Ian Yankwitt had an interest in investments from his college days and before being seduced by the law, figured he’d go to work in finance. When he finally did make that move, the two most important women in his life–his wife and his mother–had a great influence on his becoming a successful financial advisor.
His first clients were a couple who were friends of his parents. They recalled some of Yankwitt’s “snide comments” about investing and asked his mother if she would ask him to meet with them. “My point of view was, I’m really happy with my day job, but when your mother asks you to do something you do it.”
He met with the couple, looked at their financial picture and gave them some advice. They came back a short time later saying they understood everything he had told them, they just didn’t want to do it themselves. Could they pay him to do it for them?
Yankwitt had already been thinking about making a career change, considering among other options starting a hedge fund. He eventually rejected the idea of a hedge fund because he would miss the client contact he had come to thrive on as a criminal attorney. “One of the things I’ve found is that everybody has a story that’s worth telling. That level of client interaction I enjoyed much more than I would have thought going in,” he says. “I was thinking more about a financial planning/financial advisory business. I guess what I had in mind was people would come in, we’d sit down, I would talk to them and tell them what to do, and then they would go do it.
“My wife had what I really think of as the seminal insight on the business. She said, ‘You’ve really got to provide execution. If you’re providing advice, without providing execution, people aren’t going to do it. You’re providing nothing of value. You’ll feel good, [because] you’re saying things that are correct, but if it doesn’t happen, you’re not actually helping anybody. All you’re doing is having the same conversations over and over again.’ That was really the key insight for the business.”
So Yankwitt started with his parent’s friends as clients, because his mother asked him to, working part-time while he continued his day job. By 2004 he had, between his current clients and some others who promised to come on board when he started managing money full-time, $11 million in assets. Following his wife’s suggestion that he offer both advice and execution he launched Tortoise Investment Management in 2004.