B. Riley Wealth Management Q&A Series: Michael Crossley and Carson Buell, Financial Advisors, Dallas, Texas

August 8, 2019 - Working with family can sometimes pose difficulties, but not for Carson Buell and Michael Crossley, B. Riley Wealth Management's grandfather-grandson team, who work well in tandem. Both have a love for client interaction, prospecting and new technology, and as a result, the Crossley-Blackmar team, of which they are a part, continues to make positive contributions across the firm. The duo recently shared their views on the state of the wealth management business, what drew them to their profession, and all things BRWM.

Crossley got his start in finance right after college. He graduated from Southern Methodist University with a BBA in economics and immediately hit the job market. "In 1959, I went to work for Salomon Brothers in institutional sales because they offered to pay me $25 more a month than the others," Crossley said.

Crossley moved on from Salomon, and in 1970, opened an office for White Weld & Co., which ultimately became Merrill Lynch. Over his career, Crossley would go on to serve at several asset management firms including Alex.Brown and Sons (now a part of Raymond James), Legg Mason, Smith Barney/Citigroup and Morgan Stanley.

Four years ago, Crossley and his partners, Roger Blackmar and Dianne Brady, joined BRWM from Morgan Stanley because they sought out a firm that offered more agility and flexibility in managing their clients' portfolios. The ability to access multiple platforms in-house while retaining a sense of autonomy made the move to BRWM an easy decision for Crossley and his team.

During Crossley's tenure at Morgan Stanley, Carson Buell, his grandson, started working with him and began to study and understand the market. Buell is now a financial advisor at BRWM, and when speaking of his grandson, Crossley says, "his analytical ability and understanding of stocks and bonds is phenomenal."

Buell started working as an intern for his grandfather during summers while he was a college student. He knew that his grandfather was working as a financial advisor at Morgan Stanley downtown, but he didn't know much more than that. "When I first came onboard, my initial desire was just to get a good summer job. I was in college and my dad suggested I consider working for my grandfather because he thought I would be a fit in this industry. He was right," Buell said.

Buell started in the file room, learning names, clientele and types of investments. "I didn't appreciate the value of that work at the time, but I do now," he said. As the summers went on, Buell took on more and more responsibility. He would use software that Yahoo! and others offered, setting up hypothetical portfolios. "I decided to fully immerse myself in this business and was excited as I uncovered the opportunities it presented. BRWM enables and promotes pursuits based on such entrepreneurial ideologies, and that's why I'm here," Buell said.

Talk about your specific roles and what you're doing day-to-day at B. Riley Wealth Management:

MC: In the mornings, Carson talks to research analysts and gets an idea of what's happening so he can update our data; that is, the risk guide (macroeconomic data that gives us the market sentiment for different exchanges and industries of the market) and client-based data (information on holdings, performance and metrics), so we know in real time what is happening. We also leverage real-time information provided by Thompson Reuters, SmartStation® and First Clearing1.

Talk about what it's like working together as a grandfather and grandson team:

MC: When I was formerly at Merrill, I had to train a lot of people, but I never had one that came in with the level of knowledge, expertise, understanding, curiosity and desire that Carson has. It's been a really good experience for me.

CB: After my internship, there wasn't a tough transition period like the kind we sometimes hear about with other partners, because I already knew his demeanor. For us, the chemistry existed long before I even thought about becoming a professional.

What, if any, BRWM tools are you using?

MC: We use many of the tools B. Riley Wealth Management has to offer. We update our data every morning and try to figure out what we can expect from the market, and a lot of that is provided by research from B.Riley FBR2. We try and use the market caps that B. Riley FBR follows as well. Our portfolios are primarily managed for moderate growth, and while we have a lot of large caps, we also look for more exciting small-cap companies. B. Riley Financial is ideal for that.

What would you say distinguishes BRWM as a good place to work as opposed to other firms?

MC: The wealth management business has changed dramatically due to technology, and firms like B. Riley Wealth Management now have increased capabilities across the board. Big wirehouses used to have the advantage because they had comprehensive tools in-house. Technology has removed that barrier, and wirehouses are no longer able to move on information any faster than a smaller firm could.

The biggest difference now is the top-down, constraining culture that is found at wirehouses, where I ultimately started to feel held back by people who lacked experience analyzing my business. B. Riley Wealth Management has the advantage of being a regional firm in that I have autonomy and independence, yet I have a lot of support. We have seasoned experts here across all functions and industries to help us navigate effectively.

CB: The entrepreneurial spirit, the way we're structured, and the way we operate keeps B. Riley Wealth Management nimble. It's a huge advantage when you can call on upper management and they're happy to walk you through things. I can call on heads of departments and ask questions without being dismissed or judged.

How has technology changed your day to day over the past few years?

CB: My grandfather's entire business is run online, and he is more tech savvy than anyone I've ever seen at his age. All the research sources he uses for charting and analysis are hands-on and complex. Every day, I learn a new Excel or search function from him.

MC: I have always been very technical, and when spreadsheets first came out, even before Excel existed, I was performing analyses by spreading everything out and looking at it physically; things like supply and demand. The way we select stocks is technically driven, and the technological advancements in the industry over time have been welcome changes for me.

First Clearing is a trade name used by Wells Fargo Clearing Services, LLC, Member SIPC, a registered broker-dealer and non-bank affiliate of Wells Fargo & Company

  1. SmartStation® is a registered service mark of Wells Fargo & Company and used under license.
  2. Services provided through B. Riley FBR, Inc., a full-service investment bank and wholly-owned subsidiary of B. Riley Financial, Inc.