One of a Kind
Robert F. Farrell, executive vice president of wealth management for Farrell Wealth Management Group of Janney Montgomery Scott LLC, treats each client as an individual with unique goals and dreams
by Jenny Graham

Robert F. Farrell was set on a very different track before he discovered his niche for finance. In the fall of 1992, the South Jersey native began his time at Rutgers Camden as a computer science major, attending classes and then working from 7 p.m. to midnight stacking boxes in trucks for the United Parcel Service.

While he maintained this rigorous schedule for some time, eventually the demands began to wear on him. A subsequent trip to the school’s career placement office ended up changing the course of his professional life.

The placement office connected Farrell with a Cherry Hill, N.J.-based financial advisor named Gordon G. Shindle who needed assistance in computerizing his practice. The rest, as they say, is history. “It was a golden opportunity,” Farrell says of the chance to intern with the company, an opportunity that presented itself shortly after his introduction to Shindle’s investment advisory practice at Shearson Lehman Hutton.

Not long after starting, Farrell says, “I realized this was my calling. I changed my major to finance and I ended up working for Gordon 30 hours a week for the remaining three years of college.”

The relationship extended beyond Farrell’s graduation in 1996, after which Shindle offered Farrell a full-time position with the firm. “Even though the job only paid me half of competing offers elsewhere,” he says, “I decided, based on our relationship, and the long-term potential, to take the job.”

In addition to offering him his first job out of college, Shindle also sponsored Farrell in his efforts to acquire Series 7 and Certified Financial Planner certifications, the latter of which required a candidate to have at least five years of industry experience to even attempt to earn and utilize the designation.

Farrell achieved both distinctions. In fact, by September 1998, at the age of 24, he became one of the youngest finance professionals in America to hold CFP designation. This early achievement forecasted the successes ahead for Farrell—namely, 16 years of excellence at the firm, which, over the years, merged and changed to become Smith Barney and, finally, Citigroup.

Yet, as the turbulent financial climate of the first decade of this century came to its end, Farrell grew concerned for his clients and the security of their investments. As Farrell explains, “We were looking for a stable home for our clients.”

Prompted by this desire, Farrell decided to branch out. He and Shindle, his mentor and business partner, formed their own firm, the Farrell Wealth Management Group of Janney Montgomery Scott LLC, in 2009. As a testament to the faith his existing associates have in Farrell and Shindle, the two “brought 99 percent of our clients and assets” with them to the new firm.

Farrell’s newfound affiliation with the financial services firm of Janney Montgomery Scott brought about a number of changes, though none regarding the quality of service afforded to clients. “At Smith Barney, now merged with Morgan Stanley, the firm today has 17,000 advisors coast to coast,” Farrell explains. “Here at Janney, we have 700 from Maine to Florida.”

This difference in firm size allows Farrell a great deal more freedom in making decisions to help clients pursue their financial goals. “I work in the Philadelphia corporate headquarters, so I have daily interaction with the senior management of the firm; I have a lot more input into the end products that affect my clients,” Farrell explains. “I can have much more input at a small firm like this versus a large ‘Wall Street’ firm. At Janney, my opinion, and more importantly, those of my clients, matter.

“There is very little in the way of proprietary products,” he continues. “No one is telling us what to do. We are not associated with a bank, nor are we a public company, so we can solely focus on the long-term needs of our clients. I can do what is in the best interest of the client and service them in the best way I see fit.”

Janney, a privately owned company, is operated under the parent company Penn Mutual. “Because we’re not a public company, like many, we have no short-term pressure to report quarterly earnings,” he says. “Our clients truly have a partner in us.”

Farrell’s achievements at Janney have earned him recognition throughout the region. He was named among the elites on Philadelphia Business Journal’s 2010 and 2011 list of top financial advisors. In addition, he is a member of Janney’s CEO Roundtable and Financial Advisor Council, an honor given to the firm’s most successful financial advisors.

Much of his success has been due to what Farrell refers to as the “ESP process.” That is, “Excellence, Success, Professionalism,” he explains. “And that’s the way we run our business. We do things in the best interests of the clients, pursue excellence in everything we do and make sure to service the clients with professionalism at all times.”

On features that set Farrell Wealth Management apart from other financial advisory firms, Farrell has much to say. “We’re all in the same business, but what separates us is competence, knowledge and transparency—there is never a hidden fee, everything is disclosed—and we’re fair, honest and professional, and we operate with integrity.”

He adds that one of the most important facets of the Farrell Wealth Management business model is individualized attention to clients. “We return client calls,” he says. “There is no voicemail during business hours. We think a client should be able to talk to a person. These are simple things, but at the end of the day these are things that the industry is moving away from.”

This personal attention extends to Farrell Wealth Management’s approach to asset management, too. “Many firms offer a standard mixed portfolio. I run my practice differently,” Farrell says. “Every client has a different allocation based on their specific circumstances. I run roughly $220 million for about 180 families and businesses, and not one of those portfolios is the same [as any other].”

Farrell’s goal is to bring institutional-style asset management to his clients. His team manages client assets in the same investment style as larger pension and endowment funds. It is a risk-based approach with asset protection as its main goal. It is vastly different than mutual or index funds.

In line with Farrell’s clients-first philosophy, he will be expanding his skill set even further by adding the Certified Private Wealth Advisor (CPWA®) designation—sponsored by the Investment Management Consultants Association through the University of Chicago Booth School of Business—to his credentials this autumn.

Farrell Wealth Management Group of Janney Montgomery Scott LLC
1717 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Photograph by Felicia Perretti