The American West has historically been populated by many who see a land of endless possibilities, fueled by big dreams with equally big risks. That includes financial advisors.

Some of the advisors who ranked highest in 2018 assets under management in Financial Advisor's latest RIA survey had a long and winding road to the top.

Joe Duran, who founded United Capital, grew up in war-torn Zimbabwe, living in a violent home with no financial security, according to the company website. Although reportedly a mediocre student, Duran worked hard, selling hot dogs on weekends at age 11, and later overseeing night production at a clothing factory while attending high school.

At age 18, Duran left Africa to travel the world, eventually enrolling in St. Louis University. While studying abroad in Madrid, he met and married his wife, Jennifer. The two returned to live in her home town of Los Angeles, where Duran began his career in finance at Centurion Capital. 

By his late twenties, Duran became president of the firm, eventually selling it to General Electric in December 2001. He did not want for money, but at leisure pondered its significance to others.

One day, his mother-in-law told him she had inherited money and asked him what he thought she should do with it. From that one discussion, inspiration struck and United Capital was born, according to the company website. Instead of offering people financial advice that prioritized investment counsel over personal growth, Duran decided to create a business model that was just the reverse, and the rest is history. In May, Goldman Sachs announced it was buying the company.

Joe Ferguson and Norb Wellman also struggled to find success helping others.

Ferguson recounts on the Ferguson Wellman Capital Management website how his firm got its start in an abandoned penthouse apartment in Portland, Ore., in December 1975. 

In the initial year of operation, there were no paid secretaries working 9-5; instead, the partners’ wives worked free, supporting their husbands’ work out of love and devotion. Within this nurturing cradle of family and friends, a business was born, despite hard times in the world around them.

“Public confidence was the lowest since the Great Depression,” Ferguson said on the company website. “We were at the tail-end of Watergate. We had recently devalued the dollar. We were at the end of the Arab oil embargo and at the height of the Soviet (threat). So Norb thought that might be a good time to start a company.”

Wellman also discussed the company’s first year on its website. 

“We had a lot of confidence to start a company,” he said. “Starting something new was also about control, at least in my mind; I didn’t want someone from New York telling me what to pay my staff.” 

A fiercely independent spirit and an intuitive grasp of what prospective clients want in a financial advisor are the continued hallmarks of success for this year’s top Western money managers.

Here, in ascending order, are Financial Advisor’s top 10 registered investment advisory firms based on AUM at the end of 2018.

10.  Brighton Jones

In 1999, Charles Brighton and Jon Jones launched their fee-only wealth management firm in Seattle, and the following year it became an RIA. The firm advises clients on estate planning, retirement savings and investment management at its Seattle headquarters and in offices in Portland, Ore.; San Francisco; Scottsdale, Ariz.; and Washington, D.C. Brighton Jones managed $5,299,273,672 in client assets.

First « 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 » Next