Michael Schwartz, CFP®, AEP® is the founder, Chief Executive Officer and a Wealth Management Advisor of Magnus. Michael began his career in finance over 20 years ago and during that time his unique skill set has been recognized nationally as a premier wealth management advisor in the financial services industry.
In 2021, Michael was named to the inaugural Forbes/SHOOK® Research’s Top Financial Security Professional list and for the third year in a row to the Forbes/SHOOK® Research’s Best-In-State Wealth Advisors list (NYC). Michael was also named to Financial Times’ Financial Advisor IQ Leadership Council in 2021, a community of advisors focused on growing their clientele and sharing input that fuels research to help professionals strengthen their practices. In 2019, Michael was named to WealthManagement.com’s inaugural Thrive Awards. Magnus was also recognized by RIA Channel to the Top 100 RIA Wealth Manager list in 2019 and FA Magazine’s Top RIA Ranking list in 2021, 2020, 2019 and 2018. Prior to founding Magnus, Michael was a partner and wealth management advisor with Pioneer Financial at Northwestern Mutual’s Park Avenue Office. While there, he achieved various professional honors and was recognized for his consistent top-level performance. In 2017, Michael was named to the Top 400 Financial Adviser List by Financial Times.
Michael earned his Bachelor of Science in Economics along with a minor in English while attending Fairfield University. While there, he was a student-athlete playing Varsity Baseball all four years competing at a Division I Level. He holds the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional certification, the Accredited Estate Planner® designation, his Life/Health Insurance licenses and previously maintained securities Series 6, 7, 63, 66 registrations.
Where did the idea for Magnus come from?
I’ve been in the business for almost 25 years, and the timing of when I started my career helped shape what Magnus is today. When I began at Northwestern Mutual in the mid-to-late nineties, the wealth management industry was at its infancy stage. I was a statutory employee in that I didn’t have a salary, they gave me a toolkit, and I had to build my own client book from scratch.
I was fortunate to start at the time that the industry was changing, as was the company that I was connected to. This is where I noticed that clients wanted to have a one-stop-shop for their financial needs, and I saw that the old school model of having one assistant and one financial advisor was also broken. It became difficult to accommodate clients’ needs. So, I created a partnership while at Northwestern Mutual to create economies of scale, and that was the beginning of the idea from an entrepreneurial standpoint.
Ultimately, the decision to leave the broker-dealer world came from the fact that I needed to maintain continued growth with my clients, and I wanted to do so in a way I believed would serve them best. Out of the realm of providing a true fiduciary standard to clients and being shoulder-to-shoulder with my existing clients to continue that growth initiative, Magnus was born.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My day has a start and an end. I found that if I don’t have bookends with when my day starts and ends, it becomes a constant rolling day. About 50% of my time is spent servicing clients, and most of the remaining time is wearing my hat as the CEO of the organization. I color-code my appointments on my schedule to understand how much of the time that I’m spending is with a client in an advisor capacity versus in a management capacity.
I try to maintain a semblance of the two for the purpose of being able to lead the organization. So, I know if I’m going to be adding a new client, I can assess the amount of work that’s required and the scope of the engagement in order to make sure that I can manage the client’s expectations. The same thing holds true in the management capacity.
I strive to be consciously competent in managing my time on both levels.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I have an idea book which I carry with me wherever I go. If for whatever reason, I don’t have it next to me, I have my smartphone that I can take notes on, but I’m an old school guy, so I prefer to write things down. Whenever an idea comes up, I write it down.
Then, I have two and a half hours a week that are completely dedicated to the brainstorming of all my ideas because if you have ideas, but you don’t allocate the time to execute on them, they are nothing more than ideas with no momentum.
In addition to my personal brainstorming time, I also have an officer’s meeting with my fellow officers at my firm once a week. Oftentimes, ideas that I think of are communicated to that group to be executed.
In addition to meeting with the officers, I also have business development meetings every week, so I’m creating guard rails around me to help make sure nothing falls through the cracks.
What’s one trend that excites you?
One trend that excites me is the technological advancement in our industry. There are constantly new products being introduced, and there are new initiatives that I’m reading about, which are quite exciting. There’s no way we would have been able to maintain our business working remotely if the pandemic had hit 10 years ago. Our difficult pandemic circumstances have greatly accelerated technological advancements.
Having the advancement for our business to provide management efficiencies and financial planning efficiencies excites me. Embracing the tech revolution allows us to be more efficient with our time, which then provides additional bandwidth to work with clients and help them on their financial journey.
It’s this cycle that you need to embrace. You don’t want to be the old dog that can’t learn a new trick. You want to embrace the changes because if you are not up to speed, you could be yesterday’s news.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Giving myself time for myself. I can work 24 hours a day and not be done with the work that I have, and if you don’t give yourself time, you can burn out. I used to work with an executive coach, and that executive coach, prior to working with financial professionals, had worked with Olympic athletes. She shared with me the studies used to show that the human mind and body work in peak performances of six-week intervals, which means that if you’re running hard for more than six weeks, there’s going to be a burnout effect.
So, what we did was craft a long-term schedule, building in my time. First, every six weeks, I take two days off. Mentally I know I can see there’s a finish line. Having two days off at least every six weeks energizes me, and I always try to keep that in mind. I serve my clients best when I am also taking care of myself — I need to have my own time every day, and that could be in the morning when I’m reading, when everybody else is sleeping, it could be when I’m working out, or even when I am by myself at night.
