Shareholders Service Group, the unique San Diego-based RIA brokerage and custody firm, announced Wednesday that it had promoted Senior Vice President Dan Skiles to the position of president.
In an interview, Skiles said the promotion reflects the rapid growth of employee-owned SSG and his evolving role at the company, which Skiles joined from Charles Schwab & Co. in 2009 and which is led by Chairman and CEO Peter Mangan. “My role has been changing every day since I’ve been here, especially the past year as we’ve grown; it’s like the ownership saying that we have a new captain on the team.” (Skiles also writes a monthly column for Investment Advisor, The Technology Coach.)
At Schwab, Skiles was VP of Advisor Technology, but at SSG he has not only focused his efforts on tech but on helping SSG advisors with their business and investing issues. Now he will be doing the same for SSG itself. Skiles recalled that when he was thinking of leaving Schwab for SSG, he asked some advisor friends for their thoughts. “That was some of the great advice I got from them: to get involved with all aspects of the business.”
“When I joined SSG,” he recalled, “we had about 350-400 advisors; now we’re around 1,200.” Quoting Mangan, he says that while “the business has grown very nicely, we want to make sure from a management perspective that we have the bench to support the business.” He argues that looking at the experience and longevity of SSG’s management, “you’ll be impressed to see how long they’ve been working for RIAs and how long they’ve been at SSG; since I’ve been at the firm, we haven’t had an officer leave, which is unique in the business.”
While SSG has been adding staff at the level below top management, he says that “the management team has been consistent. The service is consistent because the person setting the tone [Peter Mangan] has been consistent.”
Skiles said that SSG’s business is “very personal—we don’t have a brand as SSG; our brand is the personal service we provide.” What about when there’s a service error or mistake? “Nothing is perfect, so you need the right bench to get things moving back in the right direction; we want to make advisors look great with their clients, and a lot of that is how you deal with curveballs” in service delivery.
He says that while advisors like to know that the firms they partner with are “growing, that they’re with a winner, they don’t want you to lose your commitment to service” which he says attracted them to SSG in the first place. “We’re committed to being the best in the business on service,” he said, because without great service, “you don’t have the right to have additional conversations” with advisors about growing their business with SSG. How does SSG know their service is good? “We survey our advisors and ask them how we’re doing,” mentioning that those surveys show that 94% of SSG advisors say they’re very satisfied, and 97% say they would recommend SSG to other advisors. However, he says that “my goal is to never be surprised by our surveys,” which “can validate or invalidate what you already think; we’re confirming with those surveys what we know from direct contact with advisors.”
“So today, we’re near the end of the year, and we’re getting a lot of requests on RMDs, on taxes and on IRA openings; at the end of every day we know how many we opened; I need to know how I’m doing today.”
Returning to the question of the firm’s growth, Skiles said that as a privately held firm, “we manage our growth carefully. We don’t have minimums, for example, but we do look at the business relationships [with potential advisors] to ensure they’re a win-win” for both sides. “We’re in this game for the long haul as we grow our management team, and as we grow, the strength of the management team comes out.”
Check out these articles by Dan Skiles on ThinkAdvisor: