Former Diplomat Departs Wells Fargo Amidst Shift Away From International Wealth Management

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Name: Armando A. Urena

Firm: Snowden Lane Partners

Location: Miami, Florida

AUM: $358 Million

Forbes Ranking: Best-In-State Wealth Advisors

Background: After a tour as a specialist in the U.S. Army, Urena started his professional life as a foreign service officer in various embassies in Latin America with the State Department. In his early 30s Urena felt an urge to move on and, in his words, “stumbled” onto the wealth management business after getting an MBA at Arizona State University. He would go on to work at Lehman Brothers and spend more than a decade at Wells Fargo WFC before moving over to Snowden Lane Partners, a New York- based RIA managing more than $3 billion in assets, earlier this year.

Investment Philosophy/Strategy: Urena’s client base was uniquely global while at Wells Fargo, with his book made up of approximately 60% international clients and 40% domestic clients. The majority of that international population is concentrated in Latin America with some others in Europe and Israel. That specialty was an outgrowth of his experience in foreign affairs. When he was hired at his first job in financial services at Lehman Brothers, he was specifically put in the Miami office because of that skill set.

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The transition from the wirehouse world to an RIA came about as Urena began to feel that larger firms were struggling with the international client base, a significant part of his business. This was especially pronounced at his former employer, with Wells Fargo announcing earlier this year that it would close its international wealth management business.

Competitive Edge: With such a unique background, Urena finds that the transferable skills from his time in foreign service, from building relationships to gaining trust, are key differentiators. Additionally, his analytical skills from his time in government, when he would have to do extensive research and become an expert on matters of foreign importance, help in his ability to become an expert in topics relevant to properly advising clients.

Best Advice: The best advice Urena got in his career was that it takes three things to succeed in wealth management: smarts, hard work, and a little luck. “If you can take care of the first two, the third one will probably take care of itself,” he adds.

Biggest Challenge: Urena chooses to ignore the fact that he is Latino in an industry lacking in diversity saying, “it’s not my problem.”

He instead looks to let his value and skill represent him. That being said, he was on the national diversity council for the wealth management division while at Wells Fargo and very involved in promoting diversity within the business and the firm. He wanted to make sure that others that came behind him had someone that they can speak to, look up to and that he could mentor.

Biggest Client Misunderstanding: As he transitions to a new firm after nearly 15 years at Wells Fargo, he has had to communicate with clients amidst the departure from a large brand to a smaller shop.

“There is a misconception that a small firm is risky or means less resources,” he says.

What Keeps You Up at Night?: Right now, Urena is in the midst of completing his transition to Snowden Lane Partners and says it has him preoccupied with rebuilding and rebranding his business.

Favorite Book/Movie: Urena tries to read books that will make him better at his job, and one stand out is “The One Thing” by by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. He says it helps him get better results by focusing on what is important.

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