Throughout the past two years, the pandemic has slowed down or completely halted many businesses. Yet, the RIA industry has seen a surge in interest and growth which has exceeded many RIA leaders’ expectations. With growth expected to extend well into the next year, future-looking leaders stand ready to tackle the next challenge and solve the next problem.
At GVA, CEO Ryan Todd leads the way for new and innovative ideas to keep the firm on the leading edge of the RIA industry and positioned as an attractive partner for growth-oriented advisors. His passion for the financial services industry was sparked at a very young age, watching his father grow his CPA practice, and has only grown with time. Ryan was inspired to launch GVA in response to a significant gap that he saw in the RIA industry. Instead of finding workarounds like many other people would do, Ryan started from ground up, building a business that could effectively solve problems for advisors everywhere.
His passion remains strong, and he has a steadfast approach to propelling advisors ahead in their career paths through personalized advice from his own life experiences and through a hands-on approach to integrating the tools that they will need along the way. We recently spoke with Ryan about how he brings the GVA mission to life every day, the impact he’s made on countless advisor practices and his goals for the future. Here’s more from our conversation:
What is your leadership style at GVA and why is this perspective so beneficial to GVA advisors?
We run an open-architecture style business here at GVA. COO James Spinelli and I are behind the scenes working day and night to build the GVA brand and improve the offerings for advisors, while advisors work independently to run their businesses however they think is best. This approach empowers advisors and allows individuality and creativity to flow throughout GVA.
Importantly, though, the behind the scenes work that we do at a management level is very comprehensive and critical to our larger mission. In our industry, every RIA is seeking growth by adding new advisors, and along the way are making promises of ways they can help advisors grow their practices. Unfortunately, not many RIAs actually live up to the promises they make and instead, offer the bare minimum to advisors. James and I work as a team to come up with new and innovative ideas that will make a difference in the lives and practices of our advisors. At GVA, we are committed to delivering on the promises we make, and this truly sets us apart.
How does your past life and professional experience influence your approach to leading GVA?
I started out in the industry by buying my father’s CPA business from him. While the initial focus was on the accounting and tax side of things, many of my clients in that business were looking for financial planning advice, too. Instead of sending them out the door to seek that advice elsewhere, I decided to go out and obtain the credentials needed to service them myself. This is why I became a CPA. From there, I built out the business and it started me on the path to where I am today.
GVA has been strategically designed from day one. There was a major gap in the industry that James and I were looking to fill. Advisors would go to their RIA and ask them for advice and ideas to grow the business or better service clients. They would get the ideas, but then it would be up to them to implement those ideas. We are hands-on, diving into advisors’ challenges and practice management concerns. We not only will offer thoughts and ideas, but we will actually put those words into action alongside you.
You have founded other successful businesses in the past. How does your past entrepreneurial experience relate to your current day-to-day?
I’m known among my friends as a serial entrepreneur; I have started businesses and failed and started again. If there is one thing I have learned, it’s that things don’t always go as planned. I work with many advisors who are successfully running their businesses and others who have failed just like I have in the past. I like to offer complete transparency with our advisors when it comes to mistakes they might be making or areas where they could improve their business. My past mistakes were all learning opportunities that help me better direct our advisors. This personal experience really means a lot to GVA advisors and they value my honesty and frankness. The fact that James and I have both been in their shoes, gives our advisors confidence and legitimizes what we offer to advisors here at GVA.
How did your experience as an advisor inspire you to design GVA in the way that it serves advisors first?
When James and I started in this industry 13 years ago, the landscape was significantly different. The industry has evolved and advisors are looking for different things now than they did back then. GVA understands that needs, demands and objectives change rapidly and we are well-positioned to evolve with advisors.
In the beginning, I never would have thought that technology would play such a large role in this business, but here we are now and technology is the cornerstone of the entire industry. One of the best and more recent examples of this is social media. Many advisors come to us and tell us that they are very interested in social media and growing their business that way. Although this is not the way that I did things or one of my personal focuses, I still have to have an understanding of the value of social media in spreading word, building a brand and creating an identity.
Being in the industry for as long as I have has given me this ability to see things from another perspective and be nimble enough to change with the times. You can never be too humble as a leader in this industry – it is crucial to be open and accepting to change and equipped to navigate anything new that comes our way.
Where do you look for advice, inspiration and insight in your career?
There are two people in my life who offer me two different perspectives, both of which value greatly.
The first is my wife. I turn to her and tell her what I am going through or a situation I am trying to navigate and she offers me a third party viewpoint from someone who is not in the industry. She’s not afraid to call me out and let me know when I am wrong. Her unfiltered advice truly drives many of the decisions that I make.
Another source of inspiration for me is my father. When I was a kid, my eight siblings and I had no idea how much work my dad put into his business on a daily basis. He managed to come to every single baseball game, every family dinner and be there for all eight of us, while working as hard as he did. What we didn’t realize is that he went back to work at 9 p.m. every night once we all were in bed. I was 10 years old when I told my dad that I wanted to take over his business; his response was that I didn’t work hard enough to run a business. His take surprised me and he offered advice that remains with me today: “the only way to do it, is to do it.” This became my mantra. From that point on, my grades went up and stayed up. In college I never skipped class like many friends and roommates did, and I pushed myself every day to put in the work that my father did.
I strive to be as hardworking as my father is, while still dedicated time and energy to my family. Every night at 9 p.m. when my kids are in bed, I follow in my father’s footsteps back to the office to put more work in. To this day, I often quote exact phrases that he has said to me to our GVA advisors. My dad continues to be a part of it through the advice that I live by and pass along to other advisors.
When the idea of GVA came to fruition, I was scared. I remember texting James saying that I had an idea and after discussing it, James quit his job and we started working to bring that dream to life. Both of us were lucky enough to witness our dads building businesses from the ground up as kids, which gave us more confidence knowing that it could be done if we put the work in and remained dedicated.
Lastly, another source of inspiration for me is running. I run every day to clear my head. After a good long run, I feel like I just solved all of the world’s problems in 60 minutes.
What do you feel is the most important thing for advisors to learn about GVA as they are getting to know you?
From where we were in 2014 to where we are now, I truly believe that we can match up to any of the larger RIAs in the industry. Our close relationships and family atmosphere exceed what could be expected at a larger firm and we have the same offerings, plus the ability to implement them ourselves for advisors. There is no micromanaging in the GVA atmosphere and all advisors are free to run their businesses how they see fit.
We are committed to growing this company and making it thes best advisor experience possible. Anyone who joins us in this journey is treated as their own entrepreneur. We offer the help, technology and support but allow advisors to choose what they want to participate in and come to the table with any other needs they might have. Advisors at GVA are constantly building on this open-architecture platform and adding to their offerings through GVA.
At GVA, we are a community that lifts each other up. We equip our advisors with the tools and technologies that they need to succeed and watch them grow. We truly believe that this is the philosophy that allows for the most long-term success and look forward to continuing to add to our offerings for our team and pushing them even further along in their personal journey.
For more insight on the GVA culture, leadership philosophy and opportunities for advisors within our network, schedule a call with us. Connect with us on LinkedIn and Facebook for our latest insights and team updates.