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17 min read

Robb Baldwin CEO of TradePMR Interviewed by Matt Halloran

Feb 13, 2019 2:05:33 PM


Highlights of the interview with Robb include:

  • Robb Baldwin’s history in financial services
  • Robb Baldwin’s journey to becoming President and CEO of TradePMR
  • Robb Baldwin’s frustration with custodial offerings in the early 90s
  • What makes TradePMR truly unique and different
  • The type of advisor TradePMR works with
  • Robb Baldwin’s investment philosophy: Why the fiduciary model is so important
  • How RIAs can use TradePMR as a marketing tool
  • Robb Baldwin’s financial philosophy: Why custodial oversight matters
  • How an advisor can reach TradePMR to take the next step


Full transcript:

Welcome to the Top Advisor Marketing Podcast. This special series was recorded live at the Market Council Summit in Las Vegas, Nevada. Listen in as we talk with leaders in our industry represented at this wonderful event. Now, onto the show!

Matt Halloran: Hello and welcome to the Top Advisor Marking Podcast. This is Matt Halloran and we are at the Market Council Summit still in Las Vegas at the magnificent Four Seasons Hotel. We’re going to talk to Robb Baldwin now from TradePMR and your official title is what?

Robb Baldwin: I’m the president and CEO of TradePMR.

Robb Baldwin’s history in financial services:

MH: So we have, you know, the biggest of the big here with TradePMR but he was telling me some amazing stories. We’re going to jump right into that if that’s ok. I want you to tell us about your history in financial services because it goes back farther than I think are listeners will be prepared for. So, Robb tell us about it.

RB: Absolutely. When I was twelve years old, I was fortunate to have a grandfather who loved to invest in the market and he would sit me on his lap in his living room and teach me how to read the Wall Street Journal. You know, back in those days, everything was trading by an eighth and a quarter and so forth and he would educate me on the buying and sell side and what stocks he held and why he held them and I just got the greatest education. And then he would even further that by taking me to his broker’s office and I would be able to sit there with he and his broker as they would kick back and forth ideas of what they thought they should buy and what they thought they should sell. And my grandpa was one of those who would never like to sell anything so I always got a kick out of that. Even if she had a little bit of bad news and she was educating him, he never wanted to sell anything. Well, you know that broker would always ask me these little questions you know to try to keep me entertained as a little kid in the room and she looked at me one time. She said, “Son, what do you want to be when you grow up?”, and I said, “You know, I’d really like to be a broker like you.” And she said “Oh!”. She gave me this whole run down of how noble the profession was and how great it was for her and her family. She really enjoyed it. It gave her a lifestyle that she chose and she absolutely loved the profession and helping people invest and do the right thing. And you know, I kind of just looked at her and I don't know why I even said it and I looked at her and said, “But I’d really kind of rather own the firm than just be a broker.” And my grandfather, I remember, he like grabbed me by the ear and took me outside after it was over and said, “Son, you just don't say things like that.” And I said, “But I would rather own the firm.” You know, anyway, so that's exactly what happened and lo and behold, forty years later, I’m at a cocktail party with the CEO of the brokerage firm my grandfather used and I tell him this story; that I used to go…told him you know the whole run down of going to my grandfather's broker and being educated by her and the questions she asked me and he looked at me and he said her name isn’t “So and so”, is it? And I said, “Absolutely, it is!” And he said, “She's still with us. She’s seventy-eight years old. She shows up at seven a.m. She has high heel shoes on every day. She still loves this profession and is very successful at it.” And I went, “Wow! what a small world! It's amazing how things come back around in life.” He connected the two of us. It was a home run and I was able to kind of tell her really the influence she had on me back at twelve and thirteen years old. But I truly do give my grandfather a lot of credit for educating me and entertaining me and showing me this business at a very young age so that I knew exactly what I wanted to do when I grew up.

Robb Baldwin’s journey to becoming President and CEO of TradePMR:

MH: So, let's talk about that with TradePMR. Tell us about the journey of you getting to be the president and CEO of this company.

