In 2002, Shannon Eusey was about to make a fateful decision. She was about to ditch a well-paying financial services job, shuck her house in the Hermosa Beach area of Los Angeles and start her own firm with a couple of partners down in Newport Beach. It would take about $1 million in capital to start up. They had personal credit lines ready in case they needed them to make payroll. She was eight months pregnant with her second child.  

But the firm she was founding, Beacon Pointe, was not just a regular entrepreneurial opportunity. It was a chance to go into business with another risk taker, her father Garth Flint, who was also leaving behind a good job, a large institutional investment consulting business he’d co-founded, to start his career over yet again—and create a new model that married institutional-class investment counseling with the private client wealth management business.

Flint and Eusey, partner Matt Cooper and another colleague from Eusey’s firm Roxbury Capital realized that their institutional access to products and their allocation processes would naturally be appealing to wealthy people. Eusey even wrote up the business plan for the firm as part of her MBA thesis during the later days at her old firm.

Thirteen years later, the firm they founded, Beacon Pointe, has grown into a family of firms, including an acquisition unit looking to create a national footprint like that of Mariner Wealth or Focus Financial Partners. The firm has seven offices in the west, but this summer has been closing in on its first Boston office to add $300 million to its $3 billion or so in private client assets (it still oversees $6 billion in institutional money).

An Idea
If you think it requires a certain kind of mettle to leave good-paying jobs to take on a big risk, much less at a later stage in your career, then you don’t know the half of Garth Flint’s story. The California native is also a Vietnam veteran, who flew F-4 fighter jets for the U.S. Navy while assigned to a couple of carriers, including the U.S.S. Coral Sea. In late 1967, right after Christmas, his recon plane was shot down over Haiphong on the Gulf of Tonkin by a North Vietnamese AAA anti-aircraft gun as the plane was doing 450 miles an hour.

“We were trying to get in and see basically whether the bombing mission in front of us was successful,” Flint says of his experience. “We were taking pictures with a photo recon airplane.”

The weather was bad and as soon as he and the pilot came out of a cloud, the plane was hit. “It was a great shot. [They first fired] a red tracer above and green tracer below. That’s how they kind of line up on you.” Both pilots ejected, not sure whether they would land in the water or on a few inhabited islands. It was an important distinction.

“The idea was that if you [land] in the water, you’re going to get rescued. If you don’t, it gets iffy. If you’re near a metropolitan area, you’re not going to make it out.” Some 20 other pilots shot down on that same carrier during the same deployment were either captured or killed. Flint and his co-pilot were the only ones that got back to the ship. (Flint’s story is told in rich detail by author Tom Wolfe in his essay “The Truest Sport: Jousting With Sam And Charlie.”)

Back home, Flint began a career as a stock broker at Merrill Lynch. “But pretty early in my career I realized I wasn’t really good at picking stocks or recommending stocks.” Instead, he got into the consulting business at Merrill. He then helped Kidder, Peabody set up its consulting business on the West Coast. (He also eventually fathered a family with six children. Eusey and one sister work at Beacon Pointe, while two other siblings also work in financial services.)

He’s willing to take calculated risk, says his daughter Eusey, but because of his experience, he always wants to know what happens when the plane comes down.

Flint was working at Kidder in the late 1980s when he and his team lost a bid to become an asset management consultant to an insurance company. Independent firms with no conflicting commission schedules seemed to be the big thing. So he and three other renegades set out to form their own firm, Canterbury Consulting, in 1988, which focused on helping non-profits. The culture was built around the philosophy of preservation of principal for these organizations so they could meet their obligations (paying out scholarships, for example). The approach was conservative and wary of bull markets.
“Institutions are held to a very high standard,” Flint says, “There’s a lot of visibility, both in the community but at the board level or at the institutional investment committee level.”