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54 years after getting her Series 1 license, advisor finds new BD and enterprise group 'exhilarating'

Clay Craven and Billy Ricketts
Financial advisors Clay Craven and his grandmother Billy Ricketts helped launch a new Greensboro, North Carolina-based office of the Woodbury Financial Services enterprise GCG Wealth Management.

Financial advisor Billy Ricketts has been told she was the first woman to be a registered representative in her state. However, she’ll tell you that she hasn’t checked and can’t confirm that.

At 98, Ricketts is most likely the elder stateswoman of wealth management. But she calls her recent move to affiliate with a new broker-dealer and a fast-growing group “exhilarating.”

“We have a bright new beautiful office,” says Ricketts, who went independent from Wells Fargo Advisors with GCG Wealth Management under Advisor Group’s Woodbury Financial Services. “I don’t know how much longer I can work. I hope for quite a while.”

Ricketts started her financial career in 1959 with Equitable Securities after she felt the urge to help people who couldn’t pay their medical bills at the hospital where she was working. She obtained a Series 1 license six years later, according to FINRA BrokerCheck.

Her grandson Clay Craven has been her business partner for the past 18 years. They joined three other advisors who also left Wells Fargo to start GCG’s new office in her lifelong home of Greensboro, North Carolina. The five advisors have a combined $330 million in client assets.

Charlotte-based GCG’s founding advisor Joel Burris calls Ricketts an example of a "true Southern lady." Her local knowledge will help the office of supervisory jurisdiction-like group establish a foothold as it carries out its plan to expand to a dozen advisors at the new Greensboro office next year, he says.

“What really is amazing is to see her work ethic: She's there before the market opens, she just absolutely loves the business and loves her clients,” Burris says. “That really does transcend to the rest of us as well.”

GCG — which has some 40 advisors managing $1 billion in seven offices — itself aligned with Woodbury earlier this year when the Advisor Group IBD retained about 400 advisors from Questar Capital under a preferred affiliation deal.

The enterprise has since become Woodbury’s second largest group, notes Burris, who stated a goal of being the biggest Woodbury enterprise in three years and the biggest with Advisor Group in five. Its option for reps to be W-2 employees of GCG also makes it different than many IBD groups.

Joey Hagner, GCG’s head of business development, had met the five advisors who opened the office in July during his prior tenure as a wholesaler with Lord Abbett. Fellow advisors George Harris, Garrett Mullins and Shell York round out the group that affiliated in April.

“They didn't want to have to actually open their own office,” Hagner says. “I immediately thought of them and set up the meeting, sure enough it was a great fit. They wanted a really nice hybrid, best-of-both-worlds platform.”

Representatives for Wells Fargo declined to comment on the exits by the five advisors earlier in the year.

GCG Wealth Management, Greensboro
GCG Wealth Management opened its seventh office in Greensboro, North Carolina, investing more than $100,000 in the 7,000-square-foot buildout for the space it expects to eventually have 12 advisors.

GCG reached its current size from only half as many client assets at the end of 2017, having added a location in Winter Park, Florida, before the one in Greensboro. The firm has obtained a trademark for the phrase “Advisor-Preneur” to describe its blend of services, according to Burris.

“We are currently in the middle of disrupting the two traditional wealth management business models,” Hagner adds. “We picked and chose what we liked about each of them and brought them together.”

For Ricketts, the decision to affiliate came down to looking “to do something different, start something new” in planning for the future under Craven. She traced her grandson’s interest in investing to one day he spent in her office when was out sick from school.

“He was completely fascinated. And from that day until this, he's loved the stock market,” she says. “He's always had an interest in it, since he was 10. He took some of his money after he had spent some time with me that day — if I remember correctly, it was General Motors.”

Ricketts had been affiliated for more than a quarter century with First Union Capital Markets before it later merged with Wachovia and got acquired by Wells Fargo. While she’s been serving some clients for as much as 50 years, she says she’s still open to taking on new ones.

Asked what advice she would give to other advisors just coming into the business, she says they should keep their focus on knowing the clients and being truthful with them.

“Just be careful; check your facts; don't jump into something without getting correct information,” Ricketts says. “I think that is the most important thing: To know what they want, what their ambition is and be sure that you keep them informed about facts if there's a change in something they want to buy or have bought.”

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