Former National Football League quarterback and Hall of Famer Steve Young told an audience of advisors this week that the right culture at a financial advisory firm will help comfort investors and secure them as long-term clients.

Young, a partner, chairman and co-founder of Palo Alto, Calif.-based Huntsman Gay Global Capital (HGGC), was part of a panel discussion yesterday, the second day of the Preeminent Advisor Summit sponsored by Financial Advisor magazine.

When it comes to culture, Young told the audience that it starts internally and works its way out.

“Culture is how you collectively make your employees feel and once you do that, how they make everyone else feel,” he said.

Young said it is about how the members of the team within a firm interact with each other and how they develop their values. From there, it spills out to their interactions with clients. He added that a wealth manager is vital in a person’s life because it has to do with who handles a person’s money.

“There’s an intimacy to it that I think needs to be spoken to,” he said. “When you talk about the values and culture of a place it has to make people feel safe and heard and empowered and not told or talked down to.”

It was that type of culture that led Young’s firm to make a minority investment in Atlanta-based Merit Financial Group in 2020, he said. Rick Kent, chief executive officer and founder of Merit, joined Young on the panel discussion, where he praised the deal with HGGC and the success it has brought his firm.  

Since the deal, Merit has been growing rapidly. The firm only had nine acquisitions at the time of the HGGC deal, now it has 21, according to Kent. He praised the partnership and said that firms have to consider if engaging in similar relationships makes sense for their individual firms.

“I want to encourage [firms] to think more than the valuation,” he said. “Finding the right partner is more important.”

He explained that HGGC was not the highest bidder, but the culture of the two firms meshed well together. Young has provided access to his employees to help Merit on a variety of matters, including the hiring of a new chief financial officer, Kent said.

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