Changing the Asset Management Model

Hosted By Matt DeCoursey

Full Scale

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Steven Woods

Today's Guest: Steven Woods

CEO & Founder - Stirlingshire

New York, New York

Ep. #1138 - Changing the Asset Management Model

In today’s episode of Startup Hustle, Matt DeCoursey and Steven Woods, Founder and CEO of Stirlingshire have a conversation centered around changing the asset management model. Hear them discuss how Stirlingshire gives clients more control of their assets. Enjoy a founder-to-founder conversation about disrupting an industry and how fighting the 8,000-pound gorilla can be worthwhile and lucrative.

Covered In This Episode

Asset management is no walk in the park. Some challenges include asset tracking, regulatory compliance, and cybersecurity. Stirlingshire offers accredited investors and finance professionals a full-service broker-dealer model.

Matt and Steven talk about the most challenging parts of being an asset manager, how Stirlingshire levels the playing field, and how clients can get complete control over their assets. They also discuss Stirlinshire’s competitors, how disruption can be good, and more. 

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  • Steven’s backstory (1:55)
  • Changing the asset management model (6:37)
  • Unauthorized trading and regulation best interest (10:15)
  • Access a professional grade platform real-time (16:02)
  • How to fight against industry giants (17:25)
  • Giving clients complete control of their assets (20:04)
  • The complexity of asset management (22:03)
  • Raising funds for Stirlingshire (25:27)
  • Hardest part of being an asset manager or financial advisor (27:25)
  • The challenges of acquiring regulatory compliance (30:31)
  • Stirlingshire’s competitors (33:48)
  • Steven’s freestyle (37:44)
  • Disrupting the industry can be worthwhile and lucrative (38:31)

Key Quotes

What we wanted to do is we wanted to more closely align the compensation that the advisors received directly to the actual performance of the things that they’re doing in the portfolio. So with us, the only time that the advisor necessarily makes money is whenever they’re making money for the client.

– Steven Woods

This platform was kind of designed as a turnkey solution for advisors who want to go independent one. Instead of spending, you know, two years getting through FINRA and SEC approval to set up your own shop. You know, we’ve already created a solution right here where I can have you up and running in two to three days, you know, with our platform.

– Steven Woods

There are a lot of things as an entrepreneur that later, if I had known would have been that difficult, I might not have tried. But at the same time, when you actually make it through that stuff, like, you’re kind of happy for that barrier of entry because it does act as a moat or a shield for keeping everybody else from running up behind you in some regards.

– Matt DeCoursey

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Rough Transcript

Following is an auto-generated text transcript of this episode. Apologies for any errors!

Matt DeCoursey  00:00

And we’re back.  Back for another episode Startup Hustle, Matt DeCoursey. Here to have another conversation I’m hoping helps your business grow. managing assets and of all different shapes and forms can be a challenge. What am I? What am I even mean by that? Well hang out and listen, because we’re going to talk all about changing the asset management model. Before I introduce today’s guest is episode Startup Hustle is powered by Hiring software developers is difficult and Full Scale can help you build a software team quickly and affordably and has the platform to help you manage that team go to To learn more, if you weren’t aware, that’s my business. And we love talking to Startup Hustle listeners. So please click the link in the show notes. It takes about two minutes or less to fill out the form and let us know what you need help with.


Matt DeCoursey  00:48

Joining me for today’s conversation is Stephen Woods. And Stephen is the founder and CEO at Stirlingshire. You can go to to learn more. And don’t try to figure out how to spell that just scroll on down to the show notes and click the link that’s provided. Now originally from Kansas City, my hometown, but now in the wild, wild world of New York, New York. Steven, Welcome to Startup Hustle.


Steven Woods  01:14

Thank you very much. I look forward to our conversation. Yeah, definitely from Kansas City just got back from the draft. And it was great to come back for,


Matt DeCoursey  01:23

I was the only person in the Kansas City. Well, I accidentally scheduled a trip with my wife somewhere else, and then realized that it was during the NFL Draft. And I was like, I’m still going on the trip. Yeah, well, you know, let’s, let’s start today’s conversation with a little bit more about your backstory. We know you’re from Kansas City, but you know, tell us a little more about yourself. And you know, and please, along with the way define ask the asset management model that that we will be talking about changing today?


