Daniel Allen: “Be curious and step outside your comfort zone”

I believe in any part of your life you must have goals and things you want to accomplish. Once you have identified what is important to you, reverse engineer how you can get there — have a plan. This is no different in the financial advisory business. No matter your age, background or what stage of life […]

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I believe in any part of your life you must have goals and things you want to accomplish. Once you have identified what is important to you, reverse engineer how you can get there — have a plan. This is no different in the financial advisory business. No matter your age, background or what stage of life you are in, you should have things you want to accomplish for yourself and your family. For example, maybe you want to retire at a certain age or make sure your kids are able to go to college. If so, an advisor can help you get there.


As part of our series about what one should look for when hiring a financial planner or adviser, I had the pleasure of interviewing Daniel Allen.

As a wealth advisor and Certified Financial Planner, Daniel Allen focuses on crafting comprehensive investment and planning strategies and developing relationships with Red Door’s clients. As a member of Red Door’s investment committee, he draws on his legal education and financial services experience to deliver customized solutions to meet each client’s specific needs and objectives.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know you’ a bit more. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

After high school, I earned some scholarship money for my undergraduate work at the University of Tennessee. My father was forward-thinking enough (and understood my social tendencies enough) to propose a deal. If I could keep all my scholarships in place at Tennessee, he would give me half of whatever he was saving on my tuition. I maintained my scholarships, and I began investing those dollars into stocks. This process taught me a lot about markets, diversification, and the power of time and compound interest. Fast-forward a couple years. When I was finishing my last semester of law school, my dad approached me about what I wanted to do next. He was in the advisory business and asked if I wanted to come work with him. I told him I was determined to finish what I had started, but if I passed the bar exam, I would be interested. I started a couple months later and my career has evolved from there.

Can you share a story about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting in the industry? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?

During my college “investing” days, I had to learn some things the hard way. I was undisciplined and wanted to “get rich quick,” and I invested almost half of my money in a company that was a great “story,” but that was overleveraged and not generating much free cash. It ended poorly. However, I learned many valuable lessons. Sometimes things go wrong, and in hindsight you realize you made a bad decision. The key is to set specific goals, follow a disciplined process and play the long game.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

One of our newest projects is launching a direct real estate fund, through which we purchase high-quality, single-family rental homes in our local area. We are currently living through an extremely accommodative period where significant amounts of money are being inserted into our economy (either directly to consumers or through money-center banks). Interest rates have also been pushed to extremely low levels. We believe we will continue in this accommodative environment and rates will stay low for at least the next two or three years. One knock-on effect of these policies is you cannot make a real return in traditional fixed income (i.e. beat inflation, which is higher than what the CPI states). We knew creating a fund all our clients could access was going to require a lot of additional work and create a sizeable new expense for our firm, but we also knew it was in our clients’ best interests. Our real estate fund should launch at the end of Q2 2021. Our goal is to provide significantly higher cash flow to our clients than traditional fixed income can provide, and our real estate should act as an inflation hedge as well.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lesson that others can learn from that?

Two things come to mind. The first “tipping point” was my decision to join Red Door, an independent Registered Investment Advisor (RIA), and move on from the brokerage firm/bank model. There are many incredible people within those types of organizations who do great work, but I believe clients are demanding independent counsel that will always act as a fiduciary; can be more flexible in the services and investments they offer; and have no conflicts of interest. We believe the flow of assets into the RIA space confirms these beliefs. The second tipping point (and it is related to the first) was recognizing the importance of listening. It is critical to viewing things through what the client needs, not what you need or what your firm needs. If you always put clients first in everything you do, you will also be successful at the firm and at the individual level. Whether we are building out our team or our service offerings, the client is always at the center of the whiteboard.

What three pieces of advice would you give to your colleagues in the finance field to thrive and avoid burnout? Can you give a story or example?

