Donald M. Jankowski, a Raymond James financial advisor and vice president of Gateway Bank of Southwest Florida, in Sarasota, is not the kind to shy away from a challenge. Four years ago—at age 45—he decided to train for the New York City Marathon, a grueling 26-mile run through the city's five boroughs. Jankowski, who was not a serious runner, not only signed up for a training program, but also volunteered to raise funds for Team Continuum, a charity that supports families of cancer patients. In the end, he completed the race in just over five hours.

"This business of being a financial advisor is a lot like running the New York City Marathon," says Jankowski, who continues to run a few miles several times a week to stay in shape. "You have to have goals, be committed and be self-motivated."

A native New Yorker, who has lived the last 30 years in Florida, Jankowski took on another big challenge a year ago—leaving SunTrust Bank.

Jankowski had worked with the big regional institution as an advisor for just over five years, but decided to move to Gateway Bank, a small start-up, less than 1% of SunTrust's size. It was a gutsy move. Jankowski, who has a wife and three kids ages 6 to 18, had been pulling in $1 million a year in production at SunTrust. He liked the bank and his job and had a solid and growing book of satisfied clients. That's a lot to leave behind. Jankowski had to sign a one-year, no-compete clause when he left SunTrust, which prevented him from asking clients to leave with him.

WORTH THE RISK
But Jankowski decided it was worth the risk to jump from a ship where he was one of hundreds of advisors, to a new and much smaller bank where he would essentially be the entire investment program. Indeed, that was one of the draws. "They were giving me more autonomy," he says. In addition, he would be working with his former SunTrust boss and friend, Rick Zimmerman, who had moved to Gateway when it first started up two years earlier. "At the time, he had invited me to go with him, but back in 2008, I wasn't ready to jump to a brand-new start-up," says Jankowski, adding that Zimmerman kept inviting him to join the firm for two years. But a year ago, when an advisor departed Gateway leaving a $20 million book of business for Jankowski to adopt. "There was a window of opportunity which I didn't want to miss," he says.

Jankowski's focus on high-net-worth clients is in sync with that of Gateway. The new bank has three branches and serves 375,000 people in the Sarasota area. Of its $138 million in deposits, almost half ($60 million) are from wealthy customers. And Zimmerman, who heads the private wealth and wealth management operations—as well as loans and deposits for the high-net-worth—sends Jankowski a lot of referrals. Furthermore the Gateway job offered a higher payout, although Jankowski would have to cover expenses he didn't have at SunTrust. "The way I figured, my expenses will stay fairly flat, but as my book grows, my incremental income will grow," he says. "In my life, every time I've sacrificed shorter term and thought longer term, it's paid off."

Jankowski also took his SunTrust team of three to Gateway with him: Mike Feduccia is a producing branch manager who coordinates marketing and compliance for the team. Vince Forte covers the two other branches and some smaller clients and Jeff Hanson is a broker assistant.

Jankowski's team wasn't the only defector from SunTrust—about $30 million in client accounts voluntarily moved with him to Gateway. But his income took a hit. "I'll probably end up this first year with about $500,000 in production," half of his SunTrust production, he says. "We hope to do $700,000 in production this year, and then in 2012 to get back to $1 million." However, by then, Jankowski figures he'll be earning more than he ever did at SunTrust because he's keeping more of his production.

In his first year, Jankowski is back to $110 million in AUM, thanks to getting the investment business of one Gateway banking customer, the CEO of a local company who had $60 million in company stock. He appreciates the flow of wealthy clients he's getting. "I like working with clients, not finding them," he says. "When a loan officer does good work for a lawyer or a doctor, it's easy for them to refer me for their investment business. I'm all about those relationships."

So far Gateway has not been big on referrals from the banking staff, Jankowski says. "There was almost none of that going on when I came here. Just in the private banking side. But now we're working at training people in the bank to refer customers."

Meanwhile he's already getting a lot of referrals from existing clients. "Over the past year at Gateway, a lot of opportunities for new business opened up," Jankowski says. "I got probably 75% of my clients from bank referrals, and the other 25% from client referrals." About 70% of Jankowski's business is fee-based, he says, "so it's really all about providing service, not about doing transactions."

A key to developing business is getting clients to open up about all their assets. "One opening is retirement planning," he says. "Another is estate planning." For example, an elderly man came in with a $7 million portfolio of mostly municipal bonds, he says. "He wasn't happy with the person who was managing his money." Jankowski looked over the assets and noticed that it was divided between an account that was jointly in the name of the client and his wife, and a separate trust in his name. "I pointed out to him that if he left the account held jointly, when he died, that money would go 100% to his wife," says Jankowski. "He said he didn't want that because of concern that the 77-year-old woman might mismanage it. He preferred to have it controlled by her and the attorney for the trust, who happened to be the chair of Gateway Bank."

Several months later, the client passed away, but Jankowski learned that he had changed the title of the assets to his own name, so they went into the trust. The trust attorney then recommended that Jankowski manage the whole $7 million for the widow.

The move to Gateway has had its bumps. "Some things about the transition were harder than I thought they'd be. It took me a week just to learn to use the email," he laughs. "Most firms give you a year to adjust. The big thing is making sure that you're going to get referrals from the bank. They can promise you high payouts and bonuses, but over the long run, it's getting those new clients that is the important thing."

And as this one-time marathon runner will tell you, the long run is what it's all about.

Vitals
Name:
Donald M. Jankowski
Bank/TPM: Gateway Bank of Southwest Florida
Location: Sarasota
2010 production: $520,000
2009 production: $810,000
2010 AUM: $110 million
2009 AUM: $80 million
Product mix: 75% managed assets, 10% annuities, 16% stocks and bonds
No. of clients: 80
No. of bank branches: 3