Steven Woods  01:55

Sure, sure. So just to define that really quickly. Whenever I talk about the asset management model, we’re talking about professional asset managers like financial advisors, things of that nature dealing in stocks, options, ETFs, mutual funds, bonds, what have you. So my backstory. A little a little different, right. Born and raised in Kansas City, you know, good students straight A student. Parents kind of got divorced the age of 14 by 16, I had dropped out High School, completely left high school, joined kind of like a military program at the age of 17, where I got my GED down in Kent Clark, Nevada, Missouri, then went off to..


Matt DeCoursey  02:43

Is that Wentworth?


Steven Woods  02:45

So I did go to Wentworth. That’s where I’m getting that so it’s finished, finished. I’ve got my GED there, then, the United States Army says, you know, we want to make you an officer in army. So that’s, that sounds good. They said, We’re gonna pay for all your education at Wentworth Military Academy, make you a second lieutenant. Went off to Wentworth, three months later, 911 happens. I get injured on a field training exercise several months later, and they gave me an option to stay in as enlisted or, or get optimal rehab was going to be about a year. And I kind of took what I consider, you know, the way out and ended up leaving the military. You know, when I joined, I didn’t anticipate, you know, actually going off to war, right. So ended up bartending around the country for six years, how to Hollywood all these fun places like in the Ozarks. 2008 comes around stock market tanks. I’ve always had an adult and I had always had an affinity for the markets. And I decided you know, that thing is going to come back and when it does, I have to be part of it. Right? So I started sending out my resume every single Monday to like 60 firms for six months. Needless to say, not a lot of people were in the in the in the market to hire someone with a GED so it took a long time to get an interview. Finally, I get a phone call on a Thursday. Guys like you’re serious be in my office on Monday. So I had a poor man’s Ferrari at pontiac fiero, which I sold on Craigslist in 45 minutes. I bought $1,000 suit plane ticket to New York, came out. He said listen, I’m going to put you in the in the Trainee program. And basically it pays $250 a week. You know, this is in 2000 2009. I jumped at it. moved, moved to New York scratched and clawed got my series seven became a stockbroker built my business up pretty quickly. You know, my fourth month in the industry. You know, my paycheck was like $40,000 for the month. I couldn’t believe it. Come to find out for you Months Later at that firm that they were doing some things that were kind of nefarious to say the least. Right? So I walk into FINRA FINRA is like the police of stockbrokers. I report everything that I that I know, this firm. By the way, my my boss at the time, he was in the movie Wall Street to bald headed guy. And anyways, FINRA shuts down the firm. Now I have this kind of black cloud hanging over me that this cap, this guy will, if you’re doing something wrong, he’s gonna, he’s going to tell what anyways, continue building up my career for many years, and COVID comes, and I decide, you know, I’ve seen enough of this industry to know that there’s a lot of nefarious things taking place, and I wanted to kind of clean it up and do things in a totally different way. resigned from the firm I was working at, got some world class talent helped me build out Sterling charm, including the former chairman, the SEC is on my board of directors, and my my CTO is the former Global Head of Technology for State Street and former director of the London Stock Exchange, and then spent the last two and a half years building out the platform, getting it through FINRA and SEC approval, went back to school, ended up becoming a Harvard Business School alum. And here we aren’t, we’re just we’re, we’re been in the market stuff last, you know, four or five months hiring brokers and advisors. And so far, so good.


Matt DeCoursey  06:37

So with, you know, with Stirlingshire and talking about change, what what what was the big thing? What’s the big problem that you needed to solve? If you wanted to change Asset Management? Like what? I get that? I mean, in the history of the market, and maybe capitalism, and maybe even just transactions? In general? There’s always been bad actors doing nefarious things. But what specifically about about asset management? Did you guys seek to solve? What problem did you seek to solve? And how did you How do you fix it?


