Ask not what your clients can do for you — ask what you can do for your clients.
That variation on a John F. Kennedy theme is the heart of financial advisory. Helping clients is indeed what has driven John A. Nersesian — first as a Merrill Lynch financial consultant for 20 years and now as managing director of Wealth Management Services at Nuveen Investments, where he counsels the money management firm’s leading advisor clients.
Who: John A. Nersesian, managing director-founder, Wealth Management Services group, Nuveen Investments; Chicago.On fatal planning decisions: “A mistake in judgment doesn’t hurt a 30 year-old client too badly. But if you get it wrong when they’re 65, you don’t get a second chance to get it right.”
“I don’t define success by how much production you do or how much money you make. Success is defined by how accomplished you can be and how much help you provide the clients you serve,” says the high-energy Nersesian, 49.
Based in Chicago, his mission is to bring Nuveen’s successful FA customers up to speed to meet the increasingly complex, sophisticated financial needs of wealthy families. He calls such clients “instividuals,” a meld of the institutional and the individual investor.
The education and consulting support, available at no cost from Nersesian’s eight-member team, ranges broadly from the technical (like portfolio construction) to practice management (building effective teams, for example) to reports about behavioral finance to issues of family governance.
Last year Nersesian conducted a six-month wealth management institute that he designed for Morgan Stanley. The program included white papers, a Web presentation and a two-day symposium where the FAs put to work all the new material they learned.
Nersesian has a talent for presenting complicated subjects in a simple, understandable way, whether in formal group training or consulting with advisors one-on-one about specific topics or client cases. In an interview, his conversation is packed with facts and scenarios. An in-demand speaker at industry meetings, Nersesian was the keynoter at Merrill Lynch’s 2008 kick-off conference.
“John is a tremendous teacher,” says Alan Brown, Nuveen executive vice president. “A thousand financial advisors came through here last year to take his pre-CIMA [Certified Investment Management Analyst] course, many flying into Chicago on their own dime. It’s a credit to him for them to say, ‘I want to go there to learn.’”
On helping today’s high-net-worth clients, Nersesian stresses: “The financial advisory world has really changed from what it was 10 or 15 years ago. Advisors not only have to be tacticians but family counselors and psychologists. It’s integrated advice.”