In the run-up to naming the winners of the inaugural RIA Intel Awards on September 14, 2022, RIA Intel will publish short features highlighting the accomplishments of this year’s nominees and Rising Stars.
For Glenn Ullmann, whose experience in the financial industry spans almost three decades, keeping his $800 million AUM firm running smoothly requires hiring not just talented people, but talented people who genuinely share a love for helping clients reach their goals. We spoke with him about his career, his plans for his company, and the state of the wealth management industry. Responses have been edited for clarity and length.
How did you get started in the industry?
I moved to Jacksonville in the ’90s and started with Smith Barney, mostly because I didn’t really know what I was doing, even though I had been very interested in investing all the way back to my paper route days. I left after a few years to build an office for the regional firm Robert W. Baird, and we built that up from a couple of people to around 30 people by the time I left in October 2002 to open Ullmann Financial, which we started with maybe $20 or $30 million in assets. Interestingly, the day that Ullmann opened for business — October 4, 2002 — was the day that the market bottomed after the dot-com bust and 9/11.
Who is the typical Ullmann client?
Our clients run the gamut from C-suite executives, to business owners, to entrepreneurs. But we work with young professionals, too, and we also have a unique program for high-net-worth clients — mostly non-working spouses — who are going through divorce. But we’re basically looking for nice people who are willing to follow a plan and who want to work on their investments, which includes all the advance planning, plus things such as wealth enhancement, wealth protection, charitable giving, and philanthropy. We help them get all their experts in line, so that everyone is working on the client’s behalf. And we run the firm as a team, which means that nobody really has their own client base. The firm exists to serve the client, so certain people may be working on one particular client relationship, but if needed, we can bring in other team members who have more expertise in certain areas. So we all share each client, and we all get compensated out of the pool of revenue and profit, regardless of who the client is or who’s been working with them.
How has wealth management changed over the course of your career?
When I got into the business in the ’90s, we were all still stockbrokers, which means that you’re a genius when your stuff’s working and an idiot when it’s not. But there was really no value in that for clients. So we figured that if we could create a plan for the client, so that he or she knows where they need to be at the end of every year in total net worth or liquid net worth, we could help them make the necessary adjustments — you know, like, “Hey, this is not a good year for you to be buying a mountain home,” or “Hey, if you’re going to buy the mountain home, this is how you should finance it.” That’s what clients really need. I think our biggest job — and not just ours, but every quality wealth manager — is to keep clients from making a big mistake. People don’t pay us a fee just for the investment; people pay us a fee to manage the investment and all the planning aspects — estate planning, attorneys, bankers, and insurance agents — and to make sure we’re available, almost like the family CFO. I think one of my favorite Maya Angelou quotes sums up our philosophy perfectly: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
The inaugural RIA Intel Awards is a celebration of financial advisors, wealth management firms, and industry leaders. Winners will be announced on RIAIntel.com on September 14, 2022 and will be honored in-person at upcoming RIA Institute Forums.
Gary Perkinson is a Senior Staff Writer/Editor at Euromoney Institutional Investor.