Richard Downer Talks About How Important Relationships Are In Building A Businesss

Richard Downer Multicultural Financial Advisor Forum Profile

Richard Downer is a First Vice President with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney and has been with the firm for 15 years. He invests for non-profits, endowments and corporations, as well as advising roughly 250 private wealth clients. As an active participant in the community, Mr. Downer is committed to educating children and adults in the principles of finance. He currently works with a number of groups helping to promote self-sufficiency and the attainment of personal and financial goals.

How did you come to be a Financial Advisor?

While I was working toward my JD [Juris Doctorate] MBA at Pepperdine, my counselor commented that the law market was getting a bit over-saturated, and that I’d always need a strong business background. So I elected to complete my MBA, and shortly thereafter saw a job posting at the university that said, “Become a Financial Advisor at Dean Witter. Manage Investment Portfolios”. I honestly didn’t even know what managing a portfolio meant, but I was lured by the title and what opportuinities and challenges that Wall Street would have to offer. They hired me in ’96 and I’ve been with, what is now, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney ever since.

Did you have an interest in financial services or investments?

I was intrigued with the idea of being a Financial Advisor, but didn’t really know what it meant or what it entailed. I thought there was something glamorous and empowering about working for a prestigious firm like Dean Witter. I actually thought I’d be given a book of business and all I had to do was help people to understand the financial markets – how very naïve I was.

What have you learned since then?

What I’ve learned is that people do business with you primarily for three reasons:
because they like you, they believe you and they trust you; the last being the hardest to achieve. 

What is the great appeal about working at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney?

Brand equity. It’s a prestigious name with a renowned reputation. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney has done very well for their clients over the long term. I have never held any apprehensions when presenting my business card.

Is this a good time for people to become Financial Advisors?

As good a time as any. Every good Financial Advisor has a value proposition, an opinion, a way to generate a return and help their clients reach their financial goals. In the end, the most successful financial advisors realize that it’s not about the market or the portfolio’s annual return, it’s about the relationship. What high net worth clients are seeking beyond advice is knowing that you primarily care about them - more so than their money. This business is not for the meek. Advising and educating must be your passion. So, if you are just seeking a title to impress someone, you will quickly find yourself – by yourself – and out of the buisness.


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