An Inside Move from IBD to RIA: $300mm Advisor on Becoming “More Independent” at Commonwealth

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A conversation with Andy Harris, President and Wealth Manager of Evergreen Wealth Solutions

Overview

Andy Harris built a business from the ground up at ING, which he later transitioned to Commonwealth Financial Network as an independent broker dealer. Yet the desire for even greater independence led Andy and his team to transition to Commonwealth’s RIA platform in 2019. He shares key learnings for advisors considering both the IBD and RIA models, and the value each provides to the business and clients.

About this episode…

It’s funny how many financial advisors’ journeys start somewhere outside of the wealth management world.

For Andy Harris, the field he was headed for was environmental studies. That is, until a temp job with Nationwide turned into a full-time gig, changing his mindset and career path.

While he may have gotten his start in the financial world at Nationwide, it was an interview with a friend and independent advisor in 2002 at Locust Street Securities (which would later become ING Financial Partners) that led him to the role of financial advisor.

Along the way, Andy learned plenty of the up and down realities of the wealth management world, building a book of business that he would later move to Commonwealth in 2015 as an independent broker dealer.

Yet the desire for greater independence led Andy and his team to transition to Commonwealth’s RIA platform in 2019.

Andy’s internal transition is representative of the “RIA-ification” of the broker dealer world. That is, firms are working to meet the evolving needs of advisors and their growing practices by offering multiple ways to affiliate and a “glide path” to greater independence without leaving the firm.

Today, Andy and his team at Evergreen Wealth Solutions in Williamsport, PA, are consistently ranked as one of the top affiliates of Commonwealth Financial Network.

Andy’s story is an interesting one that shares the evolution of one’s business life, building upon the vision and goals along the way. In this episode, he talks about that journey with Louis Diamond, including:

Andy Harris: An Inside Move from IBD to RIA: $300mm Advisor on Becoming “More Independent” at Commonwealth

  • The early development of his business—and why Andy selected Commonwealth to launch his independent practice.
  • The choice to launch first as an independent broker dealer—and why he later opted to slide over to Commonwealth’s RIA platform.
  • The thought process behind transitioning from IBD to RIA—and how that benefits clients service and his business overall.
  • The process of transitioning models within the firm—and what advisors need to be aware of based on his experience.

Plus, Andy provides key learnings for advisors considering both the IBD and RIA models, along with some sound advice: “When considering change, think about where you want to be not just for today, but for the next 5 to 10 years and beyond.”

Download: Going Independent with an RIA vs. IBD: A Comparison Fact Sheet

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Related Resources

IBD vs. RIA Revisited: Two Independent Pathways for Advisors to Consider
When it comes to freedom and control, there are key differences amongst the independent broker dealer (IBD) and registered investment advisor (RIA) spaces that every advisor should be aware of. Read->

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Forward-thinking firms are tapping into the flourishing interest in independence by offering their employee advisors an independent option under the same roof. While it provides an easier path to greater freedom and business ownership, it may not be “independent enough” for advisors seeking ultimate control. Read->

Andy Harris
Founder and President

Andy began his career in the financial services industry in the late 1990s with Nationwide Financial Services, working his way through college at Ohio State University, where he graduated with a BS concentrating in finance. Gaining exposure to trading strategies and financial products while working for the trade desk at Nationwide Financial Services, Andy was asked to become the internal contact and liaison for a product designed for active traders. He worked closely with clients, financial advisors, senior management, and mutual fund managers in this role, which laid the groundwork for his decision to become a financial advisor in March 2002. Beginning his practice as part of the Comprehensive Financial Group, Andy’s training and mentors there have helped define his business model today as the agency environment provided the opportunity to partner with a variety of financial professionals, which has nurtured the team environment in place today.

Andy’s practice with Evergreen Wealth Solutions is centered on helping people make smart decisions with their money, and, in his words:

“We are in the business of helping our Ideal Clients get their financial house in order and help to keep it that way. This gives them confidence about their future and allows them to spend their time with the people that matter most doing the things that are more important in their life than money.”

He works with other professionals in the areas of tax, legal, financial planning, asset management, insurance, and other relevant resources so that he has the capability to deliver truly personalized financial services for all of his Ideal Clients.

Andy and his wife, Elizabeth, spend the majority of their time with their young family and are passionate about food, friends, and family. In addition, Andy was a board member of the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy and an active member of his community association. He enjoys biking (mountain, road, motor, and dirt), telemark skiing, jogging, shooting, and travel.

He is a member of the Million Dollar Round Table*, Northcentral Pennsylvania Estate Planners Council, and the Financial Services Institute.

Andy is also proud to have been recognized as a Chairman’s Level advisor for 2021—a distinction based on annual production that places him among the top 4 percent of advisors affiliated with Commonwealth Financial Network. Each year, Commonwealth, the firm we partner with to help us better serve you, recognizes Chairman’s Level advisors by inviting them to an exclusive gathering of their peers, leading industry experts, and Commonwealth home office staff. Chairman’s Level advisors benefit from an intensive learning and networking experience designed to help them hone their expertise, share best practices, and provide ever-higher levels of service, education, and leadership to their clients.

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