Samuel Deane stepped into the financial services industry with big entrepreneurial plans. First, there was his intention to launch his own RIA after notching just three years in the business.
Nevertheless, “there was a time when I felt like being Black or under 30 would hold me back,” he tells ThinkAdvisor in an interview.
“But since I started my own firm, being under 30 and Black makes me more of a unicorn,” the 29-year-old financial planner declares.
Before launching Deane Wealth Management in 2018, he had indeed worked for just three years at Lincoln Financial Group and then at a small RIA.
Starting with zero clients and zero revenue, his firm’s growth has been impressive: He is already serving 35 client households and has $6.3 million in assets under management and $25 million in assets under advisement, as of December 2021.
This year, he expects his AUM to double.
Revenue for his first year in business totaled $5,000. Last year, it came to $110,000.
Much of the secret to Deane’s success as a specialist in equity compensation and tax planning is his choice of client niche: millennials in technology.
They are startup founders and employers, plus other young tech professionals with complex equity compensation and tax planning needs.
Deane, who is based in Atlanta, says that he understands their “concerns, constraints and pain points.”
A pithy pitch on his website seems to sum up his business model: “No sales. No commissions. No BS.”
Depending on asset level, clients are charged either an AUM-based fee or a flat monthly fee.
In the interview, the RIA, who was born in St. Lucia and came to the U.S. with his parents at age 7, relates why from the get-go his plan focused on forming his own RIA.
He also touches on the issue of industry efforts to expand diversity and inclusion, which he sees as “lip service.”
“I don’t think the industry really wants to be diverse,” says Deane, who has an MBA from Hofstra University and a Bachelor of Science degree from the University at Albany, State University of New York.
A former adjunct professor at Baruch College, he markets his practice by writing online content for Morningstar and Investopedia, among others, and speaks at technology companies about equity compensation.
ThinkAdvisor recently interviewed Deane, who was on the phone from Atlanta.
“I put my brain on the internet” is how he describes his marketing tack.
Here are highlights of our conversation:
THINKADVISOR: You worked as a financial advisor for just three years before you opened your own RIA. Why the rush?
SAMUEL DEANE: It was very intentional. I wanted to launch my own wealth management firm, and you have to be working for three years under a CFP who’ll vouch for you.
I knew what my end goal was, and I intentionally sought out opportunities at RIAs to devote my time to a deep learning of my craft.
Did you have any doubt that you’d make it?
There was a time when I felt like being Black or under 30 would hold me back from accomplishing my goals.
But since I’ve started my own firm, I’ve had quite the opposite experience.
Being under 30 and Black makes me more of a unicorn because there aren’t many Black advisors under 30 who run their own firms, [especially] a fee-only firm that puts clients’ best interest first.
What’s your view on the financial services industry’s efforts to be more diverse and inclusive?
It starts with the leadership. In all honesty, I don’t think the industry really wants to be diverse. I think a lot of it is lip service.
I’m no diversity and equity specialist, but I don’t see why it’s so difficult to build a diverse organization — to put [diverse people] in leadership positions and have them do what they do best.
So I’m tired of the lip service around being diverse. I’d rather see it in action.
These companies have billions of dollars, tons of resources. If they found it was that important to make the change, I have no doubt they would [have].
Why did you choose the client niche of millennials in technology?