RB: Absolutely. Well, you know as a registered investment advisor, first of all, let me just say I came in through the broker dealer route. I discovered the RIA business. Again, it's one of those stories where I won a contest from a wholesaler at a mutual fund company and he gave me an Easter basket and in the Easter basket was a magazine, as well as all these other things that I think he collected from conferences like the one we’re at today. And you know, he presented me with this Easter basket and in there was a magazine. It was one of the very first Investment Advisor magazines that came out. The cover was, “How to begin your own RIA”. So you gotta understand, this is the early nineties. I read that article. I knew what an RIA was because Peter Lynch at Fidelity Magellan was an RIA, so I knew what that concept was. I read the article, resigned in two weeks, started my own RIA practice and went into business. I thought it was the greatest investment; the greatest business opportunity in the investment arena of all time. I absolutely love this business.

Robb’s frustration with custodial offerings in the early 90s:

And I realized then that I had to have a custodian, so I had to go find the custodians that I wanted. I did that.  I, you know, used all of them that I possibly could and I found out really, they weren’t catering to guys like me. As a matter of fact, it was cheaper to take a two thousand dollar account and open an IRA or an account with them; I would’ve gotten a cheaper ticket than somebody who had 50 or 100 million dollars could get.  And I just didn’t feel like that was fair game. I didn’t feel like they catered to the institutional market and after a few instances, I decided in 1997 to start TradePMR. So, we founded TradePMR twenty years ago this year, actually we just celebrated October 31st was our 20th year celebration of our company. And we cater to registered investment advisors, fee-based advisors who are fiduciaries; about 750 offices around the country today. And it’s something I just absolutely believe in and am passionate about. I think this marketplace is the best place for people to invest. I believe in using fiduciaries for my own accounts. I believe in using fiduciaries period. I think it’s just absolutely the only way to invest your money and you know, to have that guy 100% on your side is the only way; not 50% on my side half the time and 50% on somebody else’s side, etc. etc. I just want…I believe in the fiduciary side. I believe in this model; so for 20 years now we’ve supported it. We are very big in technology so we built an off-the-shelf technology, all in-house to where people have everything they need to go into business as an RIA and then they can figure out if they want to add on other software systems that may be more powerful CRMs or more powerful portfolio management tools, etc and we plug and play with all the vendors like our competition does.

MH: Ok, well, first off, congratulations on 20 years.

RB: Thank you.

What makes TradePMR truly unique and different

MH: That’s just phenomenal. What makes you truly unique and different?

RB: You know, we have kind of created a niche in our market to where we consider ourselves boutique. We only deal with so many firms. We really won’t go past a certain number of firms. We’ve stayed under a thousand firms and that’s our niche. We want to make sure we know everybody by name; their office assistants by name. We want to know how they practice. We want to have a relationship manager who visits them routinely and understands their business model. It’s just a little bit different way of doing business and it’s something that we pride ourselves in and it’s worked for us and you know, guys who have stayed with us and been with us a long time, you know, they understand that model; they understand the difference we provide in this arena.

The Type of Advisor TradePMR works with

MH: Now you gave us a brief glimpse into what your ideal client is. Let’s unpack that a little bit more. If you could wave a magic wand and say, “This is exactly who I want”, what would that person look like?

RB: You know, it’s a fee-based individual of course that fits our business model; typically 500 million and up is who we are striving to work with and guys who are growing. And so, you know, that’s our existing business. We want them to be about 500 million and up that are moving in our direction but if somebody comes to us and they say, “We’re growing. We moving in the right direction and we have the business model to grow. We’re willing to give those guys a chance too. We want to make sure we’re just working with firms that are up and coming and growing and consistent and not stagnant and sad and really not doing anything.

How RIAs can use TradePMR as a marketing tool:

MH: (Laughing) Yeah, I don’t want stagnant and sad either. Yeah..that uh…Now, how does TradePMR…This is a marketing podcast and it’s called the “Top Advisor Marketing Podcast”. So, how can an RIA use you as a marketing tool?

