As a certified financial planner back in 1990, Spenser Segal ran a retirement plan projection for a couple in their mid-50s who thought they had done everything right. They’d saved $500,000. They had no debt. But it wasn’t enough to support the retirement they had dreamed about. The look in their eyes: utter despair.
“They had never had access to advice before,” says Segal. “I was the first advisor they’d talked to.” That meeting marked a turning point for Segal, a self-described “systems thinker.” Should he go ahead, build a great practice and help a few hundred clients over time or take his talents to tens of thousands of advisors who could in turn help millions of clients?
Today, as CEO and chairman of ActiFi, the 40-year-old Segal is on the short list of industry leaders who are helping transform the way financial advice is delivered. His underlying premise: Help advisors build an exceptional business and they will have the people, processes and technology in place to serve more and more clients.
With ActiFi, the software and solutions company he formed in 2003, Segal helps financial advisors and the institutions that serve them run more effective and profitable businesses. In earlier iterations of his “calling,” as he defines it, Segal was the No. 2 employee at BigCharts and served as vice president of e-commerce strategy and development at American Express Financial Advisors.
He has been called thought leader, innovator and visionary. Segal’s longtime coach Doug Lennick, who co-wrote the highly regarded book Moral Intelligence, puts it this way: “I knew from the beginning that he had it. The guy is able to see where the game needs to be played. He actually understands what’s wrong with the industry — and there are so many things unfortunately that are wrong. He also has solutions. He’s the real deal.”
And Sam Richter, ActiFi’s chief marketing officer, observes: “At the end of the day, running a small business and trying to change the way things are done in big business is really, really hard. He’s sunk his soul, his personal finances, everything he has into this company. It’s truly his mission in life. His vision is to change the entire industry doing what we’re doing at ActiFi. It’s a big picture thing.”
Over the years, Segal has observed that advisors who have the knowledge to build a better business don’t have the time. Meanwhile, people who have the time don’t have the knowledge. That’s where ActiFi steps in.