Seeking to build a practice serving women-in-transition, she hopes to attract other women advisors, too

July 9, 2010 — 6:25 AM UTC by Bob Margolis

1 Comment

Brooke’s Note: Perhaps none of our breakaway stories have captured the gray, discouraging atmosphere of wirehouse life as well as this one. Dorie Rosenband expresses herself in real ways and Bob Margolis showed his ear for expressive quotations on our behalf. RIAs will feel heartened to know that someone with verve like Rosenband joined their ranks and independence-minded wirehouse brokers may be encouraged to follow her lead.

Talk about having it in your blood!

Dorie Rosenband, the woman behind the New York City and Baltimore-based “&Wealth Partners” grew up in Providence, R.I., in a family marked by financial acumen. Her grandfather and father were in the industry, with Dad running his own planning shop. So perhaps it’s not surprising that the former Smith Barney broker jumped to independence after 12 years and says she now is better serving her clients and living a happier life.

Picture downtown Chicago in 1997. That’s when a 23-year-old Rosenband began work at Smith Barney.

“I was working with tax free municipal bonds, but basically cold calling,” she remembers. “It was sort of a weird way to get to meet potential clients, and sell them more product, but that’s the way it was laid out…”

While being trained for working in financial services at a storied firm, Rosenband began to see signs that all was not right.

Smith Barney not behind the CFP

“My family all agreed that Smith Barney was a great place to be trained, but when I got my CFP designation in 2003, two things began to be front and center. First, the firm was clearly not behind my CFP. They did not pay for it, and they, along with many wirehouses, have their own, much less stringent programs. Second, I began to think, ‘How could a CFP not be important?’”

A spokesman for Morgan Stanley Smith Barney said he was not certain if the firm reimbursed for CFP courses.

A move from Chicago to Smith Barney’s midtown Manhattan location brought more of the same. “Again, there was very little focus on planning and even more of a brokerage culture.”

It took a life event, in 2007, however, to bring the whole picture into focus – specifically, having a baby.

Twilight zone

“I came back from maternity leave and realized I was simply an employee. I felt as if I was in the twilight zone, where I was made to prove myself all over again. At this point, it became very clear that the value of advice was not worth much in the brokerage world. My frustration was with the inconsistency. On a fundamental and most basic level, this did not sit right with my idea of best serving clients.”

So, why did it take so long to see the light?

“When living in a large firm, you are told this is the only way. So in 2008 I started to learn about the independent space and also began to see the vulnerability of the big brand.”

At this point, early on in the market meltdown, just about every wirehouse experienced a “weekend of death,” which put a slight extra spring in Rosenband’s step out of the brokerage box. “I had always thought of myself as an entrepreneur, especially since I am the third generation in the business. My first job was at around age 13 at a bagel shop. If I wanted to buy things, I had to work. Period.”

Seeking advice, Rosenband heard from many naysayers. Like many of strong mind and iron will, she took their pessimism and used it as fuel. “Now I knew I could (do this).”

Still a sales culture

She considered joining LPL or Raymond James, but the idea didn’t sit well. “Quasi-indie is great for many, but ultimately you are still buying into their vision. There is still incentive for production in that space and still a sales culture. Sure, it won’t sound as hardcore, but if you win a trip somewhere if you sell a certain amount, then how can that be good for the client? I simply am interested in getting compensated for advice as opposed to a sale of a product.”

Rosenband had able advice once she decided on Schwab as a custodian.

“Andrew Magnus at Schwab has been great and in general, they have a very clear timeline to independence, which I have followed. It was crazy. I would work, then come home, eat with my husband, be with my baby and then late at night, lay the groundwork for my move.”

That move was a very risky financial move, but when asked, Rosenband didn’t hesitate to say she would do it again in a minute. “I invested $150,000 and still haven’t taken a salary, so this was a significant financial event for my family, but so worthwhile!”

She made the jump, after a solid year of intense research and preparation, in March 2009. She wasn’t surprised by Smith Barney’s reaction. (The company did not return a call for comment).

Not saying the nicest things

“Within 20 minutes, they were on the phone with my clients not saying the nicest things. But many stuck with me.”

Having an office in Manhattan, while residing and working out of Baltimore’s Federal Hill area has also been healthy. “It really is a manageable city, plus in this day and age, you can be anywhere. So I use the New York location when I am there, which is quite often for client meetings.”

But, okay… What about the firm’s name?

“I wanted no preconceived notion of what we did. Often, when you say you work with Smith Barney or any other well-known firm, the response is along the lines of ‘Oh, you are a broker, I know what you do.’ My idea of being a planner is based on service and looking at the whole picture. I thought, let’s first arrive at a name that invites this very question of what you do. We take the time to examine so many aspects of a client’s life and goals, in addition to their wealth management needs.”

Rosenband is carving a niche serving women in transition.

“I feel it is a greatly underserved market,” she says, offering up an example of the kind of client that she is seeking.

“There is a doctor client of mine whose brother passed away suddenly, leaving my client’s sister-in-law obviously overwhelmed. It turns out her husband handled all their finances. So we have been able to help her through very complex situations while she is still grieving.”

Attract more women

Looking ahead, Rosenband is looking to grow &Wealth Partners, which currently has $50 million of assets under management, by attracting other women advisors to her platform. The staff consists of Rosenband and a very busy assistant.

“There are just too many women like me dying away in the bowels of brokerage firms!”

Share your thoughts and opinions with the author or other readers.


DADIO said:

July 12, 2010 — 11:19 PM UTC

In order to be the quality planner that Dorie appears to be one needs to fully understand the human equation. This means the following real risks of life that keep planner clients “up at night”: 1. Living to long 2. dying to soon 3. becoming disabled 4. extended care problems.

Submit your comments: