A Conversation with
Ralph Borrello

Head of BB&T Wealth Advisors

Please provide a brief overview of your career, especially in the field of wealth management.
I graduated from law school in 1983. After several years as an attorney, I went into banking. Although it was over 25 years ago, I remember my early years in the business like it was yesterday.

I really enjoyed working with families; I knew almost immediately I had found my calling. My mission was to understand what a client or family was trying to achieve and then bring the right experts and resources to bear to help them achieve those goals. I felt a great sense of satisfaction in knowing I helped a family achieve something that was important to them.

Over the years, I have worked in senior management positions at several leading national firms, but what has not changed is my passion for the wealth management business and my desire to help clients. I joined BB&T in October 2010 and am really proud to be leading BB&T's Wealth Management group. This position is the highlight of my career.

"I felt a great sense of satisfaction in knowing I helped a family achieve something that was important to them."

What led you to join BB&T's Wealth Management group?
I think the most important factor in my decision to join BB&T is that I shared BB&T's philosophy and approach to the business.

There are three key areas that define BB&T's approach to wealth management. First, our Wealth Management Advisors are client advocates, meaning they bring the best we have to offer to our clients. Second, at BB&T Wealth we emphasize comprehensive financial planning; we believe financial planning represents the road map to achieving financial goals. Third, we are on the same side of the table as our clients; in everything we do, our success is defined by the success of our clients.

Why is wealth management a priority at BB&T?
The decision to make wealth management a key area of focus for BB&T was a logical one. BB&T is now the 11th largest bank in the nation. It has been known and respected for its outstanding client service for many years. Our reputation has been built upon being a relationship-driven company that delivers great service. If you look at client satisfaction scores across the banking industry, BB&T has always had among the highest scores. Our wealth management platform enables us to serve the BB&T family of clients across their financial life cycles, from the accumulation of wealth through distribution. I can't think of any financial need a client may have that we can't meet somewhere within BB&T.

We take our duties as a client’s wealth manager very seriously. We occupy an important role in the financial lives of our clients and we want to do the best job possible. Our vision is to be the “best of the best.” We know we have achieved that goal when our clients tell us so. We measure our success by what our clients say about us.

How would you describe the differentiators that set BB&T Wealth Management apart from others who serve wealth clients?
We spend a lot of time ensuring we offer great products and services to our clients, but we do not differentiate ourselves from competitors on that basis. As I noted, BB&T Wealth Management is a relationship driven business. We differentiate ourselves based upon three things: 1) service—we strive to deliver the best service in the industry; 2) the quality of the advice we provide, including advice across a broad spectrum of topics, from investments to tax law changes; and 3) our people—our teammates are experienced, sharp, and relationship driven. Our focus on these three areas, as well as how we integrate all we do for the benefit of the client, sets us apart.

Describe a typical BB&T Wealth Management team and how it works to serve a client.
We serve our clients through a team of professionals. The team encompasses a Wealth Management Advisor, who typically serves as the client’s main point of contact, plus an assortment of specialists including a Portfolio Manager, responsible for managing the client’s discretionary investment portfolio; a Personal Trust Specialist, responsible for administering any trusts or estates; a Financial Planning Strategist, responsible for delivering comprehensive financial planning; a High Net Worth Lender, responsible for meeting any borrowing needs; an Insurance Advisor, responsible for insurance needs; and a Financial Advisor, responsible for the overall client’s accounts and strategies. I can’t think of any financial products or services that we can’t deliver through our Wealth teams. It is also important to note that all of these resources are “in-market” and available to meet with clients face to face. We think it is important that our clients have direct, face-to-face discussion with our team members.

"Many affluent people today do not know how much money they need to retire or when they will be able to do so."

What do you look for in selecting wealth advisors, financial planners and other team members?
Experience and technical knowledge are our starting point, our baseline. But we look for more—much more. We have found that what really makes a great wealth management teammate are various intangible qualities. These qualities include empathy, passion, energy, a positive attitude, the ability to inspire trust and confidence, plus the ability to be a team player. Individuals with both technical knowledge and these intangible qualities are special people, and we are fortunate to have so many serving on our teams working with our BB&T clients.

What are the greatest challenges facing wealthy individuals and families today?
Some of the financial statistics we see today are alarming. For example, according to surveys, over 50 percent of millionaires do not have a valid last will and testament. Some 75 percent lack a basic financial plan. Many affluent people today do not know how much money they need to retire or when they will be able to do so. Families are geographically separated and this places a great burden, emotionally as well as financially, when an elderly parent or grandparent becomes incapacitated. In fact, almost every aspect of our financial lives is more complex than ever before, including investment portfolios, lending, taxes and insurance. Clearly there is no shortage of financial challenges today. What it all adds up to is that there has never been a greater need for a fully integrated, strategic approach to financial planning.

What is your vision for BB&T Wealth Management as you continue building capabilities and serving clients?
I don't see any fundamental changes in how we deliver wealth management. I believe we have the right approach, putting the client in the center of all that we do. I do envision strengthening some of our capabilities including upgrading our online presence, as well as further improving our lending process and capabilities. In addition, we plan to promote BB&T Wealth Management through an advertising campaign that will hit the airwaves later this year.

I also envision that we will continue to grow and serve more clients. We will add professionals in many of our markets, particularly in Florida. We also plan to expand our wealth management offering into Texas.

Clients are telling us they really like our approach. They like our products and services as well as our service culture. We are introducing wealth management services to more and more BB&T clients every day, and we are also taking market share from our competitors. I see that trend continuing. All of us at BB&T Wealth Management look forward to serving clients and families for many years to come.

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2011 issue of Wealth magazine.

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