A colleague once told Keith Gregg: “You’re a business acceleration specialist. You know how to grow the hell out of things.”
And it’s true. He’s taken several businesses from zero to sixty. Now, as chairman of the newly formed Wealth Advisor Institute, Gregg is at it again.
“We think there’s a real need for a multi-discipline organization that brings wealth advisors together,” says Gregg, 43. “Far too often, when a client gets multiple advisors together, they have preconceived notions about one another. The CPA looks at the financial advisor and says ‘sales guy.’ The financial advisor looks at the attorney and says ‘deal killer.’ This is a group that will allow these folks to learn from each other. We’re trying to break down the silos.”
The institute, launched in June, is targeting advisors whose clients have at least $250,000 in investable assets. Among the advisors the organization is courting: financial advisors, CPAs, tax and estate attorneys, trust officers and insurance agents. The group, based in Washington, D.C., will focus on education, training and advocacy. As Gregg notes, “Advisors need help with the wealth management side of the house right now. There are a lot of people who want to serve this market. They don’t know how.” Membership, $300 a year, will be contingent on the advisor’s enrollment in an annual business ethics program.
Wealth Advisor Institute has a lofty goal: 60,000 members and a reputation equivalent to that of the American Medical Association.
“What we aim to be is the AMA of the financial services business,” says Gregg, whose career in the industry spans 20 years. “With the AMA, you have the cardiologist, the radiologist, the medical supplies salesperson. The AMA is out to protect the interest of all those in the medical profession. Wealth Advisor Institute is out to protect the interest of the wealth advisor — not the firm, not the client, but the advisor.”
Christopher L. Davis, president of The Money Management Institute and an institute board member, says Gregg’s passion for the financial consulting relationship and his “belief in the enterprise” will position the new organization as an industry force.
“Amateurs talk strategy. Professionals talk logistics,” says Davis, whose own group represents separate-account managers. “He knows how to put things in place faster and better than most. The strong jump out of the gate Wealth Advisor Institute has shown is testimony to how hard and fast Keith can move. It’s gone from an idea and a dream late last spring to roll-out and signing up members in the summer. Most organizations take at least a year to get that far.”
Gregg’s career arc, interestingly enough, began with the U.S. Marine Corps, where he served from 1981 to 1985 as presidential crew chief on Marine One, President Ronald Reagan’s helicopter. In 1986, he joined A.G. Edwards as a broker, quickly developing a niche for charitable giving and planning.
He took a break for a few years to work on the wholesale side of the business, then hung his shingle up in 1996 in Rockville, Md., as an independent advisory firm, Gregg Charitable Planning Services. One of the few advisors in that space at the time, he served as the charitable giving specialist for 14 national and global non-profit clients, including American Kidney Fund, the Childhood Leukemia Foundation and Children’s Wish Foundation.
Gregg, author of Do Well By Doing Good: The Complete Guide to Charitable Remainder Trusts, merged his firm with Pace Financial Network in 1998. A string of senior sales and executive positions followed — with Prudential, First Montauk, GE Capital and Wachovia, where he built out Wachovia Securities Financial Network.