“Will My Clients Follow?”— A $500mm UBS Breakaway Success Story

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Mindy Diamond

A conversation with Steven Tenney, Founding Partner and CEO, Great Diamond Partners

In all of the conversations we have with breakaway advisors, we hear a consistent theme around the motivation to make the leap:

To improve the ability to serve clients.

And, ultimately, enhancing service delivery – such as improvements in platform and technology, and the ability to freely communicate – typically leads in one direction: Business growth.

But while many advisors are building their businesses in the wirehouses, more and more are finding they are hitting a wall when they try to serve clients without conflict or limitations.

Yet changing firms or models comes with some risk—one of the most critical being client portability.

It was a risk that UBS advisor Steven Tenney and his team found was worth taking—because after a two-year due diligence process, Steve was convinced that the RIA model would allow them to provide better service and advice to clients.

Steve joined UBS in 1993 when it was still PaineWebber and built a business managing approximately $530mm in assets. But in 2019 they decided it was time to make a change. After 26 years with the firm, Steve and his team left UBS to launch Portland, Maine-based RIA firm Great Diamond Partners.

As Steve shared in an interview shortly after his launch, it was the “vastly improved technology, advanced planning resources and tools, and the fiduciary environment” of the RIA model that was the tipping point.

In this episode, Steve discusses that “tipping point” and much more, including:

  • Steven TenneyWhat prompted him to start exploration—and why he didn’t instead opt for another wirehouse or traditional firm.
  • Why Steve felt that taking a recruiting deal would only be better for him—and not for his team and clients.
  • How Steve and his team reconciled leaving some deferred comp behind—and when they realized it was worth it.
  • How they addressed the concern over whether their clients would follow—and what they did to ultimately retain 95% of their clients and rebuild their database.
  • How scale compares as an independent—and why working with a firm like Dynasty Financial Partners gives them the scale of a much larger organization.
  • The value of being an independent firm when it comes to referrals—and why their strategic partners are now more apt to refer business.

Steve’s thoughtful due diligence focused on “what’s in it for the clients”—a guiding principle that drove their decision-making process and ultimately the success of their transition. Yet it’s what he and his team realized that is most compelling: That clients can actually be the real beneficiaries when their advisors go independent and gain increased freedom and control.

It’s a conversation that goes beyond “independence”—cutting to the heart of what matters most: The clients.




Founding Partner & CEO, Great Diamond Partners
Certified Exit Planning Advisor (CEPA®)
BA, Tufts University, International Relations and Political Science

“We are entirely focused on the success of our clients and our community – a characteristic that defines the next generation of wealth management firms.”

Steve strategically leads the firm, supports all of its members and directs the investment strategy. He believes the gold standard of wealth management is found at the intersection of empathy and technology™, and helps the firm evolve to that level, to meet the needs of today’s clients and those of the next generation.

Previously, Steve worked at UBS Financial Services for 26 years, most recently as Senior Vice President and Senior Portfolio Manager. In 1997, Steve merged his wealth management practice with his father’s. This first-hand experience in a family business gives Steve empathy for the families he consults with as they face financial and emotional challenges.

Prior to UBS, Steve worked as a securities lending representative at State Street Bank and started his career as a research assistant at Morgan Stanley Asset Management in London.

Steve lives in Yarmouth, Maine, with his wife, Christine. Their photographer son Nick lives in Bozeman, Montana, where he graduated from Montana State University. Their daughter, Leah, is studying interior design at Endicott College in Beverly, Massachusetts.

“I serve as a board member for the Institute for Family-Owned Business (IFOB), volunteer for Junior Achievement, and am proud to support The Hatch Community Youth Fund that helps kids stay active around Castine, Maine.”



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