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Meet Larry Elkin of Palisades Hudson Financial Group

Today we’d like to introduce you to Larry M. Elkin.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Larry. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
At the end of 1992, I decided to take my professional life into my own hands. I left my position as a senior manager at mega-accounting firm Arthur Andersen and opened my own office. After others joined me, that company was known as Larry M. Elkin & Co., the enterprise that would eventually become Palisades Hudson Financial Group.

For the first year, I worked alone in a small office in a converted movie house. Having very few clients at first left me with a lot of time, so I started a newsletter and wrote a book: “Financial Self-Defense for Unmarried Couples,” the first book to specifically address that topic. An executive at Bankers Trust noticed the newsletter, and hired me for a series of consulting projects. That kept me busy until a large paper company retained me to help its senior executives manage their personal financial matters. Those early projects led to more business, and Palisades Hudson was on its way.

Right around that time, I hired my first employees. From the beginning, most of Palisades Hudson’s staff joined the firm early in their careers, often straight out of school. In those early years, everyone worked within arm’s reach in the firm’s original New York office. But Palisades Hudson didn’t stay local for long.

Palisades Hudson opened its first branch office in Fort Lauderdale in 2005, established by then-manager, now Managing Vice President Shomari Hearn. The Florida office became company headquarters, and my own home base, in 2016; by then, Palisades Hudson had launched several more successful branches nationwide.

Today, the firm’s still close-knit staff works out of offices in five states and serves clients across the country and abroad.

Palisades Hudson is now truly a national firm. Even so, our staff maintains an integrated approach to their work and a genuine interest in the lives of our clients, well beyond their personal finances. Today, those clients include children and grandchildren of people whom I first counseled 25 or even 30 years ago, prior to setting out on my own. There are some great-grandchildren on our client list, too – though they are still young enough that the majority of our service consists of buying an occasional toy or book to amuse them when we pay their parents a visit.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
No business lasts for 25 years without facing challenges. Given Palisades Hudson’s low-turnover model, one of my most critical decisions early on was how to deal with the fact that even outstanding and committed employees sometimes need to spread their wings.

Shomari Hearn needed to move to South Florida in the mid-2000s for personal reasons. I had always planned to expand the business to Florida anyway, so rather than lose him, I decided to have Shomari open the firm’s first branch office when he needed to move south. In similar situations with Client Service Mangers David Walters and Ben Sullivan, I worked with them on timing and logistics, and they eventually established offices in Portland, Oregon and Austin, Texas, respectively.

While I cannot open a new office every time a talented employee needs to relocate, I decided early on to treat these challenges as opportunities to plant Palisades Hudson’s flag in new locations whenever an employee needs aligned with sound business strategy.

Likewise, employees starting their families need to balance work and family lives. I try to be as flexible as possible with them, too, because attracting, developing and retaining the best people is key to my business’s success. Palisades Hudson has seen more than one “baby boom” in its history. I have always adjusted the schedules of new parents according to their wishes, allowing some employees to work part-time, while extending to others the scheduling flexibility necessary to accommodate school or daycare pickups. Working with staff to find the best work-life balance possible has become a key to retaining outstanding employees for the long term.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Palisades Hudson Financial Group – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Two principles have defined Palisades Hudson since I created it:

First, effective financial advice must consider all the issues confronting affluent individuals. Investment, tax, accounting, estate planning, insurance, business management, retirement and philanthropic considerations — among others — must be addressed together, not in isolation. We accept the challenge to furnish knowledgeable guidance and excellent service in whatever areas our clients require.

Second, our loyalty lies only with our clients. We accept no compensation from anyone else. All charges to every client are clearly disclosed and fully transparent.

Today, we serve clients in more than 30 states, and as far away as Brazil. Our investment advisory affiliate, Palisades Hudson Asset Management L.P., has approximately $1.4 billion in assets under management. Our services to clients range from providing tax returns and household financial management to operating sophisticated real estate and energy investment companies. Our clients are a diverse group that includes current and retired business owners, senior executives, professionals such as doctors and attorneys, closely held companies, startup founders and singer-songwriters, among others.

Though I am proud of all we have accomplished, I am proudest of the lasting relationships we have built with our clients and with our staff. Most of our clients stay with us for many years, often across multiple generations of a family. Our staff, likewise, is built on a long-term, low-turnover model. We hire young professionals, often directly out of some of the best schools in the country, and we develop them over five to ten years to be skilled in all the disciplines in which we operate.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
Palisades Hudson is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2018. This May, we will be gathering our staff, along with clients, family and friends, to celebrate this milestone at the Lago Mar Resort in Fort Lauderdale.

My current plan is to remain active in the business, although in an evolving role (company founders, like old generals, should allow themselves to fade away), until I am about 75 years old. But life is an uncertain venture, and long-range plans have a way of changing — or being changed for us by circumstances we cannot control.

It is important for staff, clients and others who rely on our business (our landlords count themselves in that group) to know that the firm will have continuity of leadership if my tenure is cut short.

Shomari is positioned to provide that continuity when we need it. He has been with us since 1998, making him our longest-tenured client service staff member, and he has played an enormous role in coaching and developing our professional staff. Our executive team also boasts two other veteran client service managers, Paul Jacobs and Eric Meermann, who bring expertise, experience and intimate knowledge of our clients and staff into our senior management as vice presidents. They are also a couple of decades younger than me. I like the idea of bringing younger energy, along with ample experience, into our leadership team. Rounding out the executive team is my wife, Linda, who has been our firm’s director of marketing and human resources since 1995.

I never expected either of my daughters to work in the business; I wanted them to find the occupations that gave them the most satisfaction, rather than to automatically follow my path. Today, they are adults and have their own careers in other fields, but they are also interested in becoming part of our firm’s future. My daughters recently joined me, Linda and Shomari on a newly established management board. Paul, Eric and other managers and future executives will work with the board so Palisades Hudson can remain a family-owned firm, even when the actual management passes from me to nonfamily executives who have grown up within the business.

No business can expect to prosper if it cannot adapt to changing environments. I don’t believe that fundamental philosophies — such as our decision not to accept compensation from anyone other than our clients — need to change, but the way those philosophies are executed must evolve with the times.

When I started our firm in the early 1990s, my first clients had amassed wealth in old-line industries such as forest products and utilities. In the 21st century, wealth is likely to be created through the act of creation itself. This is why in recent years we have emphasized working with those who develop, improve and license ideas — patents, copyrights, images, endorsements and some of their physical embodiments, such as real estate development. We continue to work with doctors, attorneys, corporate executives and small-business owners, of course, but we have also discovered that people in the creative fields need and value what we can do for them. So, do international clients, who are facing an increasingly complex financial and political environment. We had an international practice 15 years ago, but it is much larger today and is especially prominent in our Florida headquarters.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Jessica Elkin
Ashley Bell
Jeffrey Howard
Jon Zornow

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