Seven Questions with Tony Sirianni: D.A. Davidson

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AdvisorHub’s CEO Tony Sirianni sat down with Michael Purpura, president of wealth management at D.A. Davidson, and talked about the industry. Tony sits with established leaders of the largest firms, as well as up and coming disruptors, and asks them more or less the same questions, so Advisors can get a sense of how each firm addresses the same issues from different perspectives. Taken together, they are a very interesting collection of influential points of view, and display the diversity of opinions and conclusions in Wealth Management today. You may even get to know these industry leaders on a more personal level.

Why did you get into the business in the first place?

I was exposed to both our business and the markets starting from an early age because my father worked extensively in this industry, including with D.A. Davidson. Once I began to understand the business, I was hooked. I have been fortunate to have been involved with the financial services industry for nearly 25 years. It is a noble and rewarding business and I am reminded of this every time I talk to clients and our advisors.

Looking back at the changes over the last 15 years, which have been the most damaging to our business in your opinion? What have been the most exciting and positive?

Let me start with the exciting and positive. I am confident that across our industry, and certainly at D.A. Davidson, our advisors are now delivering a much deeper and more meaningful client experience than we did in the past – and it will only get better. Driving these advancements will be teams who deliver broader advice and more comprehensive services than ever before, aided by increasingly sophisticated technology that complements and builds upon their work.

Clearly the most recent damaging event for our business was the financial crisis in 2008-2009. What followed was an anti-Wall Street sentiment that has unfortunately created reputational challenges and, more importantly, has given rise to talk of additional regulation and oversight. Regulatory change is healthy when it is necessary, benefits clients and does not unduly burden financial firms. I hope lawmakers and regulators take the time to understand the real consequences of their actions and embrace only regulations designed to protect clients. Our industry would be better served if it were able to invest in enhancing the client experience rather than creating extensive, sometimes duplicative, systems in response to increased regulatory requirements.

How has your firm adapted to address the rapidly changing Wealth Management landscape?

We have focused on investing in professionals and smart technology that support our advisors and help them deliver an exceptional client experience. Our investments in the past several years have included building our Wealth Planning and Trust departments. With an emphasis on planning as the core of the client experience, we expect to add more experts across these areas and continue to stress collaboration between our Wealth Management and Trust teams. In addition, we have continued to significantly upgrade our systems and are particularly pleased about our partnership with Envestnet. It is critical to partner with providers who plan ahead for tomorrow’s environment and invest to support you. Envestnet is a sophisticated, flexible platform that offers our advisors enhanced technology so they may continue to concentrate on personal interaction.

What part of the Advisor business will never change?

The value of personal advice will never change. The type of advice we deliver has evolved, from a focus on investment implementation to a more holistic, planning- and education-based approach. How we deliver advice may change, moving more to advisor plus digital. However, people will always value the personal relationship and personalized, honest advice that only a trusted advisor can offer. I expect our industry will always evaluate itself to determine what additional solutions we can provide.

What 3 things differentiate D.A. Davidson from the competition?

  • First and foremost, we are a private company. This structure allows us to make appropriate long-term investments and be patient as they develop. We avoid being subject to the whims of institutional ownership and quarterly results.
  • Second, our employee ownership is important. Each associate becomes an owner through an ESOP contribution upon completing one year with D.A. Davidson. Shared ownership aligns the interests of all associates, makes us accountable to each other, and helps drive high performance levels across the firm.
  • Finally, our firm has an unusually accessible senior management team. We plan for frequent events, meetings and calls that include Q and A with senior management. We offer other business and social events that pair senior managers and associates at all levels so everyone is literally at the same table. A great example is our D.A. Davidson Day volunteer events where everyone works together on the same projects. Additionally, our senior leaders go out into the field, and their doors are always open.

Would you encourage your children to enter the Wealth Management business?

Of course I would. The Wealth Management business, and in particular the role of an advisor, is a noble and often underrated vocation. Few professions allow you to become so intimately involved with people while helping them realize their very personal objectives. If anyone were drawn to this profession, I would encourage them to seriously consider making it a career.

What are your interests outside of the Wealth Management business?

I enjoy spending time with my family, especially watching our 10-year-old son compete in various sports.



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