Shortly after starting his junior year in college, Glen D. Smith’s future changed that day in September 2001 when terrorists attacked the United States, as he had originally planned to work internationally in the import/export industry.
“I was thinking of getting married and now the prospect of flying frequently did not appeal to me,” the long-time Flower Mound resident said. “Plus that industry reformed and the economy changed. I wanted to work with numbers without all the travel.”
So Smith switched to becoming a financial advisor and eventually moved to North Texas. As senior vice president of wealth management for Merrill Lynch’s Flower Mound office, he works with people who have between $500,000 to more than $20 million in investments.
What attracted him to financial advice?
“My father (Jerry) has been a missionary for most of his life. You do not become wealthy by becoming a missionary, but he’s done fairly well because he’s invested wisely,” Smith said. “It inspired me. Here’s someone who does not have a great income yet was able to build a net worth. At the same time, I have met people who have tremendous incomes, but little to no net worth due to spending habits. I find it quite interesting.
“The other reason I chose this profession is, I like numbers. I enjoy helping people increase their net worth. I feel like the client´s victories are my victories. If you manage someone’s assets and do well, you feel part of their success.”
Born in the small town of Colusa, California, Smith and his three siblings moved with Jerry and mom Janice to El Salvador when he was a baby and five years later, to Ecuador. He came back to the United States to attend Sonoma State University in California where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in management and international business.
He returned to Ecuador to marry childhood sweetheart Gisella whom he met in church at age 8. They annually travel to her native land with son Lucas, 9, and daughter Nathalia, 10, to visit their families. This past September, Smith made a special trip with fellow Rockpointe Church members for mission work.
After their wedding, they lived in Santa Rosa, California for his first job with Lehman Brothers. Smith worked for about a year with the now defunct company before joining A.G. Edwards.
“I wanted to be a financial advisor, but at Lehman Brothers I was not working in that capacity. I was dealing with bond and mortgages,” he said. “The premier investment firms prefer that you have significant experience before they give you an opportunity. Had I applied at Merrill Lynch out of college, they would not have hired me. They want people with competence and knowledge that only comes with time.”
Smith spent a year gaining that experience with A.G. Edwards in California before transferring to Flower Mound in 2005.
“I didn’t have a lot of family in California and housing was through the roof,” he said. “I had finished college, was starting a family and the cost of living was just better here. The taxes are lower and there´s more prosperity. With the housing bubble in California, I think I was blessed to have moved to Texas.”
It didn’t hurt that Texas was closer to Ecuador than California. That’s another reason why he’s remained here since joining Merrill Lynch in 2007 after A.G. Edwards was bought by Wachovia which was then bought by Wells Fargo.
“At the time, I didn’t want to work for a bank,” he said. “I wanted to work somewhere that focused more on investments than banking products.”
Smith focuses primarily on individuals or couples who own businesses or were business owners. Most of his clients are referred to him.
“We like to help with financial planning for clients with goals whether it’s retirement, kids’ college education, multi-generational planning (leaving money to kids and/or grandchildren) or estate planning.”
Merrill Lynch has a financial planning tool called Wealth Outlook that helps agents like Smith do their best for their clients.
“I tell my clients ‘you are the CEO, I’m the CFO,’” he said. “We gather information and build a plan that meets their goals. It does not matter if we agree or not on whether it makes sense to leave money behind for a certain non-profit or whether they intend to spend all of their assets. We want to make sure that the client can weather life’s financial storms regardless of their particular goals.
“Many times people think their goal is retirement. We remind them their goal should be much longer than that, as no one knows how long they might live. With this in mind, people may need a plan in order to live off of their investments for 30 years or more. Most of the time this means their investments should grow faster than inflation to achieve their goals. In the present low-interest-rate environment, this can be tricky.”
“Typically our clients come from a life-changing event; whether they retired recently, switched jobs, had a death in the family, divorced or sold a business. Some of our clients will take a lot of risk in their business but view us as their rainy day fund should the business not turn out as expected.”
Smith and his staff – partner and investment associate Robert Casey, registered senior client associate Erica Doré and client associate Michelle Anderson – currently help about 200 families with $220 million in total assets. Smith’s goal within 12 years is to reach 500 clients and $1 billion in assets.
The 37-year-old former collegiate tennis athlete still plays twice weekly. He also enjoys traveling and cooking and loves living and working in Flower Mound because of the great schools, local church and the people. By the end of this year or early 2018, Glen D. Smith and Associates will be helping clients from new offices across from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Flower Mound.
“I love living in Flower Mound, it’s a wonderful place to raise a family,” he said. “From a business perspective, I feel we have a unique opportunity as our two main competitors Morgan Stanley and UBS do not have an office in Flower Mound. I believe we can make a difference for those in Flower Mound who are looking for a financial advisor.”