Profiles in Excellence

The Traits That Successful RIAs Share


Jeff Malbasa
Intermediary Relationship Manager, Capital Group

Success isn’t an accident with RIAs. The firms tapping the most growth do it deliberately and strategically and usually by following very specific guiding principles, says Jeff Malbasa, who has 15 years of investment industry experience and was partner and head of an RIA firm prior to joining Capital Group. Malbasa, now an intermediary relationship manager for Capital Group, describes what traits he sees most frequently at successful firms.



Jeff Malbasa:

I’m Jeff Malbasa, I’m an intermediary relationship manager for Capital Group.

What Firms With Accelerated Growth Share.

When I think back to my time working as an RIA, and I think about the times where we had accelerated growth and the other firms that I dealt with that had accelerated growth, one of the most important things they did was explain what they did that was different or better than any other firm on the planet. They knew that cold and were able to communicate it with an audience succinctly and effectively and in words that almost anybody would understand.

Think as deeply about that as you possibly can, and try to use your empathy to think about, how would a competitor challenge you on that statement? The deeper you go with that information, and the further and more confidence you have behind that, the more sincere you are in your sales pitch and the better you're gonna be as an advisor.

On the Importance of Writing Down the Firm’s Goals.

I think one of my favorite quotes is that “dreams, without goals, are just wishes.” And so I think the real impact of writing down what you’re trying to accomplish is that it equates to a completed thought. So when you write something down, one, you get a chance to think about what your outcomes are going to be. But then, everyone around you gets to respond to that.

I think the key is to start with your value proposition. What is it that you do differently than anybody else and better than anybody else? Then I think it goes to, where do you want this firm to be in ten years? Or even longer than that? And then start backing it closer into today. The more you start thinking about where you want to be ultimately, the easier it is to start thinking about, what steps do I need to take today to make that a reality?

What Successful Firms Look for From Their People.

I think one of the most important parts to your future growth is surrounding yourself with great people. That’s both internally on your team and externally. That includes your clients and your centers of influence. And when I think about strong people, they have the following three traits in common almost all the time: They’re, number one, they’re intellectually curious. They’ve got the lights on upstairs. Number two, they’re passionate about what they do. No matter what that is, they’re passionate about it and they're interested in it. And number three, they’ve got integrity. You find people that are intelligent, have integrity and are passionate about what they do, they’re outstanding referrals for your firm, they’re outstanding clients, they’re outstanding coworkers. And so be a serial gatherer of those people.

How to Narrow Your Firm’s Focus.

I would recommend determining who your client is based on who you’re passionate about serving. Typically, your passion is going to align with your skill sets and your interests, and you’re gonna be far more capable of serving that client efficiently and effectively.

So recently I was speaking with an advisor, and he asked me, “What client focus should I have?” And I said, “I think it should align with your passion.” And when I asked him what his passion was, he said, “I wanna help people like my mom and dad. They hadn’t saved so much that they didn’t need this money in retirement. They needed my help. And so items like understanding social security, Medicare, the basics of investment and asset allocation and construction of that portfolio, that’s what mattered to them.” He said, “I’m passionate about helping those people. I wanna build a practice around that.” I said, “That is your target client.”

The return of principal for bond funds and for funds with significant underlying bond holdings is not guaranteed. Fund shares are subject to the same interest rate, inflation and credit risks associated with the underlying bond holdings.

Bond ratings, which typically range from AAA/Aaa (highest) to D (lowest), are assigned by credit rating agencies such as Standard & Poor's, Moody's and/or Fitch, as an indication of an issuer's creditworthiness.


Sign up today

Get industry-leading RIA insights delivered to your inbox

*Required field

Figures shown are past results and are not predictive of results in future periods. Current and future results may be lower or higher than those shown. Share prices and returns will vary, so investors may lose money. Investing for short periods makes losses more likely. Figures shown are past results and are not predictive of results in future periods. Current and future results may be lower or higher than those shown. Returns will vary, so investors may lose money. Investing for short periods makes losses more likely.

Investments are not FDIC-insured, nor are they deposits of or guaranteed by a bank or any other entity, so they may lose value.

Securities offered through American Funds Distributors, Inc.

Content contained herein is not intended to serve as impartial investment or fiduciary advice. The content has been developed by Capital Group, which receives fees for managing, distributing and/or servicing its investments.