Doug Leonzi, an advisor with National Penn Bank in Allentown, Pa., has never let his success get to his head. “I’m a firm believer that you should never forget where you came from,” he says. 

Leonzi, a regular on Bank Investment Consultant’s annual list of the nation’s top 50 bank reps, last year produced $841,000 in revenue for his bank. In 2010, he produced $1 million. But it wasn’t always that way. Despite his achievements, Leonzi, 40, still remembers the days when he had “doors slammed in his face” and worried how he’d pay his mortgage.

“Pounding the street is where we all started,” he says he reminds himself often. 

Sometimes, however, pounding the street is not enough to build a book of business. As Leonzi found out, sometimes novice advisors need to team up with advisors who are more experienced. While Leonzi worked hard, he credits his success to a senior advisor whose team he joined as a junior broker in 2004, four years after becoming a financial advisor. “I’d be remiss to take credit without mentioning his involvement,” he says of Ed Cwalina, the man he calls a “dear friend” and is now his business partner.

Leonzi started out by helping Cwalina with about 30% of his book, while simultaneously developing his own book and managing his branch responsibilities. By 2006, he and Cwalina were full-fledged partners, working the same book of business.

The relationship has made Leonzi a big proponent of the idea of pairing novice and seasoned advisors, and not just because the arrangement helps address the issues arising from the graying advisor workforce that I have written about in previous posts. These relationships, he says, are invaluable in and of themselves.

Today, he and his partner are co-senior advisors of a three-person advisory team at National Penn Bank that includes, no surprise, a junior broker/advisor who just started in the business. (PrimeVest is the broker-dealer used by National Penn.) The junior broker manages the branch relationships Leonzi was once responsible for, including training branch staff. He also works small accounts in Leonzi’s and Cwalina’s book of business.

For now, it’s no more than a training opportunity for the 28-year-old broker, but if the book of business continues to grow as it has been there might be a need to add another partner to the group, Leonzi says. Plus, Cwalina, now 52, plans to retire in the next five to seven years, creating yet another opportunity in the thriving business.

[IMGCAP(1)]Even if on a team with the best, most experienced advisors, the climb to the top of the advisory world is steep. Leonzi offers some pointers for advisors just starting out:

Don’t Get Frustrated

The advisory business is a great business to be in, but you have to be patient and persistent, says Leonzi. “Don’t get frustrated,” he counsels aspiring advisors. “It will pay dividends the longer you’re in it.”

Be Honest and Ethical

It’s essential that advisor exercise integrity at all times. Investors want someone they can trust, especially coming out of a financial crisis that shattered what little confidence there was in the industry. People want a strategic partner to help them navigate through the tumultuous times, says Leonzi.

Find a Mentor

Leonzi urges beginning advisors to seek out mentors who have been in the business and have been successful, are active in their communities and involved in philanthropic activities. Building a circle of successful, influential people not only helps in business development, says Leonzi. It’s an extraordinary learning opportunity. “You learn as much from your high-net-worth clients” as you do from your mentors, Leonzi says.

Never Get Too Comfortable

It’s essential that advisors keep educating themselves, no matter how successful they become. “Don’t ever find a comfort zone,” he tells advisors. “Don’t ever stop learning.” Most important of all, he says, never ever forget where you came from.


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