Pat O'Connell, Executive Vice President of Ameriprise Advisor Group, discusses his 22 years in the securities business.

I was raised near Pennsauken, N.J., a hard-working, blue-collar, middle-class town. I had a great upbringing. My parents are awesome and they provided my older sister and I with a tremendous family life, but I didn't grow up around money.

I did read a lot of newspapers and magazines though, which exposed me to the idea that there was a bigger world out there. When I was maybe 16 or 17, I read The Art of the Deal by Donald Trump. It exposed me to a world I didn't even know existed. Not a world of lavish living, but a world of real estate deals and building things. It opened my eyes about how there are people out there doing really different things in the business world. That accelerated my desire to study business.

Another influence on my career path came from a mentor I had at one of my first jobs. I spent every summer from when I was 13 to 19 working at a local public golf course. I was the guy who cleaned the traps and did all the grunt work. At that time, the golf industry was really big, and I thought that was the business I wanted to pursue after college.

The man who ran the golf course—he just retired a couple of years ago—gave me some advice when I told him my plan. He was a great mentor, a great boss, and he cared about me immensely. He said, "Don't be so narrowly focused. There's a bigger world out there." I would not be sitting here right now if he hadn't course-corrected me and told me to have a broader horizon.

I got both my undergraduate degree in business and my MBA from Widener University. I got into the financial advisory business because my girlfriend's—now my wife's—brother was an advisor with Ameriprise, then called IDS. I was just getting out of graduate school and looking at a variety of opportunities, but the idea of giving advice really intrigued me, and that's why I pursued the business.

That was 22 years ago and I've been here ever since. The reason I have stuck with this business, and why even after a week like I just had, where I might be on my 75th or 80th hour, is that you can have the heart of a social worker and the mind of a capitalist. If you do your work well, you can achieve all your goals while helping people achieve their goals. There are not a lot of occupations where you can do that.

As Told to Kris Frieswick

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