Seven Questions with Tony Sirianni: Craig Pirtle, Managing Director, B. Riley Wealth Management
AdvisorHub’s CEO Tony Sirianni sat down with Craig Pirtle, Managing Director, B. Riley Wealth Management, 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.
Q: Why did you get into the wealth management business?
A: Growing up I had an uncle who was heavily invested in the stock market, and every Saturday I would wake up and read the Wall Street Journal with him. It was eye-opening, and it sparked my interest in international events and worldwide politics. I was fascinated because I realized that political battles and wars always seemed to correlate with the performance of the stock market.
My interest in these events and the desire for international travel led me to join the military and, for similar reasons, I was drawn to the financial industry once I concluded my service. I knew that my experience and exposure to different cultures, plus my financial acumen, would help me succeed.
Q: In looking at the changes over the last 15 years, which, in your opinion, have been the most damaging to the wealth management business? Conversely, what have been the most exciting and positive?
A: Ponzi schemes like the Bernie Madoff and Stanford Financial Group scandals, plus the 2008 economic collapse, have caused tremendous damage to this business. Financial industry professionals work their entire lives adhering to strict ethics and fiduciary duties of this business. They operate with integrity; yet because of these events, the whole industry is called into question by the public.
The resulting amount of regulation has made things tough. While it is great on one hand, on the other it makes it difficult for financial advisors who have diligently worked on behalf of their clients for years.
The most exciting part of the business has been the emergence of smaller regional and boutique firms that were sometimes dismissed in favor of wirehouses. This made it very difficult to get started as a small firm, but now the playing field has been leveled. Smaller firms have become attractive to clients given their capabilities and improved credibility.
Q: How has technology advanced this industry?
A: The ability to document everything electronically has advanced the industry tremendously. With the emergence of electronic customer relationship management systems, financial advisors now have quick access to highly nuanced, detailed information on clients, their families and their financial profiles. That’s been a welcome change, as data like this enables advisors to make moves on behalf of their clients faster than ever. The amount of information available has improved the level of service that wealth managers can provide for their clients exponentially. Clients have also gained the transparency they need to have a trusting relationship with their advisors.
Q: How has B. Riley adapted to address the rapidly changing wealth management landscape?
A: The services we offer, plus our various acquisitions, have created a dynamic platform of proprietary capabilities. Through the acquisition of financial platforms like Glass Ratner and FBR & Co., plus the creation of what is now B. Riley Financial, wealth managers have everything they need to service their clients’ business needs. B. Riley Wealth Management is the perfect example of a smaller firm that has the capability to do anything the large firms can, with competitive pricing, agility and close interaction with our clients.
Q: What part of the advisor business will never change?
A: The need for client interaction. The relationship that financial advisors have with their clients, and the need for the continued development of those relationships, will never change. While there is a lot of talk about robo-advisors, an advisor who can understand a client’s personal, family and business needs with a human touch will likely win out.
Q: What three things differentiate BRWM from the competition?
- Culture: We are advisor-focused and entrepreneurial, and we truly embody the boutique firm culture while providing large-firm capabilities. Financial advisors have a lot of autonomy in how they structure their business, and our customizable, proprietary investment solutions allow them to act in their clients’ best interests.
- Platform: As a wholly owned subsidiary of B. Riley Financial, a publicly traded, diversified financial services company, we are uniquely positioned to offer cross-platform expertise, resources and assets to best serve and maximize value for clients. Through B. Riley Financial and its affiliate B. Riley FBR, advisors have access to extensive research coverage produced by award-winning research analysts and capital market services. We offer wirehouse-level practice management, client access technology and a full range of lending and trust services, through third party vendors
- Leadership Structure: Our culture fosters direct access between financial advisors and senior leadership. Financial advisors can pick up the phone and call a senior leader who will be on hand, guiding them as they manage complicated transactions on behalf of their clients.
Q: What advice would you give to someone just entering the wealth management business?
A: I’d say they need a diverse background. Financial advisors must go above and beyond just taking exams and obtaining a college education. One can no longer rely on qualifications, titles and exams alone. Without a varied background or the desire to interact with a diverse set of people, this business becomes difficult because clients need a financial advisor they trust and believe in.
Join a diverse team that represents all backgrounds, ages and walks of life. Talk to as many people as you can at your new firm. Meet them all, have lunch or coffee with them and shadow the most successful advisors as long as you can. It’s one of the best ways to really learn the business. Meeting as many people as possible gives you the ability to relate to clients of all age groups, which is hugely important considering the rise of millennials, who are set to inherit a great amount of wealth from baby boomers.
Q: What are your interests and hobbies outside of your day job?
A: I love all outdoor activities, from hiking to riding horses and everything in between. More than all of that though, I love spending time with my family.