Every is individual is different with how they approach their business and personal life. But to me, these are important:

  1. Work/life balance — You must find the time to take care of yourself and things important to you outside of work. For me, that means finding time to be with my family, exercising, listening to music, reading, going out with friends, traveling and more. If you do not find ways to renew your energy, put things in perspective, and understand what really matters (and more importantly what doesn’t) you will never reach your true potential in business.
  2. Block out the noise — You must create a thoughtful, repeatable process that is also flexible enough to evolve over time. If built correctly, you will have confidence in your approach, improve your critical thinking, and be able to block out all the excess noise. We live in an age of ever-increasing information that loops constantly, which can be both empowering and overwhelming. However, if you have built a set of core values and disciplined processes, you can identify the useful information and block out the excess. You must block out the noise and be able to focus on what is truly important. If not, you will burn out and ultimately make bad decisions.
  3. Be curious and step outside your comfort zone — In my opinion, it pays to be curious and to constantly push yourself outside your comfort zone. That is where the growth is. To me, being curious allows you to break out of the mechanical nature of our job and to explore. You never know where a great idea may be or what nugget of information you may find that will have a profound impact on your business or in your personal life. Listen to music, read books, try to speak in public, do something that makes you nervous.

Ok. Thank you for all of that. Let’s now move to the core focus of our interview. As a “finance insider”, you know much more about the finance industry than most consumers. If your loved one wanted to hire a financial advisor (not you :-)), which 5 things would you advise them to find out about before committing? Can you give an example or story for each?

We are all human, and we all realize (in hindsight) that we’ve made mistakes. If we accept that to be true, we should at the very least align ourselves with an individual and a firm that gives us the best chance to succeed. I recommend asking:

  1. Are you an independent, fee-only advisor? As independent advisors, if your fees grow, our accounts grow. It’s simple, seamless and clean.
  2. Is your firm employee-owned? This is always an important point to know. Their stake is in themselves, so when you succeed, they succeed.
  3. Do you invest alongside the investments you recommend? Many advisors “eat their own cooking”, so to speak. Asking this question provides potential clients knowledge as to whether or not the advisor is knee-deep in it with you. If they are putting their money into it as well, it showcases that they’re in lockstep with their clients.
  4. Do you listen? Although this may sound like a silly question, it’s a key question. If conversations with advisors feel more like a sales pitch, you may need to reconsider your partnership. It’s important for advisors to listen to your issues and know what’s most important to you. You wouldn’t want them to lock you in something you don’t feel comfortable with.
  5. Are you a proactive communicator? Advisors need to be reachable, communicative and helpful — especially given the times we are experiencing. You need to know if they are proactive, but also how they are proactive. They should be able to tell you what steps they take to communicate with you before you call. Ask this as a preliminary question to weed out those who you won’t hear from often.

I think most people think that financial advisors are for very wealthy people. This is likely not actually true. Can you explain who would most benefit from hiring a financial advisor and why? Can you give an example?

I believe in any part of your life you must have goals and things you want to accomplish. Once you have identified what is important to you, reverse engineer how you can get there — have a plan. This is no different in the financial advisory business. No matter your age, background or what stage of life you are in, you should have things you want to accomplish for yourself and your family. For example, maybe you want to retire at a certain age or make sure your kids are able to go to college. If so, an advisor can help you get there.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Dave. He’s a client of ours and a personal longtime mentor. He owns a successful business, and his son and I are actually close friends. As time went by and I was growing into my role as an advisor, Dave saw a need for my skills to help organize the moving parts of his finances, succession planning, the whole deal. In that, I was able to grow into the advisor I am today while gaining experience with someone who, in turn, also taught me valuable life lessons.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Listen. You may learn something. In my opinion, we have gotten away from listening to others and trying to understand the reasons for people’s decisions. Everyone has a different upbringing and a different set of experiences through which they view the world. Instead of dismissing a different point of view, listen. Ask questions. Try to understand people. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with everyone, and it doesn’t mean you have to change your core values. It is the simple understanding that you may not have all the best ideas and may be missing some part of the story. When we try to understand other people’s ideas and experiences based on where they come from instead of where we come from, we can better embrace our differences and, most importantly, realize our commonalities. If you want to change the world, start by listening to others.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can find me on LinkedIn here. You can also call us at 901–681–0018 or go to our website at www.reddoorwealth.com.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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