Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the Nov. 21 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.
Brian Cole, president of Signature Private Wealth Management, has led the investment division of Signature Bank of Arkansas since starting it from scratch in 2006.
In 2002, Cole managed the investment and trust division for Arvest Bank in Fayetteville when the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal named him to the Forty Under 40 class.
Cole left Arvest to start Signature Bank’s investment division one year after Gary Head, president and CEO of Arvest’s Fayetteville market, started Signature Bank.
“We opened a Raymond James office for Signature Bank back in May of 2006,” he said. “At the time, it was just my assistant, who came with me from Arvest, and me. We have six financial advisers, including myself, and we manage $500 million in assets.”
Most of those assets are managed for Northwest Arkansas clients, but the office has clients nationwide, from California to South Carolina. It has about 1,700 accounts and manages assets for about 700 households. Total revenues have risen to more than $3 million annually.
Along with his role as president of Signature Private Wealth Management, Cole serves clients as a financial adviser and is the branch manager for the Raymond James office. He oversees five advisers and a sales assistant and manages the recruiting and compliance for the office.
“We have a unique setup here to most brokerage offices in that our group functions more as a team,” he said. “We’re not a group of investment advisers competing against each other for business. We function as a team, which provides a better alternative for the client because they’re not just getting one person’s opinion about what they should do with their investments.”
Multiple advisers can provide advice to clients, and they can speak to anyone on the team, he said. Each client has a key adviser with whom they work, but the advisers help each other with their clients.
Cole’s office is at the Signature Bank location in Fayetteville, and Signature Private Wealth Management also has offices at the bank’s locations in Bentonville, Rogers and Springdale. It has plans to open offices at the bank’s new locations in Harrison and Jonesboro. He also wants an office at Signature Bank’s bilingual bank, Banco Sí.
“I think that’s going to be a tremendous opportunity for the bank,” he said. “It would be a huge opportunity for our group as well.”
Before joining the financial services industry, Cole was an attorney for six years. He spent the first two years after earning his law degree as a deputy prosecuting attorney for Benton County and was in private practice after that.
He said he handled estate planning and had good clients, including a bank, but wasn’t enjoying the work. He joined the bank after its president asked him to come on board following the departure of the person managing its trust division. He earned his securities licenses in early 2002 and developed an interest in managing money.
“When I had the opportunity to leave Arvest and start the investment division for Signature, it seemed like the thing to do,” he said. “Without question, the best career decision I ever made.”
He was grateful to Head, who hired him at Arvest and Signature banks, for having trust and confidence in Cole. Without Head, Cole said he likely wouldn’t have taken those opportunities.
“I feel very lucky to still work with him on a daily basis,” he said. “He and I office very close together here in the bank.”
Cole, 54, said his background as an attorney has helped with estate planning and speaking to clients about wills and trusts. Advisers coordinate with clients’ attorneys to complete the documents, and Cole said he’s involved in the process from beginning to end.
While he no longer practices as an attorney, he maintains his Arkansas law license.
After reaching the $500 million mark earlier this year, he said his next big goal is to reach $1 billion in assets under management.
Cole and his wife, Missy, have five children. An avid golfer, he said his eldest plays golf professionally, while the second oldest plays in college.