WealthManagement.com: How did you break into the industry?

Crystal Ho: I definitely had a “Tiger Mom,” so I was rebelling by studying art history instead of medicine or law. But during my senior year at Barnard College at Columbia, I decided to take an introduction to finance course and took an interest in it. I ended up getting an internship at what was then Smith Barney and found I really liked doing asset allocation. I don’t mind trying and failing at something because then you know what’s meant to be. From there, I joined the firm as a sales associate after graduation and then became an advisor five years ago.

 

WealthManagement.com: Growing your book of business to $648 million in five years is impressive. How did you grow so fast?

CH: It’s really hard to break into this industry. I can’t take all the credit. I had a great advocate and mentor in my team leader, Scott Wilson. But I didn’t cold call; I wasn’t very good at it. I work on a team, so everything is jointly managed. But I have several clients with large assets and got referrals. I think to do well as a young advisor, it really helps to already be in the industry several years. The growth of markets in recent years and larger clients moving more assets to us have also helped increase AUM.

 

WealthManagement.com: Where are you seeing potential for growth?

CH: As a younger advisor, I’m frequently working with next generation clients—the  children of our current clients in many cases. They’re small accounts. But in 20 years, they’re going to be managing the money. It’s about familiarity and trust. That generation is very entrepreneurial and forward-thinking—many doing things on their own. They do their research; they’re very savvy about what they can get done online. But some aspects are still like a different language to them. That’s where I come in and help them understand what’s happening in their financial situation. Where a doctor speaks medicine, I speak finance. 

 

WealthMangement.com: Do you think the wirehouse firms are good for younger advisors? Why?

CH: Yes. I’ve always been with a big firm, but I like having the structure and support here. For example, the capital markets team is amazing. It’s hard to learn everything on your own, and the industry is always changing.