Well Advised
With decades of experience, J. Robert Morris helps small-business owners, retirees and other investors achieve their long-term goals
by Bill Donahue

Every elite tennis player understands the importance of a good return. He or she is also in tune with the ebb and flow of a hard-fought match, able to spot opportunities to gain an advantage without taking undue risk. The same skills that apply to tennis also apply to the world of investing, and J. Robert Morris knows a thing or two about both.

Morris was a burgeoning tennis star during his college years at Temple University before joining the U.S. Marines. In 1967 and ’68, he was in Vietnam fighting for the United States and its allies, earning two Purple Hearts and the Navy Commendation with Combat “V” award along the way. Having survived the infamous Tet Offensive, he spent his last four months in the service playing tennis for the Marines. He wound up winning the All-Marine Tournament at Camp Lejeune and then went on to represent his branch in the All-Service Championships in San Diego, Calif., before leaving the military.

After returning to the East Coast he found his footing in the investments and insurance business and never looked back. Fast-forward to 2014, and Morris has been working as an independent financial planner for 35 years, helping self-employed business owners, retirees, baby boomers and other investors work toward their financial goals.

“We’re in the business of helping clients preserve their assets and find ways to make a competitive return, and that’s not always easy,” says Morris, whose investment firm is based in Haverford. “As I came into the office this morning I saw someone advertising an 18-month CD at 1 percent. That gives you an idea of how rough things are in this economy, even though it’s being portrayed as an economy that has come back. Our goal is to help [clients] preserve their capital and find ways to earn a competitive return in order to maintain their lifestyle.”

The Morris Financial Group utilizes Royal Alliance Associates as its investment brokerage firm, otherwise known as a broker/dealer, and investment advisory platform. Royal Alliance Associates is one of the country’s largest networks of independent advisors. The organization’s customer-driven approach is focused on meeting the unique demands of every client. Having the expertise and resources of Royal Alliance Associates has been essential, according to Morris. “They bring leadership, knowledge, proprietary software and a certain level of steadiness to the investment business. They have a very systematic approach that we feel is very useful to our clients.”  

Morris’ firm has grown and changed significantly over the years, including the addition of his son, W. Townsend Morris, who joined the firm more than six years ago. Townsend has brought a new perspective to the business, especially with regard to technology. Rob and Townsend see technology as the key to the growth of their business. Utilizing the tools that are available to them enables the firm to focus on servicing clients, which the Morrises regard as their most important function.

“Since Townsend’s arrival our business has changed and moved more toward the advisory role,” Morris says. “Creating investment allocations for our clients based on their risk tolerance and time horizon helps enable clients to fulfill their financial objectives.”

This is what he describes as the principal focus of the firm.

“We truly have a mix of clients, though I have to say that to effectively take advantage of our services, you need some assets,” he says. “We like to work with the self-employed and retirees, because they need and can benefit from our services the most. They are so focused on running the business that they often don’t know where to start when it comes to their own finances and their own future. Another area that keeps our firm very busy is companies with 500 employees or less. We take into account the needs of the executives of those companies, looking especially at the 401(k) plan area, because the employees need to be helped, too.

“When working with business owners,” he continues, “it often boils down to personal financial planning, because when you get into a small business, it’s the owners of the business and the executives of the business that use us the most and benefit the most from our expertise in terms of the investment products and tax relief. When one is retired, their sounding boards are often left behind. We become that go-to group to assist with all retirement questions.”

In addition to helping clients achieve their financial goals, Morris spends his spare time helping the Delaware Valley chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, of which he is a board member; he and his wife, Janie, are passionate about doing their part to combat “a hellacious disease,” as his youngest son, Stockton Morris, has Type I diabetes. Although he does not solicit business of any kind through the JDRF, he has met some new clients through this shared affiliation. Regardless of how a client and Morris’ firm find one another, their interaction begins with a discovery process.

“When we’re formulating an agenda for a client meeting, it’s sometimes a matter of letting the client open up and talk about themselves, what their objectives are, what’s been accomplished to date,” he says. “My son and I try to fill in the gaps, from an investment need and an asset-management need, and we’ll monitor the assets for which we’ll charge a fee. Sometimes it might be a matter of other exposures—life, health, disability. Suggestions will then be made to correct those needs.”

In the nearly four decades Morris has been involved in the insurance and investment business, he has learned one undeniable truth: Things change. In the game of tennis, small adjustments to one’s game can yield significant improvements to one’s outcome, and the same, he has found, applies to investing. Thanks in part to his affiliation with Royal Alliance Associates, Morris is well positioned to help clients meet their goals, even amid economic times that can be best described as challenging, if not tumultuous.

“We can adjust for any changes in the economy or any changes in a client’s life,” he says. “As my clients get older, including baby boomers and myself, the needs are going to change. Early on there’s a greater need for income flow and earnings and the preservation of assets. Later on the focus shifts to dependable monthly income. Our goal is to be flexible and adaptable. In this way, we assist clients and adjust as their circumstances change.”

J. Robert Morris and W. Townsend Morris
Royal Alliance Associates
551 West Lancaster Ave., Suite 302-B
Haverford, PA 19041
610-896-9919 | robertmorris@jrmorris.com

Securities and advisory services offered through Royal Alliance Associates, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC.  The second line at the bottom of the article should read: Insurance Services offered through The Morris Financial Group, which is not affiliated with Royal Alliance Associates, Inc.

Photograph by Rob Hall