Talent Pools, Fields, and Courts: Where an RIA Finds Employees With a Flair for Wealth Management

Why and how former college athletes came to represent nearly one in five employees at Beacon Pointe, a $20 billion RIA.

Illustration by RIA Intel (Emile Wamsteker/Bloomberg)

Illustration by RIA Intel

(Emile Wamsteker/Bloomberg)

At Beacon Pointe, a Newport Beach, Calif.-based wealth manager advising clients on $20 billion in assets, conversations about gold are not always about the precious metal as a store of value. Employees are more likely discussing the Olympics.

Founded in 2002, Beacon Pointe has been adding new employees — by hiring them or through acquisitions of other wealth management businesses — and many were previously high-level athletes. Out of its 256 employees, 47 were previously collegiate athletes and some were part of the U.S. National Teams. Those men and women participated in a mix of sports, including track and field, volleyball, tennis, basketball, soccer, golf, and hurling.

Shannon Eaves, the director of human capital at Beacon Pointe, was not a collegiate athlete but she understands why her company attracts them and keeps hiring them. Seasoned athletes make good employees, well prepared to “generate business and develop relationships,” Eaves said.

Hiring 47 former college athletes has happened by coincidence and design.

Allison Warner, the chief marketing officer at Beacon Pointe, said the penchant for hiring athletes evolved out of the values of the CEO Shannon Eusey, a former Division I volleyball player at UC-Irvine. Eusey contends that there are many qualities that competitive sports bring out in a person that transfer over to the wealth management industry.

“You have to be a self-starter. You have to be competitive, you’re wearing multiple hats, you have to prioritize your time, and recognize what areas you’re insufficient in that you need to improve, and what you’re good at and can exploit,” Warner said. High-level athletes master “mental toughness” and those lessons are incalculable, she said.

Warner epitomizes a financial professional who hails from intercollegiate sports. She was co-captain of the USC’s women’s volleyball team and recalls competing against Alix Klineman and April Ross, who recently earned gold medals for beach volleyball at the Tokyo Olympics.

In Warner’s view, the competitiveness of the athletes has influenced the growth culture developed at Beacon Pointe. When she started 11 years ago, it had one office and 22 employees. Now, it has 24 offices and 265 employees. “Athletes are in constant flux, and we learn to adapt to a changing world. That has been a huge value-added to our professional staff, with our evolving, growing company,” Warner said.

Beacon Pointe uses iWorkZone, a human resource software backed by “highly predictive psychometric science,” that measures and compares candidates’ interests and abilities, then matches them with roles in an organization. The software considers things including someone’s competitiveness, investigative skills, and whether they’re a cooperator or coordinator. “It just so happens athletic backgrounds lend well to particular roles at Beacon Pointe,” Eaves says. Beacon Pointe staff members are referred to as “team members” at the company.

Warner says clients also benefit from having a former athletes guiding them because of the advisor’s ability to multitask. “We’re looking at their entire wealth, goals and legacy; it’s comparable to what an athlete does when trying to achieve their own goals.”

But Beacon Pointe doesn’t post job descriptions explicitly looking for current or former athletes. Athletic achievements are not mandatory qualifications. “We’re hiring for the best person for the job regardless of their background,” she said.

Patrick Park, a 25-year-old senior trading associate at Beacon Pointe, didn’t know that almost 20 percent of his colleagues were collegiate athletes like he was. (Park was an All-American swimmer at Arizona State University, where he holds a school record and was captain of the team. He participated in the 2016 Olympic Trials with Michael Phelps and the 2020 Olympic Trials but did not qualify for either.) He heard about Beacon Pointe through a brother’s friend, who was a client, and had no idea that its staff was athletically inclined until after he was hired.

There’s no direct correlation between swimming expertise and his role as financial advisor, but there are underlying benefits, Park says. “To achieve the goals of your financial client takes hard work, whether it’s working on investment knowledge or financial planning. As a swimmer, you have to manage your time. You’re working out four hours a day. And trading associates have only a certain number of hours in the day to trade. You learn how to make adjustments,” he says.

Swimmers master self-reliance. Literally and figuratively “you’re doing it in your own lane,” Park said. And as an advisor, you’re also independent. And yet he thrives on the camaraderie at Beacon Pointe, collaborating with wealth advisors and relationship managers.

Hiring college athletes at a financial advisory firm makes good business sense to Ben Oliva, director of Performance Coaching at SportStrata, a New York-based consulting firm that trains and builds mental skills of business executives, athletes, and other professionals, including the New York City Fire Department. Intercollegiate athletes learn how to “communicate and operate in an environment where there’s pressure on the outcomes,” he says, which helps prepare them for a career in finance.

In sporting competitions, athletes aren’t “fully in control of attaining the results you want. In the world of finance, you’re also not fully in control of certain factors, like the stock market,” according to Oliva. Under this kind of intense pressure, it’s easy to get distracted, but athletes learn to cope and use the pressure rather than get overwhelmed by it.

Moreover, most athletes are team players (even collegiate golfers and tennis players are part of teams) and learn to take constructive feedback (they all have coaches).

The only drawback that Eaves can think of is financial advisors don’t win swim meets on any given day but must learn to “celebrate the little wins, such as moving money, reaching a client, having the client take the next step.” Ultimately their athletic expertise aligns with the qualities that lead to success at the firm.

One trap facing athletes-turned-financial advisors is the ambiguity in the financial world. In sports, athletes finish a race or match and there is a clear victor. Often in the financial world, results can be ambiguous and long-term and require more patience.

A financial firm hiring so many competitive athletes can help build a culture where “getting better” becomes part of what the advisory team is striving to do, Oliva suggests. And that helps clients reap better results.

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