RB: Use us as a marketing tool? Well, you know, I think any advisor who uses us will at least be able to go to their client base and say, “I work with a firm that gets stuff done on your behalf because they do that for me.” And you know, we take a lot of pride in that. We answer the phone when advisors call, as I said. We return responses quickly and efficiently. We want to make sure that it’s not just the advisors understanding that that’s what we’re all about but the client understanding that’s what we’re all about. And I think a lot of clients get frustrated with advisors because they can’t, they’re not the end result of getting things done. They’re not the end result of getting something handled that that client has requested. So, you know, it’s a big marketing sign for our advisors to be able to say, “The firm I work with is different. They do get things done. They’re very responsive. They can make sure that your needs are met.

MH: Now, one of the questions that we ask usually is, “Who’s on your team and what do they do?” but (laughing) you have a robust team!

RB: We do. We do have a robust team so it’s a little odd for that but we have a great team. We’re centrally located in Florida. We’re able to recruit from a lot of universities there so we get a lot of talent. We do internships and we grow people up and we’re kind of able to select and pick you know, those that are our caliber; people we want to uh, grow with in business long term. We’ve, uh…Our COO was actually an intern ten years ago, so it’s fantastic to see that actually occurring and to watch guys be able to progress in the business in a town that that usually doesn’t occur in.

Robb Baldwin’s Financial Philosophy:

MH: Sure, sure. What is your financial philosophy? Now, it’s interesting because you were sitting on your grandfather’s knee all those years ago. Has that evolved a lot since then or…? Tell us how you look at things in that way.

RB: You know, really, my philosophy is pretty simple. I firmly believe in having a custodian. I mean, I think the financial world is experiencing the “9-11 Crisis”. It’s like we’re all of the sudden forgetting 2008.

MH: (Laughing) Yes, I absolutely agree with you.

RB: And you know, I don’t want to ever forget 9-11 and I don’t ever want to forget 2008. And in 2008, it was very, very obvious to me that we could have, you know, gotten through that situation; the Madoff issue and so forth, so much easier if we had custodial rules to where advisors, number one, were forced to use a custodian. Why are these advisors taking custody? What purpose is it for them to open a checking account and get you to deposit your funds in it so they can then do what they feel like they should do? I really don’t understand that model and to me that’s a real challenging thing from a fiduciary standpoint to be able to support and to be able to have compliance over and to regulate. It’s extremely difficult. And so, that led us to a lot of consequences. And yet today, we’re pushing down that road again and we’re seeing advisors start to kick the tires saying, “Hey, I want to take custody and I want to do this and I want to start investing in these different projects.”; everything that could blow up in their face. And the regulators, we see it all the time. They’re coming to us to get data on these advisors so they can put them under scrutiny.

MH: Yeah.

Robb Baldwin’s Investment philosophy

RB: And you know it’s crazy for people to do that. So my investment philosophy is always use a fiduciary advisor, always use somebody who doesn’t touch your money and puts it in a custodial account somewhere else that they can’t touch and do anything with except for advise you on how to manage that asset. Even if they take discretion; that’s a-okay. Let them take discretion and manage the assets according to your stipulations but put it with a third party to where you know they can’t touch it.

MH: Gotcha

RB: I mean, greed always comes about in bad terms. You put money in a person’s hands that have never experienced that kind of assets and all of the sudden, they have 30, 50 million dollars, things can go bad really, really quickly.

MH: Yeah. Alright Robb, we’re going to switch gears now and talk a little bit more about you. Now, as you know being very successful in business, people really like to get to know who they’re working with, even from a CEO level, right? So when you’re not working, what do you do for fun?

RB: Well, number one, I love to spend time with my children and I love to play golf. So, that’s really the fun aspects of my life; and travel. So, you know, I do quite a bit of traveling to go sight-seeing and to do the things that uh, you know, that we all try to do when we have a little bit of free time. And I love to spend time on my boat. I have a little boat in St. Petersburg, Florida and I love to get down there and get on the boat, so that’s one of my hobbies.

MH: Okay, let’s see…Who is your hero?

