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MC Origin Stories – Sarah Ellis

What was the turning point for you in deciding to change careers?

 

What lessons have you learned from your past work life that you’ve brought to MC?

One of the key phrases I have kept with me over the years is one I learned from my first “real” job working at the local BBQ restaurant. Plastered on the wall to the left of the kitchen entrance was: “Work with a sense of urgency and always anticipate the guest’s needs.” This is a mantra I live by to this day, in all aspects.

I prefer to work quickly, yet efficiently, and I find so much value in taking a moment to think about all the “what-ifs” to ensure I am asking questions that haven’t even been answered yet. The best compliment I can receive is when someone says, “Wow, you beat me to the punch. I was just about to ask you that!”

 

Empowering a customer or client is something many of us hope to achieve in our work. What opportunities have you had to accomplish this in the past?

For me, this goes back to the saying, “Give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime.” Being an overthinker, I always challenged this saying with follow-up questions: What if the person is too squeamish to put bait on the hook? What if the person doesn’t know how to swim if his boat gets turned over? What if he doesn’t have the resources to buy the fishing line and reel? What if he sets everything up right, but the fish are just not biting?

There is so much more that goes into empowering than just teaching. You must provide someone with the tools to accomplish the task well—the physical tools (bait, line, reel), the skillset tools (how to swim, how to drive the boat, how to overcome the aversion to baiting the hook), the learning tools (what is their learning style: doing, watching, listening?)—and in a way that makes sense for them. Empowering does not just teach someone to do something, but actually makes the person believe they can do it and do it well.

One of my favorite examples of this is with the daughter of a current client at our firm. Her mom wanted to start educating her about an irrevocable trust that was set up for the daughter when her dad passed away. Rather than just giving her access to the account (give a man a fish), or even just educating her on what a trust is, how to access the funds, and how to invest the funds (teach a man to fish), we spent time talking to her about her interests and her goals for her life. We did educate her on the basics of a trust and investing, but we took it a step further and explained the pros and cons of knowing the amount of money she had access to. We then put it back on her to make the decision to know how much was in the account or not. For some people, knowing that you have access to a large sum can actually be a demotivator. At the beginning of the conversation, she said she valued her work ethic and her pursuit of her passions. Would knowing that she had access to an inheritance cause her to sit on her laurels and not pursue those passions? We empowered her to make the decision and she actually chose not to know what the balance was. I was proud of her, not for the decision she made, but because she made that decision herself. She now has ownership of her life and goals. She knows she can ask for the balance at any time, but she made the decision that empowered her best to achieve her life goals and feel proud of her accomplishments.

MC Origin Stories – Joe Seetoo

1) What opportunities have you had to accomplish this in the past?

 

2) What personality traits do you believe have set you up for success at Morton? 

1) Passion for Learning
“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” — Picasso
I can remember at a young age my father saying, “Education is something no one can ever take away from you” and “knowledge is power.” I believe his views were shaped by his father, a Chinese immigrant who had escaped the horrors of communism in the late 1930s/early 1940s and fled to the U.S. I’ve adopted a less Machiavellian approach to learning, one that is founded more in a naturalistic belief that we as humans have a proclivity towards growth and expansion. I am constantly reading and learning new things, everything from psychology to neurolinguistic programming to guitar scales. I believe learning allows us to cultivate aspects of ourselves that we might otherwise overlook.

2) Organized/Structured
I still make my bed every morning (okay—6 days a week), my calendar is color-coded, and I can’t go to sleep with a messy house. Given the volume and speed of information, we are required to process in today’s environment, staying organized can be a challenge. I believe having routine systems and processes (i.e., habits) in place both personally and professionally reduces the cognitive load on the brain, which can lead to mental fatigue. By reducing my decision fatigue related to mundane but necessary tasks, I’m able to free up more space for deep work with our clients. Naturally, many clients have scattered random questions and concerns that feel disjointed even though they relate to their financial affairs. They are challenged to organize their thoughts and are stuck in analysis paralysis. I’m able to help organize their thoughts and formulate an action plan that allows them to move forward. And, if I’m being honest with myself, organization gives me the illusion of control. If I’m operating from a place of peace, my ability to listen carefully to a client’s question or concern and respond in a thoughtful manner increases exponentially.

3) Empathy
“We are all just walking each other home.” — Ram Dass
Easing the burden of our fellow man is part of what we do as humans. We are wired to be social creatures. I’m a deeply spiritual person. There is a level of emotional intimacy that evolves over the life of a relationship between an advisor and a client because money is one gateway to many other aspects of our lives. Ensuring our families and loved ones are taken care of, sending our children to college, buying a new home, and having the ability to retire are all major milestones in the human experience. For many, money is an emotional topic because it represents our hopes and concerns about what we want in our lives. Being able to put myself in my client’s shoes in the moment and see where they are coming from helps foster trust and open lines of communication.

 

3) How have your career aspirations changed over the years leading to this point?

I’ve been in wealth management since 1998—over 22 years. I am 44. Early in my career, I was determined to become an advisor. I elected to obtain the Chartered Financial Analyst® charter in the early 2000s. I continued down the path of becoming the best advisor I could by completing the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ designation in 2008 in addition to coursework on behavioral finance and advanced estate planning. In 2014, I was blessed with the opportunity to become a partner at Morton Capital and work more closely with senior leadership, not only as an advisor but also as an owner. Our company has grown to over 50 teammates responsible for more than $2 billion in assets as of 12/31/2021. We have 13 owners/partners.

More recently, I have been focused on broadening the scope of our expertise in a few key areas:
Exit Planning—I am committed to helping owners maximize the value of their greatest asset: their business. As part of my journey and being involved in a Generation 1 to Generation 2 succession plan at Morton Capital, in the summer of 2018, I completed a designation called the Certified Exit Planning Advisor, sponsored by the Exit Planning Institute. By experiencing firsthand what many current business owners and next-gen owners will deal with, I believe I can use my knowledge both as a financial planner and owner to help improve outcomes. To that end, in July 2020, I launched the Conejo Valley Chapter of the Exit Planning Institute https://exit-planning-institute.org/chapter/epi-conejo-valley-chapter/. It’s a forum for advisors and owners to share knowledge and best practices related to business succession planning.

Additionally, I have recently launched a podcast called The Ripcord Moment, where we interview owners (and their advisors) who have made the jump and what pearls of wisdom they can share with owners contemplating a sale/transition at some point in the future. These firsthand experiences are a powerful tool to help shape more successful outcomes for other owners.

Mentoring and Recruiting—I’m passionate about what we do at Morton Capital and have been able to help recruit a number of talented professionals to our organization over the years. I am committed to making Morton Capital an even more resilient firm. I enjoy mentoring our talented staff and helping them become the best versions of themselves.