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Top Program Manager: Pivotal moment in his career offered a life lesson

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For the first time ever, we have a repeat winner in one of our rankings. To be sure, there is a small handful of program managers who seem to show up on our list year-after-year. But we’ve never had anyone keep their perch at the top. Until now. Until Gary Collier.

A program manager at Pinnacle Bank/Raymond James, Collier treats his advisors the way you’d expect an industry veteran of almost 30 years. “We operate differently than most banks,” he says. “We mostly leave them alone, other than helping with compliance and technology … If I’m telling the team the nuts and bolts of how to be an advisor, we’ve probably hired the wrong person.”

He says his most important task is creating a work environment where high-performers want to practice. Part of that means giving them latitude in terms of turf; they don’t have geographic territories to adhere to, or asset level thresholds. Indeed, some of his team caters to the high-net-worth segment, while others, including himself, gravitate toward the mass-affluent crowd.

Yes, Collier is a producing manager – his average account is about $750,000.

He views keeping his own book as purely as a positive: He feels his advisors respect him for it, and it allows him to do a better job as a manager. However, the importance of keeping his own book was highlighted during a major turning point in his career when his employer, First American National Bank, was acquired by AMSouth in 2000.

He previously had been at Merrill Lynch in the early 1990s, which afforded him some measure of cache when he moved to the bank channel. But with the acquisition, everything changed. “I lost my history,” he says. “Everyone who knew me was gone.” And not having a book of business just took him further out of the loop. So now, he says keeps his own book and doesn’t intend to give it up.

“We take their temperature on how much ugly they can handle,” says Gary Collier of client's risk tolerance.

A couple years after that, he left AMSouth (which was subsequently bought by Regions) and, after helping launch a private asset management firm and a stint at Stifel, he came to Pinnacle.

In the here and now, he thinks the rest of 2019 will be pretty good in the markets. But next year will be tough, he said. The lead-up to the election will bring a lot of uncertainty and false narratives, all of which will hamper the market, he said.

So he and his team try to gauge clients’ true risk tolerance: “We take their temperature on how much ugly they can handle.” They also focus on other themes, including the clients’ present needs, future plans and family dynamics.

One thing is certain for 2019: He will remain king of the mountain in the Top Program Managers ranking for the second time. As for next year, it’s anyone’s race.

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