Steven Woods  07:10

Right, so whenever we think about the asset management model, there’s really a couple of different ways that people can make advisors make money and clients pay fees, right, there’s the one side is what’s known as the wrap fee model, which is where somebody charges a percentage of your assets on a yearly basis, right? So that might be 1%, or 2%. The downfall with that is, if you are charging a wrap fee, that advisor, what’s going to happen is they’re going to get your money, and then they’re going to spend, they’re going to throw it into several different mutual funds, or whatever it is, then they’re going to spend 99% of their entire life trying to find more clients and find more money, they’re not actually trying to make you money, right. And so the whole time, you’re paying just to pay if it’s up, down, sideways, whatever, right? The second, the second way that advisors make money is on a transactional basis, which is charged a little bit on the buy side a little bit on the sell side. And what that does is that kind of creates a situation where it’s moved, the money moved the money moved the money, right. And that’s not good for anybody either. So what we wanted to do, is we wanted to more closely align the compensation that the advisors received directly to the actual performance of the things that they’re doing in the portfolio. So with us, the only time that the advisor necessarily makes money is whenever they’re making money for the client.


Matt DeCoursey  08:41

Which is probably the way it should be right salutely 100% Yeah, and I’m familiar with these things, because you know, as, as I’ve grown older, and given given more attention to the future of stuff, you know, you talk to well, I’m I’m a prime target for call lists of financial advisors is what I’ve learned, in fact, it’s annoying. There’s a ton of them, and you’re right, they either want to get paid, they want a percentage of whatever it is they’re managing. And I’ve had so many conversations with people over the years that sign up, and I mean, I don’t even I’m not even going to name places, but they sign up, they make this huge deposit, and then they feel ghosted afterward. And I’ve actually had that happen to myself. And, you know, then you mentioned the transactional nature of things, and that’s where the persons getting paid to, you know, buy and sell stocks. Well, that is a that’s a flawed approach to because Why are you buying and selling things? Is it just because you make more money doing it?


Steven Woods  09:43

I, you know, I’ve worked alongside 1000s of advisors here on Wall Street. And I can tell you that generally speaking, yes, they’re just buying or selling something simply to make a commission, not necessarily because it’s, you know, in the


Matt DeCoursey  09:59

middle Right and Wolf of Wallstreet Matthew McConaughey has a pretty colorful scene where he’s like, Fuck the clients, you know, we make money off buying and selling things. And it’s the commission. And that turns into straight cash. And yeah,


Steven Woods  10:15

there’s a saying, There’s a saying that to give away too many secrets of the dirty side of the industry, but you turn the clients money, and the brokers experience into the clients experience in the broker too much. Yeah. And so we wanted to, we wanted to kind of fix that. So we, we developed a platform, that also not not only makes it so that the adviser can’t really take advantage of the clients in the way that we described, but actually makes it so that the firms can take advantage of the advisors, because how this works is the firms take advantage of the advisors. And that culture kind of rolls downhill to the advisors than taking advantage of the clients, right. So if I’m, if I’m a an advisor, JP Morgan, right, and I’m doing a million dollars on what we call the front end Commission, which is like asset management fees, I’m going to take on $350,000, that’s going to be roughly, you know, to under base 150 Bonus per every million in production that I’m doing. And at the end of the day, you know, as an advisor, I’m doing basically all the client acquisition, asset allocation and things like that. So the reason why JP Morgan’s able to keep 650,000 of that million is because they’re JP Morgan, right, they have this brand equity and, and things of that nature, but we see a lot of advisors now trying to break away to the independent side. And on the independent side, they might move over to a firm that you’ve never heard of like an LPL or something like that. But they do that same million in production, they’re going to take home 650 to 750,000. But we wanted to create a model that allowed us to give them the full million dollars in front end production. Because at the end of the day, the firms really just providing access to the market. So just to provide access in the market, we we didn’t feel that the firms were deserving of that much of the actual revenue. So how we’ve set it up, we have a patent pending trade confirmation process that allows us to shift a lot of the regulatory risk and liability off the firm. So what I mean by that is, if I wanted to pay everybody 100% And have them all work from home, by the way, this is fully work from home that advisors don’t have to go back to the office ever, if they don’t want to. But if I’m going to pay everybody 100% and have them work from home, any firm that tries that they’re going to go bankrupt, if they can’t solve two main issues, those two main issues are going to be unauthorized trading and regulation, best interest. So this is really important on offices, what we put together on authorized trading, is when an advisor buys or sells something for a client without the client’s approval. Now, 99% of the time, that’s not done in a nefarious manner. It’s normally a situation where, let’s say you’re my client, you say, you say, Steve, I trust what you’re doing. If you see something, you think it’s gonna make me some money or save me some money and you can’t get me on the phone, or just go ahead and do it. And everybody’s fine and dandy with that if I’m making you money every time, right. But if I do something for you, and the value drops significantly, we’re going to need to bust trades, rebate losses, put stock back into accounts. So if the potential for unauthorized trading exists, then we need to set aside a good chunk of money to deal with problems that could arise that now the second thing is actually more nuanced. And it’s a much bigger issue, which is regulation, best interest. That’s, that’s a law that went into effect about four years ago, sort of ruled by the SEC, that states anytime I even make a recommendation to you, I call you up and I say, Matt, I think we should buy Tesla, right? It needs to be within your risk tolerance, your investment objectives, everything. So what this has done, this has actually put the bat in the clients hand, meaning I can work with hundreds of clients for years, any one of them can wake up on the wrong side of the bed and say, Steve, I think everything you’ve done for me is outside of my risk tolerance and investment objectives. I think we would have made or saved $300,000 More if you’d have done X, Y and Z, give me money, right? And so the firm’s then going to have to, you know, throw $50,000 at that problem to make it go away. So our platform, in essence is reduce those risks and liabilities significantly, in a manner that allows us to pay more than every other firm in the industry.


