Rob Conzo and Eric Diton know a thing or two about meeting the challenges of working for “Big Broker”. They have spent over 45 combined years working in warehouses.
Now that they’ve gone their separate ways, they shine a light on the experiences of their wirehouse days and the benefits of going independent through a comic book series.
Conzo and Diton, who created The Wealth Alliance in 2019, said the comics feature three characters: Big Broker, Mabel, his cheerful and loyal assistant, and Newton, a financial adviser who tries to navigate his way through the company. The duo said the creation was an attempt to display their personalities and humor and serve as a recruiting tool for their company.
“I wanted to address the big hookup house issues in a comedic way,” said Conzo, CEO and managing director of the $1.5 billion registered investment adviser. The company is based in Melville, a town in the Long Island section of New York, with an office in Boca Raton, Florida. Conzo noted that the initial idea was to create a series of videos and post them on social media. This process had started but time was limited once they parted ways. So they decided to create the comics.
Diton, chairman and CEO, was all for the comics, having had an uncle who rose to prominence for his creation of the “Margie” character for Timely Comics, the 1940s predecessor of Marvel Comics. He was also the last cartoonist of the “Mickey Finn” comic strip. “I grew up really appreciating the power of comics because you can tackle really serious issues in a humorous way.”
Conzo said he and Diton worked for several days to create vignettes highlighting the problems of large wiring installations. “The whole point of this was to highlight the issues to prompt financial advisers to perhaps look at our RIA,” he said.
As for Newton’s name, Diton takes credit for it. “I can’t give you a good reason why that came to mind,” he said, noting that they both immediately agreed Newton would be a good fit for the character. Norbert and Dexter were also under consideration.
The duo hired a designer last year to bring their vision to life. So far, they’ve created two strips, one of which has Newton scratching his head over his cable company’s complex compensation structure. The other highlighted the steps the Financial Advisor must go through to qualify for a Sales Assistant or Client Associate.
“The pay grid is actually a myriad of different rules and percentages and almost impossible to understand,” Diton said. He added that it is difficult to take ownership of the business in the power plant environment. “You want to call it your business, but is it your business when someone is going to tell you every year, ‘oh, here’s what you’re going to get paid?’ We’re going to give you that percentage and oh, by the way, your account is under $250,000, you won’t get paid for it anymore. These are things that happen,” he said.
Regarding obtaining a client associate, Diton explained that the company sets an amount that advisors must produce. For example, if the advisor produces $1 million in revenue, they will get a client associate to help grow the business and if they produce $2 million, they will get a second associate. But both advisers said that conveniently changes when you hit the target.
“All of a sudden you’re doing $2 million, and you walk in and tell Big Broker you’re eligible for the second associated client and it’s ‘oh, no, sorry, we actually increased that to 1 .25 million dollars [for one]. They kept changing the number when you hit it. And it happened to me two or three times,” Diton said.
The next series of comics will likely focus on marketing your business and retiring or reselling your business to the brokerage, Conzo said. Others will relate to mandatory deferred compensation issues that are restrictive and “difficult and painful for Newton to leave,” and the difficulties financial advisers face when they leave a company due to the abandonment of protocols, a- he declared.
The comics are advertised on LinkedIn as part of a sponsored campaign to help recruit wirehouse advisors who meet specific criteria such as 10 years with the company and location. When an advisor sees the comics on LinkedIn, they click through and go to the home page to learn more about The Wealth Alliance.
Diton said that in the three months since its debut, initial response to the comics has been positive. “Advisors really appreciate it and it’s brought us potential hires,” he said.
Conzo added that people overwhelmingly said they hadn’t seen a comic in the form of an advertisement. “People agree that it’s pretty unique,” he said.
And while the comics highlight the weaknesses of the wire house advisers, the duo said their intention was not to come across as negative or angry. “It’s fun and it’s who we are. We are not angry. We are actually very happy. So we try to target those types of people who get it,” he said.
Diton recognizes that there is a lot of stress involved in owning a business as large as theirs. The company has 18 employees. “But we’re here with amazing staff, a beautiful building and most importantly, we’re having so much fun on the trip and our customers are there with us to cheer us on,” he said. “We knew it would be good, but we didn’t know it would be this great and we really appreciate it.”