• Multicultural Financial Advisor Forum

Using Drive and Passion to Help Clients

Richard Downer, a Morgan Stanley Wealth Advisor based in Los Angeles, brings a competitive drive as he helps clients.

Los Angeles, CA – As a fierce competitor, a 10-time marathoner and a triathlon participant, Richard Anthony Downer, a Morgan Stanley First Vice President and Wealth Advisor based in Los Angeles, brings a competitive drive as he helps clients.

Downer, 47, sees a clear connection between health and wealth, and he works to make the most from a little, starting with every day health. With what he calls a “sheer competitive nature,” Downer works with clients to achieve balance with wealth attainment and health maintenance.

“In 18 years of practice, I have come to realize that wealth without health is a different kind of poverty,” he said. “Life will come down to the quality of your health,” he said. “If all of your wealth is spent on medication – was the journey to wealth worth it?

“My passions lie in analyzing complex financial markets and in turn successfully distilling this information,” he said. “I believe that most of us are bright enough to understand this world – but, it’s the presentation, or lack thereof, that tends to be an issue.”

His passion for excellence was instilled in him in part during his summers in St. Lucia in the West Indies, where he received tutelage under the British education system. Aside from his home-raising and his college education at his alma mater, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), he learned some key insights from a man who insisted that he work with him – a veteran who kept asking him to join the financial services business until he did. “He called me eight times,” Downer recalled.

It was the beginning of a key business and professional relationship. The veteran taught Downer that likeability, trust and belief are the three keys to successfully wooing and building relationships with clients. Downer said the veteran told him “people will do business with you in particular because they like you, trust you and believe you.”

“The trust takes the longest. There are levels of trust. Some people have low expectations. Some have high expectations. In the end, you have to show everybody what you can do.”

Building Trust with Clients

It took a few years for a confident Downer to realize how to balance clients who like him while getting each to believe and trust him. What he’s learned as a wealth management student he has put to work as he educates clients, starting with their own goals, then doing some head-to-the-grindstone work.

Most clients “need to see at least three months of statements,” Downer said, but it means staying ahead of your client by being educated on the market so he can educate them. Some might take more, even much more. He has learned how to handle the different levels of trust with what he calls “framing.”

“You have to frame what the client’s expectations are versus what the market is offering. A client might say they’re aggressive but what does that really mean?”

As a son and a wealth advisor, Downer started his successful career with someone he knew well, someone who knew him better than anyone else: His mother.

Raised by Romeo Downer and Carolle Downer in some of L.A.’s most prominent black neighborhoods: Windsor Hills, one of the wealthiest black neighborhoods in the nation, and Ladera Heights, Downer watched his nurse mother struggle with managing money well into the future for maximum gain. Working with his mother’s reasonable but limited resources he realized that he was good working with women who tend to be “more like investors rather than traders.”

As he developed that realization, Downer worked with more nurses, professionals with stable jobs, good salaries and desires for career, health and financial success. These days his early realization is paying off. He has nurse clients with portfolios north of $1 million dollars.

His female clients are not limited to nurses, however. A male potential client interviewed him and his wife as the couple considered where to place their $2 million portfolio. The husband decided to go elsewhere. When he died, however, the wife returned to Downer.

Drawing from Life Lessons

Downer attributes his success to the personal relationships he creates with his clients.“ They tend to treat me like a son and where they instinctually like me, believe in my efforts. A lot of clients who relate to me are widowed, retired, and seeking honest information.”

“Men tend to be traders,” Downer added. “Realistically, women will outlive most men and will take the proverbial reins of fiscal responsibility. To this end, 70% of my book represents women over 50 – widowed or divorced where I stand in as what some would call a ‘surrogate.’

He takes it all in stride, as a part of his important job as a reliable, trusted financial advisor. That’s why he does not mind helping one of his women clients purchase a car or another expensive item when they feel that they might get taken advantage. With one female client he let her take the lead until it got down to the small dollar amounts such as a docking fee. “I simply said, ‘She’s not going to pay that’ and that was it,” he recalled. “She appreciated that a lot.”

As Downer matures, he’s gained enough experience and expertise that others call on him to advise and counsel college students and other young people. He works with the Boy Scouts of America and he’s an unofficial mentor to an evolving group of college students.

One day in 2013 one of his associates called his office and asked him to spend some time with a group of about eight college students. “’We want to have a session with you,’” the man told him. “Tell them how you got started, what you do, what it takes.’”

“I said okay, not thinking much of it, but that first meeting became what I call “the 12-hour MBA.” He gives small groups of students a set amount of time and talks with them about building a successful career and life. He developed a few, then 25, then 100 plus “Downer Life Lessons,” his own words of wisdom, sayings he’s developed to provide specific, strong advice about how to pursue excellence and success. He shares these mostly with college students and young professionals, but also with anyone willing to listen. They tend to creep into his conversations as he switches hats from counselor and educator to surrogate and mentor.

“In as much as I like to invest my time/money in people with the greatest rate of return (ROR), it stands to reason that I find investing in millennials to have the best potential outcome,” said Downer. “So, one of my life purposes … is two-fold: a) to provide hope - in that others can aspire to achieve as I have through discipline and consistency, and b) to be a continual resource to help guide and direct youth to make sound life and business decisions while considering the consequences of their actions.”

Whether he is working with well-heeled men, middle class nurses, and mature women in the winter of their lives or millennials, Downer works to “use my experiences to positively shape their futures.”