RB: Wow. You know, that’s a really challenging… I have a lot of heroes, especially in business. I have a lot of heroes from a personal standpoint. I still have to go back to my grandfather to me as my biggest hero.

MH: Great.

RB: He’s someone who laid out a plan of you know, how to live right and have fun, have good morals and just do the right thing all the time and enjoy life. So, the philosophy of “Work hard, play hard”? He lived it to the fullest.

MH: If you had all the money in the world you ever needed, would you do anything differently?

RB: Hmm…No. And you know, this is not to be bragadocious in any way but I feel like I have all the money in the world now. Not that I do, but life is good. And would I change anything if I had more money? No, I’d still be doing the same thing because I still have the same passions and same ambitions to accomplish; you know, serving this community of registered investment advisors and the fiduciary model. That’s my goal. I want to make sure that those individuals who want to walk that path have a platform that services them with everything that’s in me; and doesn’t compete with them in any way, shape or form.

MH: Ok. Favorite person in history and why?

RB: Hmm…Always challenging but same period of time- My father played football for Bear Bryant.

MH: (Laughing)

RB: And I got to spend a lot of time with him in the summers and I always have admired him for one reason: He was a winner. And when you’re around people who know how to win, it’s a strange thing but everybody can do a lot of things really, really well but when you know how to win, that edge is something that I want to surround myself with. I want to be around guys who know how to win when the pressure is mounting and large as it’s ever been on them. I had the opportunity once to play golf with Justin Rose who ended up winning the Olympics you know the next year; winning the gold medal. And to see how he reacts under pressure was amazing. And, you know, it’s that mentality that these guys have to where they’re not out to play golf for fun. They’re not entering a tournament to place. Every single time they go out, they go out to win and I think that should be our model in business. And understand that not every time are you going to win but you know if you shoot hard to accomplish your goal and to do great things, great things happen for you. If you shoot for mediocrity, you’re going to get mediocrity. And I love winners like that and he always talked in very, very positive light about life, about ambition, about what you’re able to do in life and a key that I always noticed for Bear Bryant: everyone in the room that played ball for him, they were all successful people.

MH: Ah! Wow!

RB: It was amazing.

MH: Well, Ok, so that’s my next question. When you look at the word “success”, it means a lot to a lot of different people, what does it mean to you?

RB: Living life to the fullest, working hard and playing hard, enjoying everything you do, being able to work in an industry that you absolutely love and work a job that you absolutely love. There once was a phrase, where people said, you know you never want to just be in a job all your life because that just means you’re “just over broke”; that’s what job stands for. And I read that one time when I was probably 17 or 18 years old and I said, “Well, I don’t want to do that. You know, I don’t want to live 40 or 50 years and be able to look back in the rearview mirror and say, “I wonder what could’ve happened.” I never want to live that kind of a life. So, to me, success is driving yourself and living the life that says, “I gave it my best and from that, happiness comes.

MH: That’s fantastic.

RB: No regret.

MH: Now, most people who have achieved your level of success, have a “go-to” thing; a book, a TED talk, a saying. What is that one thing you have that you recommend to family/friends/clients/other professionals that you hang out with?

RB: Wow. That’s huge! I will tell you, I kind of do it all.

MH: Oh!

RB: I want to have words in my head that are positive, uplifting, motivational, educational and that will change me and you know, I’m just a real big believer in that and so I listen to podcasts all the time. My car, I don’t listen to the radio. You know, um, I admire people who love music and I admire people who can sing every word to every song and in tune, that’s just not me. But uh, I really enjoy listening to positive, motivational uh talks of people who have done great things and accomplished great things, Uh, I forget…”How I Started This” is one of my favorites, uh, where people talk about how they started their company and what adversity they went through, the objections they had to overcome in order to do what they did; those are always fascinating to me.

MH: I love those too. Name one thing that most people don’t know about you.

RB: Mmm…Probably that I’m a pilot.

MH: Oh!