Having personal time allows me to process everything because things move so quickly in today’s day and age.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Number one, make sure that you commit to saving money every single month, no matter what the environment is. You need to save; even if it’s $1 every month, you need to commit to that disciplined approach.
Number two, I would have shared with myself to read more early on. Educating oneself is key to long-term growth. It is essential, especially in this ever-evolving world.
Now on the personal side, what I would have told my younger self is to listen and hear people. In 2006, I was at an industry conference, and I happened to sit next to a gentleman that was from Connecticut. As luck would have it, coincidentally, three days later, we were on the same flight back to New York. We sat next to each other and he gave me a book and recommended I see an executive coach. Every week for 18 months, I drove from New York to Stanford, Connecticut, which is like an hour and 15 minutes to see the coach and I tell people I used to see in black and white and now I see in color because having a consultative, understanding of your relationships allows you to hear people which empowers you, and I’ve adopted that.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I read this when I was studying Albert Einstein. He claimed that time was a paradigm shift that the longer you’re on the planet, the faster it goes. When I tell people I’m better the busier I am and I thrive in stressful situations, most people, I think, don’t believe me. I always say that idle hands are the devil’s workshop, so I do better when I’m busier because I have less time to sit around.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I do the same things over and over. Consistency breeds success. We make our own luck, so to speak, and so I strive to create an environment that allows me to maintain a disciplined approach. That, to me, is critical with this business. The discipline forges the environment which allows me to keep the train on the tracks, that makes the process work, and allows for a higher probability of me getting the things done that I need to get done on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, which then causes positive outcomes and ultimately breeds success, both at the business level and the advisor level.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Working, not in my business, but on my business.
When I have a new advisor that I’m mentoring, I explain to them that this business has three main variables: how many people you see, what’s the average income of the people that you see, and how good you are at articulating a complex idea.
If you can do three out of those three things, you are a rockstar. You do two out of those three things, you’re likely making more money than most of your friends. You do one out of those three things really, really well, you’ll likely make it in this business which has something like a 90% attrition rate. So, focusing on the variables, the activity side of my business daily, allows me to identify where my business is at and where it needs to go.
This business has delayed gratification because, from the work that I’m putting in today, I may not see its benefits for 3, 6, or 9 months out. I need to know at any one point that what I am doing today is going to help me in the future. However, the ultimate gratification is listening to my clients’ needs and helping them attain their financial goals.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
About 20 years ago, in 2002, when the NASDAQ burst and from March to October 9th, 2002, the NASDAQ sold about 70% and the S&P sold off about 49% over almost three years.
And I remember, it was May of 2002, and I had virtually no business. There was nothing in my pipeline and I was about to move back home to my parents because I couldn’t afford my rent. I locked myself in an office, I made about 3,000 phone calls, and I wouldn’t leave until I booked 30 appointments, one for the next 30 days at a minimum.
I booked 30 appointments and ultimately made one sale that day that occurred in December of 2004. It took almost four years for that effort that I put in to show results, but it wasn’t about making a sale. It allowed me to dust off the cobwebs and focus on what I had to do, not on what I wanted to do. That was a turning point in my awareness of this business. I was young, but I was hungry enough to do the work.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I have a stack of $25 Starbucks gift cards that I have a handwritten letter that I send out to the nominator, the person who has sent me an endorsement. It is the best money that I spend because it’s low-cost and high impact.
For example, if I’ve gotten four endorsements and sent out four $25 Starbucks gift cards with a handwritten note, I know the revenue that I’m likely going to generate from that will dwarf the hundred dollars of the expense.
It’s not only cost-benefit, but it’s also creating momentum in my business. I mainly work on a referral-only basis, and I don’t make any phone calls anymore. The best thing someone can do is to think so highly of our practice that they will refer or endorse someone over to us.
I got that from my dentist’s office. I went and referred my dentist to a friend years ago and they sent me a Starbucks gift card. I was so impressed with the attention to detail in that handwritten note from the dentist on the stationery. It’s not only professional, but it also has got a personal touch. So, I’m always asking myself “What can I do for our business to create that same dynamic?”
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Microsoft Outlook allows me to be as productive and efficient as possible, in that I’ve created internally in my outlook inbox: an inbox, a filtered box, a BCC box, and a CC box. Meaning anytime that I’m BCC’d or CC’d, those emails come into a separate folder.
Email, if we don’t set the guardrails up, will control your day and people will use it as a crutch. I am always mindful about that, so it’s extremely important that I ask myself at any one point in the day, “Is this the most efficient use of my time?”
The second piece of technology that I use religiously is TAMP, our turnkey asset management platform. We use Orion’s technology platform to identify the firm’s assets, the new monies that have come in each day and every month, and I use that for general business analytics that is critically important to my day-to-day as well.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Behavioral Investment Counseling by Nick Murray
He talks about what our message should be to clients based upon what the facts are. He also talks about how we can best help and serve our clients and what that language is.
For anyone who’s new in the business, that is the first book that I recommend. In fact, I have sent that book not only to new advisors but also sometimes to clients alike to read it.
What is your favorite quote?
Direction is more important than speed.
- Develop the habit of writing down your ideas and making time to execute them.
- Embracing technology will allow you to be more efficient with your time.
- Taking time for yourself is an important part of being productive.
- Sometimes, to achieve your goals, you need to focus on doing what you must do as opposed to what you want to do.
- Invest in understanding your relationships and listening to people.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.