When Michael Joyce founded his investment management firm 30 years ago, he said he was using a cell phone the size of a sneaker, a dial-up modem, and email was in its infancy.
At the time, he was also one of few fee-only planners in the Lehigh Valley.
He had one part-time employee and did much of his firm’s work himself.
He has now grown his firm into a successful enterprise with 22 employees and $1.1 billion in assets under management.
Today, he said, the industry is much different. Wealth management is very tech heavy, and the once rare fee-only financial advisors are becoming much more common.
While he said there is value to be had from both fee-only and commission-based advisors, he said he is proud of how he has grown his firm as a fee-only advisor.
“You’re sitting on the same side of the table as our clients,” Joyce said. “We don’t get commissions. We are legally obligated to put our client’s interest first.”
Joyce changed the company from his own name to Agili five years ago so the name would be less about him and more about the firm’s team, whom he said will be an increasingly important part of the firm over the next 30 years.
While most financial advisory firms grow through mergers and acquisitions, Joyce said he is proud to say Agili has grown to its current size organically.
“The majority of our clients come from referrals from other clients or accountants and attorneys,” he said.
The firm hasn’t just grown in size, but in geography, and Agili now has clients throughout the Mid-Atlantic region and Florida, although he said the company is still highly focused on the Pennsylvania market.
The broader focus of the firm, however, keeps him on the road and keeps him busy as he visits clients in other markets, but he said that is all part of his firm’s growth strategy, which is important to him.
“I always say if you’re not growing, you’re dying,” Joyce said.
While he still has many of the clients his firm started out with 30 years ago, Agili is now more focused on clients with a higher net worth, who often have more complex financial needs.
“These are people looking for expert financial advice and people to carry out that advice,” he said.
While his team is an important part of Agili’s future, Joyce said his company is also investing very heavily in tech, which is becoming ever-more important in financial management.
“We want to be efficient and make the client experience better,” he said.
The company made a very large investment in tech, right before the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, which really showed them the value of such tools as Zoom, to keep in touch with clients.
Better e-security protocols also help maintain the safety of client accounts and help protect them from scammers and other financial predators.
He knows there is a great deal of conversation going on about how artificial intelligence will impact the financial management industry. In fact, AI has been used successfully in the industry for a number of years.
Still, while it’s a growing piece of the business, just like other technologies, Joyce said he doesn’t think his job will be replaced by a robo-advisor anytime soon.
“I don’t view it as a competitive threat to a real live financial advisor,” he said. “But there is opportunity there to impact the client experience.
With a total of more than 40 years in the industry under his belt, Joyce said he is proud of the career he has built.
He has been named as a Top 1,200 Financial Advisor by Barron’s for the past eight years. He has also ranked in the FT300, Financial Times’ list of Top Financial Advisers, and has been listed as a Best Financial Advisor for Doctors by Medical Economics seven times. He is a regular contributor to NBC News’ national affiliate segments, “Watching Your Wallet.”