Growing up without a father figure in his life, Travis A. Morrow gravitated to seniors—older relatives, family friends, neighbors, people from church—for advice and guidance. Now, as the head of a flourishing financial advisory practice, Morrow is returning the favor.

“Since the day I entered the financial services industry, I have wanted to serve seniors,” explains Morrow, 40, who launched his firm, 3 Rivers Financial Group, in 2008 in the town of Kennewick, near where he grew up in southeastern Washington State. “The more experience I got, the more I saw how I could help them. I decided I wanted to do my best to protect that generation and the money they worked so hard to earn. That really keeps my fire burning—being the protector, if you will.”

That fire is largely what stokes Morrow’s fast-growing retirement planning practice in the metropolitan area that encompasses Kennewick, Pasco and Richland. While Morrow has remained close to home for much of his life, his rise to prominence in the financial services industry has been a winding and unconventional one. After a brief stint in the Armed Forces ended abruptly with a medical discharge in the mid-1990s, Morrow, then in his early 20s, found himself back in Pasco, attending college to pursue a law enforcement career while peddling hot tubs to pay the bills.

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It was by accident that Morrow found his way to financial services, having one day run into a man he’d once tried to sell a hot tub. “He said, ‘I’ve been looking for you for months, because when we met, it struck me that you’d do well in my business.’ ”

That business turned out to be insurance, and Morrow was open to trying a new line of work. After earning his insurance licenses, he worked for several years as a captive multi-line agent, then subsequently for an independent financial firm. Those stints afforded him valuable industry and sales experience, but also made him realize he wanted to be less a salesperson and more a well-rounded, senior-oriented advisor.

That’s precisely what he has made himself into. Since opening 3 Rivers Financial in 2008, Morrow has carved out a niche serving exclusively clients age 55-plus, mostly within the middle class and mass affluent segments. In less than five years, 3 Rivers Financial’s client base has grown to 200 households.

That number represents vindication for Morrow, who was once told by a superior at the financial firm that he would “never be a good businessperson.”

“Proving people like that wrong is something that really keeps me motivated,” he says.

Indeed, Morrow says his motivation to succeed by serving senior clients’ needs has been one of the keys to his fast ascent as an advisor. Another is his commitment to “being ethical, being honest, doing what I say I’m going to do, doing right by my clients and not taking shortcuts.”

That approach creates trusting, loyal clients, which in turn generates the referrals that, along with seminars, have become his chief source of new business. “In 15 years in this business, I have never lost a client to another advisor. I don’t want to toot my own horn, but it’s something I’m proud of.”

A singular focus on serving only 55-plus clients (he steadfastly refuses to take anyone younger) has also helped Morrow and 3 Rivers distinguish themselves locally. “It’s about establishing that niche and not straying from it—not trying to be all things to all people,” he explains. “The only thing we do is retirement planning. That’s it.”

Annuities—chiefly variable products—have emerged as Morrow’s most valuable planning tool, for their versatility in meeting a broad range of client needs. “My happiest clients—the people who bring other people in here to see me—have variable annuities. With the upside exposure and their protective features, the variable annuity is a product that I have seen work well in so many different scenarios.”

Now a firmly established retirement advisor, with hot tubs well in the rearview mirror, Morrow remains motivated to find new ways to serve senior clients. “The plan is for me to get a Series 65 license and to start a fee-based segment of the practice,” he says.

Yet another new twist in Morrow’s tortuous but prosperous journey.

Travis A. Morrow

3 Rivers Financial Group

Kennewick, WA

Numbers of years in the industry: 15

Total production 2012: $6 million

On his passion for financial planning: “You have to have a passion for this business. You have to live it, to breathe it. You have to be able to want to stand atop the roof of your office, next to your 300-foot-tall inflatable ‘marketing trigger’ and shout PLEASE DON’T GO TO THE RETAIL FIRMS AS YOU WILL MOST LIKELY EXPERIENCE DISSAPOINTMENT AND INDIGESTION! Or, at least, that’s what I would say if I had one of those 300-foot inflatables sitting atop the roof of my office.”

On why he concentrates on seniors: “We used to take folks under 55 but after many years of having those people cancel accounts (to buy, of all things, vehicles and plastic surgery!) we drew the line. Something does happen to folks when they hit 55. I think it’s all the ‘senior’-type marketing they get hit with from places like AARP, their local food eatery with the newly acquired senior discount, and the one I personally can’t wait for…the movie theater! Yeah, I now only have to pay $20 for the small drink! I also think it’s more psychology at this point. They reach age 55 and go ‘Uh oh. I only have 10 years left to plan my amazing retirement and right now, it doesn’t look very amazing. I need help!’ ”

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