Then & Now: A career change lands Webb in family business

by Jeff Della Rosa (JDellaRosa@nwabj.com) 557 views 

Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the Sept. 30 issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Then & Now” is a profile of a past member of the Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class.

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When Jeremy Webb was ready for a career change, he found an opportunity at the financial services business his parents established in 1964.

Webb, 46, joined Webb & Associates Financial Group as a financial adviser in early 2013 after leaving a computer business he co-founded with lifelong friends. He explained that at both companies he helps people and must earn their trust before they become a client.

“I’m doing the same thing, just working with something different — working with money instead of computers,” he said. “That trust factor has to be very high on both of those. So I enjoy it. It was an easy transition.”

Webb & Associates offers securities and advisory services through San Diego-based Independent Financial Group LLC. The latter company has $2.94 billion assets under management and 15,620 accounts, according to a recent filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

In 1994, Webb, Matt Romine and Scott Mills started Interface Computer Center. They renamed the internet provider to IFWorld Inc. in 1998. The Northwest Arkansas Business Journal named Webb to its Forty Under 40 class in 1999.

“We did lots of web development, e-commerce and provided internet to several parts of the state. Down to Mountain View, Huntsville, Madison County area and all that,” he said. “We didn’t have much competition back then. We knew it was going to be kind of a short-lived deal on the internet access. We knew Cox would eventually come in and AT&T, and we wouldn’t be able to compete. We rode that horse as long as we could and phased out of it.”

A Fayetteville native, Webb earned a bachelor’s degree in computer systems engineering from the University of Arkansas in 1997. He left IFWorld in summer 2012 and interviewed at several technology jobs in the area but didn’t want to work in the corporate world.

“It’s just too structured, and they put you in a box,” he said. “You can’t work outside of that box. And I’m just a guy, [that] if I see it needs to be done, I’m going to do it.

“I don’t like the corporate structure where you have a salary and you get your little raises. I like to be totally in control of that. It’s got its pros and cons. If I work hard, I can reap all the benefits. If I don’t work, I don’t make nothing. I like that part of it as well. Riskier. It takes a different type of person to be an entrepreneur and be able to take that on. But it’s just me.”

Before Webb joined the family business, he passed all the financial services exams he needed to receive a securities license. He also passed an exam that would allow him to oversee other financial advisers.

Webb is one of five employees and two financial advisers who work at Webb & Associates. The office at 530 N. College Ave., in Fayetteville has been in the same place since it was established.

Grade school teachers comprise the majority of the company’s more than 1,000 accounts, Webb said. That’s been his father’s niche, and Webb & Associates understands how Arkansas teacher retirement works.

As an independent financial services company, it can use any investments. Other wealth management companies might be working with investment companies. Representatives of those businesses might be told to recommend to their clients those investment companies. “I don’t want someone to tell me what I can do with my clients,” Webb said. “So we can use anything. The disadvantage is we don’t have the name recognition. Since dad’s been doing it so long, that’s not an issue.”

Over the next three to five years, Webb said he plans to increase the company’s assets under management by 50%. A lot of the growth in the business is from referrals. He said he intends to remain in the business for 20 to 25 years before he retires.

Webb supports the Ozark Literacy Council. He spends his free time traveling, canoeing on rivers, boating on Beaver Lake and riding all-terrain vehicles.

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