnished the reputation of our industry. A very visible minority is spoiling our noble profession.
In terms of positive changes, I’m excited about the fact that there’s more investment choices and vehicles available to customize the client’s needs. Also, despite the bad actors mentioned above, I think transparency in our industry is increasing substantially. It’s working to repair the public’s perception of our industry damaged by our own inability to communicate how much integrity there is among financial advisors and how much investor protections there are in place, as well as the inaccurate picture the DOL Fiduciary Rule painted. Finally, I’m really excited about the scalability that advancements in technology have brought our business. By automating administrative tasks, advisors are able to spend more time interfacing with more clients at a deeper level.
- How has your firm adapted to address the rapidly changing Wealth Management landscape?
At HilltopSecurities, we spend more time preparing for where the industry is going, rather than where it’s been. Recently, the firm has invested in technology and product offerings to give advisors and clients a modern and flexible platform. Some examples of this include updating hybrid RIA and fee for advice models, as well as integrating the latest software updates from the likes of Redtail, FIS, Envestnet and MoneyGuidePro® into our platform.
- What part of the advisor business will never change?
The importance of integrity and the value of the advisor-client relationship. There is no substitute for the “trusted advisor.” A robo-advisor will never know your thoughts or dreams, your family dynamics or your personality. Clients will always need honest, straightforward guidance to help pursue their financial goals. Advisors can never stop putting the client first. Otherwise, they risk extinction.
- What 3 things differentiate HilltopSecurities from the competition?
Well it’s very hard to narrow it down to just three. But if I had to, I’d say:
- Advisors have a voice! Our senior leadership spends their day interacting with advisors and listening to their needs and the needs of their clients.
- HilltopSecurities has a regional feel, a national presence and a very strong balance sheet.
- We have a generous compensation model that is easy to understand, transparent and truly product-neutral. We grow by helping advisors grow.
- Would you encourage your children to enter the Wealth Management business?
I have two daughters and I’m educating them on the markets and financial responsibility in the same way we educate our clients. I’d love for them to get into Wealth Management, but at the end of the day I encourage my girls to follow their path so they can find their calling like I found mine.
- What are your interests outside of the Wealth Management biz?
Oh you know, I weightlift at 4 a.m. and run 15 miles every morning—the usual… Just kidding, I wish! No, actually my wife and I enjoy traveling to new places with my daughters. Last year we travelled to Europe and Greece. This year I am sure my girls have another great trip planned.