A conversation with Leo Kelly, Founder and CEO, Verdence Capital Advisors
Leo Kelly, the founder and CEO of Verdence Capital Advisors, discusses life after Merrill and the choice to “breakaway” twice: first by joining Hightower and 5 years later by launching an RIA. He shares how a hyper-focus on culture drives success, their strategic minority investment from Emigrant Partners, and more about their extraordinary growth.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed by the guests on this podcast are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Diamond Consultants. Neither Diamond Consultants nor the guests on this podcast are compensated in any way for their participation.
About this episode…
“Happy, but not satisfied.”
It’s a common refrain we hear from top advisors and their teams who are ultimately driven to change not because they are unhappy with the status quo. But, instead, because they feel a pull toward something better.
Such was the case of Leo Kelly and his team at Merrill, The Kelly Group. Having built the business to some $600mm in assets under management, the pull of entrepreneurialism and being a true fiduciary to their clients was too strong to ignore.
So in 2012, they made the leap to Hightower Advisors and in 5 years doubled their business.
But by 2017, Leo felt Hightower was going in a different direction than they were. That motivated them to make yet another leap, this time to full-on independence, launching Verdence Capital Advisors.
5 years later, the firm is now managing $3B in client assets—more than doubling the business once again.
So what’s driving all of this incredible success? Leo shares that and more with Mindy Diamond, including:
- The initial pull toward independence—and why they opted to make the leap from Merrill with Hightower instead of launching their own RIA.
- The choice to leave Hightower 5 years later—and what they are able to do differently as Verdence Capital Advisors.
- The firm’s hyper-focus on culture—and why descriptors like “collaborative” and “family” are not just terms in a value proposition but a way of life.
- The value of designing the firm “as if the client is the architect”—and how that has translated to enhanced growth.
- Their platform-based business—and how providing access to client resources helps the advisors who join them deepen connections with clients, create new relationships, and grow their businesses.
- Plus, Leo talks about the strategic minority investment from prominent capital backer, Emigrant Partners—and the value of taking on the right partner at the right time, and much more.
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Leo J. Kelly III
CEO and Partner
Leo serves as CEO of Verdence Capital Advisors, an independent RIA headquartered near Baltimore, Maryland. His approach to business and leadership transcends personal interests and achievements, and instead focuses on the team around him. The firm’s success is based on a client-first business model, driven by two building principles: to create a wealth management firm that clients would design if they were the architect, and one that the industry’s best advisors would construct if given the opportunity. He recognizes the importance of innovative technology and supports advisors with the resources needed to maximize their potential and service each unique client. Leo takes enormous pride in the Verdence team and believes strongly that positive company culture leads to excellent client experiences. He appears regularly as both an industry and thought leader on financial media like CNBC, Fox Business, and Bloomberg.