RB: And I love to fly. And I think that surprises most people but yeah, I started flying in 1992 and I still fly today and enjoy that a whole lot and it’s kind of one of those things that if I can get up in the air at about 4 or 5 thousand feet on one of those days when you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, you can look down and go, “Wow, my troubles are really small.”

MH: (Laughing) What is your mantra/motto or something that you say to yourself when you have diverted from your path? How do you hit that hard re-set button?

RB: Mmm…Hard re-set…I will literally go away.

MH: Okay.

RB: And I’ll go into solitude for a period of time where I can regroup myself and do whatever I need to do to cover any kind of adversity, make any kind of dramatic change, um, even change in habits. You know, when you have a routine and you realize, “Boy, this routine is just not working.” It doesn’t matter if it’s a workout or eating or even your work hours, when things don’t work, I think sometimes you just gotta go and re-evaluate. I just go into a hole, I figure it out and I you know, come back out stronger. That’s just my method.

MH: What is your proudest achievement?

RB: Wow. I would say truthfully, it’s overcoming all of the adversities that come at you as a business owner; overcoming criticisms and turning them into motivation. Um, loving the fact of being able to turn, “There’s no way you could ever do that. That will never happen” into “I did it and it’s done.” Those are things that I have to…and you know I hate to even say it out loud…but those are things that absolutely feed me.

MH: Sure.

RB: And I think it feeds a lot of business owners.

MH: It does.

RB: And it’s one of those things that when I hang it up one day, I’m going to be able to look back and say, “I did it. I did it the right way. “

MH: Mm, hmm

RB: And I did it, not for myself. I did it for others and with others and we, as a team, did something that people didn’t believe we could do.

MH: Sure.

RB: And we challenged the world of the big dogs. You know, our competition, everyone knows who they are.

MH: Yeah

RB: And no one knows who we are because we don’t service a retail channel. They service retail so they’re known in every household. We don’t service retail, so we’re not gonna be advertising to retail. So to be able to fight that fight and overcome it and be successful and succeed, is literally what I would have to say is my greatest achievement.

How an advisor can reach TradePMR to take the next step:

MH: Well, I don’t think you need to be apologetic at all because our listeners are going to totally resonate with everything you just said, Man. That was fantastic. Now, you have the attention and we have a pretty good listenership, who should contact you and what is the best way for them to reach out?

RB: You know, any individual who has thought about starting a registered investment advisor firm who maybe is currently in a wirehouse or broker dealer situation, wants to go into the RIA space and wants that boutique custodial feel, wants the same feel as they had in their glory days, um, I will say this to you, every advisor I meet, always has a story to tell me of a firm they were with that they wished still existed

MH: Oh

RB: Because they were like, “That was the firm. That was the model. They serviced me the best. They were the…I had a relationship there.” We do things differently. I give every advisor my cell phone number. I want them to be able to text me, call me, if they have any issues. You know, and guess what? My phone doesn’t ring very often in that scenario but I want them to have it because I see that in them when I go visit them. So, anyone who wants to start in the investment advisor world in a fiduciary standpoint, fee-only basis, that’s who should contact us.

MH: Fantastic, Robb. Thank you so much for being on the show.

RB: Absolutely. I enjoyed being here.

MH: Alright, if you have not subscribed yet, make sure you click that “Subscribe Now” button below and if you do know anybody who would like to talk to the people at TradePMR, please make sure they reach out via the contact information in the show notes to find out more about who they are and what they do. So, from everyone at TradePMR, Iris and Top Advisor Marketing, this is Matt Halloran and we’ll see you on the other side of the mic very soon.


We hope you enjoyed this podcast interview with TradePMR President and CEO, Robb Baldwin. If you’re interested in learning more about becoming a fiduciary or growing your financial advisory practice, click here to begin the conversation.



This material is not intended to be relied on as investment advice and does not constitute a recommendation of any particular investment or investment strategy or an inducement to buy or sell any securities.  The opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessary reflect the opinion of Trade-PMR, Inc.  Any opinions expressed are as of the date of this letter and are subject to change, without notice.  Any reliance on the information herein is done solely at the discretion of the viewer.

Trade-PMR, member FINRA/SIPC

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