Today we’d like to introduce you to Stephen D. Ambrosini.
Stephen, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
In 1978 my bride and I left on a 6 weeks honeymoon, camping and surfing across the United States. The intent was to spend time together before I enlisted in the Coast Guard. During the trip my Aunt talked my wife out of me joining, not knowing where we could be stationed. We could have been sent to Ice Station Zebra at the North Pole. Having passed through Phoenix and seeing some opportunity for a pair of college graduates holding those precious AA degrees, we decided to go back to AZ, and then stayed there for 23 years.
I went right back to work in the restaurant field, something I knew very well and started waiting tables and tending bar. I soon realized I was a talented salesman. A good waiter is just that, he’ll build up the tab knowing he gets a percentage of the overall bill. I did this well and built a nice income. I eventually came to realize that I’m just as smart as the people I was waiting on and with proper training I could do what they did and be the guy sitting at the table instead of serving it. I proceeded to interview my top customers to find the right fit and eventually found the guy that introduced me to the insurance and financial planning world. I was off and running.
That was Jan 1st, 1978. While in AZ I moved from agency to agency, eventually opened my own office. Then I went back to the corporate world, and soon after landed at The Acacia Group, a national planning firm which was the premier office in AZ. This was big time for me. I had arrived! We were doing financial talk radio and for a brief time cable TV. I was successful, married with two kids, traveling and having fun. So, the only natural thing to do was to totally disrupt it, mess with my happiness and start over. I talking folly here but the truth is we weren’t really happy. When Dee and I asked ourselves “Where did you want to spend the rest of your life?”, the answer wasn’t Phoenix AZ. For us, me more than Dee, it getting back to the ocean, back to the beach.
So, I accepted an offer to move to CA and we literally started over. We discovered Carlsbad with its excellent school system, beach down the street and fell in love. I was surfing again. I started working in a new office in Mission Valley and for 12 years did the 5/805 merge commute. But eventually this would change, but for the better. The industry was evolving and traditional offices were breaking down. Fortunately for me this gave us the opportunity to break away and form the initial component of today’s company, 2020 Financial Advisers. With long term friends and fellow advisers, we created the new firm with five initial offices, today we have grown to 12 partners and 14 locations nationwide. Collectively we have 1.5 billion of assets under administration and approximately sixty plus employees.
But more importantly another move, and hopefully the last, was in my future. The lease was up in Mission Valley and we took this opportunity to move to lovely Cardiff by the Sea. A perfectly ideal typical southern California beach town with a focus on sustainability and relationships. We were warmly welcomed into the community and continue to be blessed with the location.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Life is full of challenges and it’s that angst that drives us. If we’re satisfied, we’re not growing. Our nature is not to sit still and as a competitive athlete I strive to win. Therefore, our path was never easy. We left home at age 21 and drove cross country to a new town with no jobs, little money and one friend. Twenty-three years later we left a success and started all over again. In San Diego we again knew few people but we had the confidence in each other that we could do it again. I had to revert back to Sales 101 to rebuild my client base and it was more than once that I sat in my office after hours wondering what the hell did I just do? I just put my family’s livelihood at risk to follow a dream? What’s wrong with me? Then promises made didn’t come true and I was out there starting all over again.
My original partnership had its problems. Partnerships are like marriages. Some work, and some end up in divorce. Mine was the later. The expected challenge wasn’t the money or cash flow. I had done a lot of the work up front so I had a good idea what I was getting into. As an adviser I became my own client, something akin to a doctor treating himself, not always a good idea. But for us it worked. Dee and I are a team that trust each other, which also explains the successful 40-year marriage.
The challenge for me was the fear of starting over and how do you do this? Working the long hours, travel back and forth to AZ, trying to meet people and not appearing hungry and underfed. I found comfort and the answer from a friend of mine who shared his moving experience. I love this story, told to me by an attorney friend, who one day both he and his attorney wife both quit their jobs and moved to France. They stayed for over a year and when they returned he changed specialties and she became a volunteer at a children’s hospital. When I found out I was amazed and had to find out how they did this? I invited him to lunch, laid out my questions and asked “How did you do this?” His brief one sentence answer?
“I went out the door and closed it behind me.”
That was it, I put my Arizona home up for the sale by the end of the week.
Please tell us about 2020 Financial Advisers of Cardiff by the Sea, LLC.
We’re a national Wealth Management and Financial Planning firm. Combining traditional and investment products we have assets under administration of $1.5 billion dollars. We’re flexible with products and fee’s, and always do for what’s best for the client. We’re independent regarding products and have the ability to shop the market for the best solutions regarding the client need. I recognize that many of my competitors would say the same thing, so we need to separate ourselves from them, and how do we do that? Relationship building and service. We take much pride in coming to the table with an open mind. Meetings almost always start the same way, with questions.
What are you trying to accomplish? Why are we sitting here? Other than me pestering you for an appointment, why are you sitting with me now? What’s on your mind? What’s keeping you up at night and what are your goals?
Once we get answers to questions like these we have an idea and what the client is trying to accomplish and have a better idea of how we can help.
It’s this approach which has helped build 2020 Financial Advisers into a successful company, always putting the client’s needs first.
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
I grew up in Massapequa Long Island at a time when the suburbs were coming into fashion. Baby boomers were in full bloom and kids were everywhere. I ran with a large crowd, some would call a gang and we got in our share of trouble, and those were fun times. The town was safe, neighbors were friendly and families looked out for each other. You disrespect the neighbor, and when he was done with you, it was dad’s turn. You don’t make that mistake twice!
I grew up at the beach, hung with a great crowd and couldn’t wait to hang with my bud’s.
- We get paid in multiple ways. First we are sales people and sell products. Whether it’s insurance, annuities or mutual funds. If the client chooses to buy something from us, we’ll receive a commission from the participating company.
- For our investment accounts we charged a fixed amount depending upon the size of the investment. The fee could be as high as 1.5% for the smaller accounts and specialty programs, but most begin at 1% and the fee reduces as the account grows
- Finally, we charge an hourly fee of $350. This fee is never a surprise, and the client is never charged for phones calls or conversations. This normally comes into play when the client has a special need such as Estate Planning, Business Continuation or establishing a Charitable Foundation or Trust.
- Address: Stephen D. Ambrosini CLU ChFC 20/20 Financial Advisers of Cardiff by the Sea, LLC
2041 San Elijo Ave, Cardiff by the Sea, CA 92007
- Website:2020fa.com and www.2020cmi.com