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Stifel's recruiter finds strength in the heat of athletic competition

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John Pierce got into wealth management when he joined Merrill Lynch in 1993, after he sold a childcare company he started right out of college. He wasn't inclined to work for the firm he just sold, and was enticed into working for Merrill by a friend.

He never expected he’d stay there for 14 years.

In 2000 he transitioned into a leadership position, resident vice president of the Philadelphia complex, where he felt he could make a bigger impact. He was, he says, inspired by the “optimistic leaders that hired me.” He was attracted to their focus and positivity beyond a goal-driven mindset, and knew he could provide value in the same way.

But just as he enjoyed being a leader, he also enjoyed the dinner and lunch meetings that came along with the job — which began to show on his waistline. He gained over 40 pounds before deciding he needed to focus on his health -- not only for himself, but also for his family.

In the summer of 2005 he made it a goal to complete in the Philadelphia Insurance Triathlon, now known as TriRock. His wife and three kids cheered him on to the finish.

From then on, he was hooked on the triathlon experience. He became determined to accomplish even bigger challenges, eventually moving on to do a half-Ironman competition. He enjoyed the discipline it took to participate in these competitions, and says being in shape gave him a self-confidence that was a boon to his job.

Pierce finds he does much of his best thinking on his training runs.

“I don’t think people realize how busy they are, and have no time to think,” he says.

In the 140.6 miles of an Ironman triathlon, there are times when you feel low and your attitude becomes negative, Pierce says. He turns this around and reminds himself that “we all have doubts, but if you’ve done something before, you know you can do it again.”

He says the discipline it takes to work, have a family and train has taught him how to prioritize his tasks by importance and stay organized. This mindset helps him work though all the challenges that pop up with his business, particularly in the end stages of recruiting new talent.

He finished his eighth Ironman this past summer at Ironman Lake Placid. He doesn’t see his triathlon lifestyle waning, even given his demanding position as head of recruiting for Stifel, which he joined in April after working a similar position at Ameriprise for a little over six years. Coincidentally, what he found after arriving at Stifel, he says, is that “most of the leadership are athletes” too.

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