From the August 2013 issue of Research Magazine • Subscribe!

A Born Advisor: Profile in Success

For Alissa Carloss, the financial advice business is a family affair

Photography by Steve Jones. Photography by Steve Jones.

When Alissa Carloss was born, her mother was an assistant at J.C. Bradford & Co., the iconic southern brokerage firm. Two years later, her father joined the company as a stockbroker.

“I’ve been involved in this business since I was born. I grew up around it. I remember as a kid stuffing and licking envelopes for my dad. I never thought of doing anything else,” says Carloss, who joined her father at J.C. Bradford at the age of 21—the youngest advisor the firm had ever hired. “My father never asked me to be in the business. We just knew it would work out that way.”

Today, at 34, Carloss leads a team for Morgan Stanley Wealth Management in Jackson, Tenn. that manages over $100 million in assets. It is still a family affair. Her father, Terry Nance, serves as the team’s consulting group analyst and her mother, Patricia Nance, is in charge of correspondence and event planning. Client services associate Becky Gordon has worked with Terry Nance since Carloss was a teenager.

“Investments have always intrigued me but not near as much as interacting with clients and treating them like family,” says Carloss, who is known for her exuberance, positive outlook—and to-do lists. “I really feel a need to help them understand their investments. It’s more than just the factual side; it’s the emotional side. This business is really more about relationships and psychology than it is about investments, to a degree.”

In recent years, Carloss and Terry Nance have worked together with the clients he brought to the business while developing new relationships through her contacts. In a role reversal, Nance two years ago ceded leadership control to his daughter. (In the office, Carloss calls him Dad. “I just can’t call him Terry.”)

Clients, she says, have been receptive.

“I find women, especially, enjoy working with me. They’ll say ‘A lot of men intimidate me. You speak on my level.’ Our male clients have also been receptive. One gentleman told me last week he really didn’t want an advisor who had been in business for 50 years. He’d rather have somebody who has learned more recently, yet has experience,” she said. “You don’t want to go have heart surgery from a doctor who learned it 50 years ago.”

In May, Carloss, looking for deeper resources for her clients, moved the team from Stifel Nicolaus to Morgan Stanley. Seven weeks in, the majority of clients had followed her. Complex manager John Terry said she was “well ahead of the average recruit” when it comes to client retention. In that same time period, Carloss also got five referrals.

“We’re the winner in this thing,” Terry adds. “Jackson is a market with great potential. Her team’s presence doubled us in terms of assets and revenues. These are the folks that put us on the map in Jackson, Tenn. She’s a terrific partner.”

 Carloss is also all things Jackson. She grew up there, got her bachelor’s degree and MBA at Union University there, and is raising a family there. Carloss and her husband, Burt, have four adopted children between the ages of 19 and six. Until last year, when their oldest went to college, Burt Carloss was a stay-at-home father. Today, he’s a college recruiter.

Alissa Carloss’s is a team approach—both at home and in the office.

“My husband is very supportive, my primary consultant. When we made this move, I told him: “I can’t do it if you can’t.’ We’re a team. At home and in the office, I try to keep an open approach and listen. I’m a delegator,” Carloss says. “It’s true I do have a hard time letting go of things because I want them to be done correctly. If I delegate, I will check back. My kids call me ‘the list maker.’ I make lists for them—and I have my own.”

What is on Carloss’s to-do list?

Looking ahead, she would like to hire one more advisor and support staff.

As for this moment, she is reviewing all of the holdings of her 400 client households. “I never thought the toughest part of this job would be to find a decent interest rate,” she says. Alternatives she has looked at recently: blue chip stocks with nice dividends; annuities to provide a guaranteed lifetime income; and equity-linked certificates of deposit.

“Every person is different and it is so important to sit down and understand each client’s needs individually. It’s not right to categorize them,” she adds. “And when I do sit down with my clients, I sit on the same side of the table with them—literally. I am, and will always be, my clients’ advocate.”

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