James Maher won’t claim he’s the reason his business is successful.
As CEO of Archford Capital Strategies, a financial advisory and wealth management firm, he thinks of his job more as a head coach of a team than anything else.
Recent recognitions by trade publications bolster Maher’s claim that Archford’s team is top notch: A few weeks ago, Financial Advisory Magazine ranked Archford the 19th fastest growing financial advisory firm in the United States. Shortly before that, Financial Times listed Archford among the top 300 such firms in the country.
Important to note about the recognition is that Archford earned it in a short amount of time. In the Times ranking of top 300 firms, for instance, Maher said the average time in business for the firms was 22 years. Archford was founded just three and a half years ago.
“It’s a team,” Maher said. “The group we have assembled is really fantastic.”
The firm is located at 4941 Benchmark Centre Drive in Swansea.
Q: What’s your brief bio?
A: “I grew up outside Des Moines, Iowa, on a family farm. Our family had another farm in north-central Missouri. From there I went to Mizzou for undergrad and law school. And like many guys, I came to the metro-east through my wife.”
Q: How did Archford get started?
A: “I’m in the business 28 years, but we launched Archford in March of 2013 with no assets, a hope and a prayer. We had eight people. Our background was big bank, big insurance, big brokerage, a lot of trust company backgrounds. We were top performers at our firms over the years. The industry’s changed. People want access to solutions and they don’t want to be tied to institutions. That’s really what has differentiated us in the market. You think of a big bank of a big brokerage firm, the employees are working for that one institution and so they provide (that institution’s solutions). In my model, we’re looking for solutions, but we’ll look at all of those institutions to provide the best solution for our client. A lot of times, our clients need unique solutions that some institutions may not be interested in providing. Before I couldn’t really shop that, but now I can. I’m constantly aligned with my customer. We’re tied to the hip.”
Q: Recognition your firm recently received was a pretty big deal. What was it?
A: “Financial Advisor Magazine named us 19th nationally in terms of fastest growth this year. There are 32,000 registered investment advisory (RAI) practices in the country. They track these and have a section where they name the top 50 in the country. That’s based on assets, based on growth of the assets under management for the firm. And a couple weeks prior to that we were named by Financial Times in the top 300 RAIs in the country. They base that one on credentials, certifications, assets under management, growth of those assets, compliance record. So they got into the (Securities and Exchange Commission) and see if there were any compliance issues. This is a tremendous reflection of the people we have here. I consider myself like a head coach, and it’s a team. That’s a reflection of everyone else here.”
Q: Do you attribute the rapid growth you’ve been recognized for to this model you’ve described?
A: “Absolutely. Being independent has allowed us to search for solutions. And we’ve also created a very unique business model. We have three pieces to our business: Core asset management, retirement planning services and business consulting. Business consulting was a new piece I was able to add. Now we’re involved in transactions, both on the buy-side and sell-side, helping them source solutions together. In bigger institutions, those areas are in silos. It’s a very different business model than you’re going to see at any bank or trust company.”
Q: How did it feel to earn that recognition?
A: “It was extremely rewarding. Again, I would say I’m a coach. That’s really a team award. It’s everyone that’s got in here and got after it over three years to take this to where it is. It was fantastic. I took three of the senior managers with me when we went to New York to receive the award and you’re standing in a room with organizations that are iconic in the industry. It shows what we’ve created. We’ve got 17 A-players on this team. Everyone knows that we bring it. Our motto is ‘Help others.’ And that means help the customer, help each other and help the community. We’re executing in every one of those areas.”
Q: You mentioned customers not wanting to be tied to institutions. Millennials are characterized that way — not loyal to institutions. How do you navigate an environment full of customers like that?
A: “We help customers aggregate the solutions and provide the recordkeeping. We can pull in information from multiple sources that you’re dealing with and that’s where we differentiate in the market. You may have your mortgage somewhere, your insurance elsewhere, all of these different things. Our job is helping bring all that together, to be organized and be able to walk through the next hoops people will need to walk through in their lives. In this digital world, it’s very difficult. You need someone who pulls all that information together.”
Q: This all shows that you can be a top-ranked firm in the industry without working from a big shot office on the 100th floor of a skyscraper. You can do it from this office in Swansea.
A: “It’s wonderful. If you look at people that are coming into this organization now, we have a gentleman who was working in Denver but grew up in this area. He was watching what we were doing. We have another guy who worked in Clayton but grew up in west Belleville. Both those guys are coming home. That, to me, is really cool. It’s about building an organization. It’s about people; it’s about process; it’s about customers, culture.”
Q: Anything new or upcoming we can look out for regarding Archford?
A: “I was away for 25 days and I had time to think. I think one of our core values at this firm is shared success. We’re launching a program where we’re sending 17 people out into the community and each of them are going to pick a non-profit of their choice. I’m giving them $1,000. Then we’ll judge the projects based on the impact on the organization, sustainability of the project and personal development. My advisory board is going to judge this next October, and we’re going to award a $10,000 grant to the first place organization, $5,000 to second place and $2,500 to third place. It’s shared success. I’m really excited about this philanthropic model. Everyone needs to carry that and needs to give back to the community. You can imagine what would happen if 100 companies adopted a model like that, and what that could do for non-profits in this area.”
Q: That idea just came to you while you were gone?
A: “Yeah. I was like, ‘How do you carry out shared success beyond just your organization. How do you carry that out into the community?’ I look back on my career and I’ve served on different boards and in my education I was a beneficiary of what others had done. You just realize those organizations are seeking quality leadership. I’m not telling the staff what organizations to go to. It’s about what’s their passion? What’s their interest? I think we’ll get some good momentum.”
- Job: CEO, Archford Capital Strategies in Swansea
- Reflection on success: “We’ve got 17 A-players on this team. Everyone knows that we bring it.”