Even through pandemic, Tom Moran continues his success as a wealth adviser

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Tom Moran wanted to shake up his business. 

© Amanda Inscore/The News-Press – USA Today Network-Florida Tom Moran of Moran Wealth Management is a financial advisor in Naples.

After nearly three decades working as a top wealth adviser for large financial institutions in Naples, he struck out on his own in 2018, ending his employee relationship with Wells Fargo.

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With the move to the bank’s independent platform, Moran said he also split from his longtime business partner, Robert Edwards, because they no longer shared the same vision.

Moran’s vision included offering longtime employees equity, or stock, in the new company. So far, he’s awarded stock to more than a dozen associates, an opportunity that’s only possible with tenure.

On a larger scale, he saw a huge potential to grow his client base in Southwest Florida — and beyond, as an independent broker.

Without geographic limitations, such as those he faced while working for big banks that required him to focus on the local market, Moran now has customers across the country, in nearly all 50 states.

“Now, we can have clients all around Florida and all over the country,” he said. “We can market nationally and have clients that have never been to Naples.” 

As an independent company, Moran Wealth Management has grown its assets to nearly $4 billion and its employee count to more than 30.

The company now serves about “1,000 households,” Moran said.

To accommodate current and future growth, the firm has doubled the footprint of its  offices, near the upscale Pelican Bay community, to 15,000 square feet. The expansion includes a new education center, where it can hold its free, informational seminars for current and prospective clients.

© Amanda Inscore/The News-Press – USA Today Network-Florida Tom Moran of Moran Wealth Management is a financial advisor in Naples.

While the education center can accommodate a group of 60, the firm currently limits attendance to 20 for its events, to ensure social distancing. Lectures recently resumed after a roughly year-long hiatus, due to safety concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.

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True calling

Describing himself as a “frustrated teacher,” Moran said he’s missed giving his regular talks. At one time, he thought he’d end up in academia.

He also considered going into the “family business” and becoming a cop, like his father, but decided to take the college route instead, starting out with aspirations of becoming a lawyer.

After taking a college class in economics, however, Moran said he discovered his true calling, declaring the discipline as his major. That decision later opened the door for a job at an investment firm in Naples, where his parents retired in 1976.

The rest is history — and Moran said he’s never looked back.

While Moran’s immediate focus has been on growing his headquarters and adding more employees locally, he anticipates turning his attention toward expanding the business through satellite offices around the country soon.

All of the new offices will use his proven fee-based money management model.

“I am competing for some of the larger relationships around the country,” Moran said. “It’s one fee schedule for the entire country. I can’t recall the last time I lost a competitive situation because of the fees.”

He’s used a fee-based approach for decades. In fact, he’s considered a pioneer of it. 

As an independent broker, the accolades have continued to roll in for Moran.

For 10 years in a row, he has landed on the Barron’s list of Top 100 Wealth Advisors in the country. 

Additionally, Forbes, another prestigious business magazine, has named him the top adviser in South Florida for three years running, as part of its best-in-state rankings for Florida.

All of these positives have happened amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which Moran believes has driven more business his way, as more northerners have flocked to Southwest Florida, where they can enjoy more outdoor activities and spread out more easily to avoid the virus.

“We’ve weathered this storm extremely well,” Moran said. “I feel bad telling people how well we’ve handled this period.”

© Amanda Inscore/The News-Press – USA Today Network-Florida Tom Moran of Moran Wealth Management is a financial advisor in Naples.

Over the past year alone, the company has added eight employees.

The company has received some of the best resumes it’s seen in years, with more applicants looking to get out of — or avoid moving to — larger metropolises, Moran said. 

Much of the firm’s new business comes from word-of-mouth and referrals. The positive publicity generated by Moran’s top rankings by Barron’s and Forbes has also garnered more attention from investors around the country.

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Recipe for success

Asked if he had a secret recipe for success, Moran said it’s kind of like a soup, with many ingredients. Those ingredients include a customized approach to money management, the capability to handle multigenerational financial planning for families and a personal touch. 

He also credits his talented employees, which include three chartered financial analysts, or CFAs, three master’s in business administration graduates, or MBAs, and three certified financial planners, or CFPs.

“It makes us very unique in this part of the country,” Moran said.

One of the company’s MBAs is Moran’s own daughter, Kylen, a senior vice president who serves as his chief of staff. 

Two of his sons, Patrick and Shane, also work for the company as research analysts.

Moran Wealth Management has nearly three dozen different investment strategies and its advisers use more than 50 variables to develop customized investment portfolios for clients.

“We don’t sell other people’s products,” Moran said. “We have our own internal research, our own 30-year track record, and we have our own models.”

The personal touch — from handshakes to hugs — has suffered the most during the pandemic, but it’s starting to make a comeback as vaccinations for COVID-19 become more widespread. 

The pandemic took an emotional toll on Moran, who missed seeing his regular clients face to face.

“I really love working with my clients,” he said. “I feel very blessed, very fortunate, about the job I do.” 

Staying put

At first, the pandemic frightened Moran’s clients, but concerns faded rather quickly, due to increased communications and a quick rebound in the markets, he said. 

“We started writing many more newsletters,” Moran said, as a way to keep clients informed about market trends and forecasts.

Generally, clients’ allocations have remained the same through the pandemic, unless they’ve needed to change their long-term financial objectives, for whatever reason, Moran said.

“We’ve never had a recession that happened this quick,” he said. “And we’ve never come out of a recession in such short order.” 

Despite the economic storm caused by the pandemic, last year turned out to be “above average” for the firm, Moran said.

Like many others here and across the country, the company transitioned its employees to work remotely early on in the pandemic. Employees have begun to return to its newly expanded offices, and Moran expects they’ll all be back at their desks by June. 

“We proved we could do it,” he said. “We’re technologically proficient.” 

While Moran is in his 60s, his team includes employees in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s, making it much easier to serve the needs of multiple generations, he said.

Moran serves the wealthiest of clients, who have investments that run into the millions of dollars.

Another side

Moran isn’t just known for his success in business.

He and his wife Sandi are also well known for their involvement and investments in the community. More recently those investments have include pledging $1.5 million for a new Gulfshore Playhouse planned for downtown Naples.

Last summer, the company announced a new partnership with Barron’s to provide students and professors at Florida Gulf Coast University in south Fort Myers with a suite of resources to supplement their studies and professional development, including online content, weekly newsletters and webinars.

The firm also offers up speakers who can talk to students about investment planning and management and other relevant academic topics.

The subscription program offered by Barron’s gives students “a window to view current industry trends and best practices,” said Shelton Weeks, chairman of the Economics & Finance Department at FGCU, in a statement.

This program, he said, aligns nicely with the university’s new financial services concentration, which prepares students to become certified financial planners.

Over the years, Moran has hired a number of FGCU graduates, including some who started out as summer interns. 

The company has typically had two interns in the summer, but Moran is considering adding a third this year.

“I really like to do that,” Moran said.

As he looks ahead, Moran remains bullish on the markets and the U.S. economy in the short-term due to several factors, including the large, unprecedented investments the Biden administration plans to make in infrastructure, education and the labor force. 

In the longer term, Moran said he’s not as confident about what the future holds. 

“We’ve never had this level of debt,” he said. “And I think we could see higher rates of inflation.” 

If interest rates rise as a result, it could have a ripple effect on the economy and the markets, lowering company valuations — and stock prices.

“Hopefully, we will grow our way out of it,” Moran said.

This article originally appeared on Naples Daily News: Even through pandemic, Tom Moran continues his success as a wealth adviser

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