Matt DeCoursey  14:42

So essentially, this is on a white label platform that allows for direct market access for independent advisors. Correct. Right. Okay. Okay. That makes sense. Yeah. And


Steven Woods  14:57

then we make all of our revenue on the The back end through margin interest, you know, fully paid stock lending, which, uh, we make money like E trade and TD Ameritrade. But we’re able to operate as a full service advisor where we’re actually telling you what we think you should be buying and selling. And we’re doing this in a way that we tie the comp directly to the performance as opposed to the actual aum.


Matt DeCoursey  15:21

And, you know, that’s, that’s a one of the things that you know, why do okay, why does someone like me? Who, alright, look, I got a superpower making money, I’m good at making money. I’m not necessarily good at the stock market. Because that’s not what I that’s not the problem I wake up every day trying to solve, right. And then on top of it, there’s, I mean, the number of securities and products and everything that that can or could be traded, it feels infinite. And then on top of it as a retail trader, I have a significant advantage, because in most cases, I’m operating what at least 20 minutes find the actual real time, anything. Right?


Steven Woods  16:02

So what we try to do here, right, is we give you access to a professional grade platform with your real time, everything, and especially a guy like you, you actually probably be our our target market, right? Our target market is someone net worth, you know, a million to, you know, 100 million, right, that’s, that’s kind of going to be our, our sweet spot. And we know that someone like you, if Apple’s down 30%, in a couple months, we know you probably don’t need a broker to say, Hey, I think you should buy some right, you can just log right in and buy it yourself. There’s no commission, just like any other firm, we’re going to we’re we’re going to add value, right? Is these financial advisors are going to be able to bring you think you might not know about, right? Or if you’re maybe over levered in something, we can kind of be the second set of eyes to say, you know, I think we should, you know, trim here or whatever. And the only time you’re actually going to pay is whenever, for example, I call you up and say, or advisor calls you up and says, Matt, I think we should buy XYZ, here’s why I think we should buy it, and then you make money. So in the future, whenever you sell it for a profit, you know, there’s a commission attached to that. But anytime that you’re doing anything yourself, it operates kind of like an E trade or TV metrics.


Matt DeCoursey  17:25

Okay, so most of the time, you’ve heard people say, don’t fight the 800 pound gorilla that’s in the room, you decided to fight the 80,000 pound gorilla in the room, attempts to disrupt financial models that that honestly needs to be disrupted. But you know, you’re sitting so with that, your David and their Goliath, how do you go about planning for that battle?


Steven Woods  17:55

Well, the first thing I’ve done whenever I started out to build this is I tried to get the best team around me possible, right, because I’m just, you know, I’m just one guy. So I went out and I got the former Global Head of Technology for State Street to join me as my CTO, got the former chairman of the former chairman, the SEC to join my board. Our chief Market Strategist is the former director of research for wheeling to management, which has over a trillion in aum. So I guess, like our kind of go to market strategy, and built it, put these guys around us, and then we’re not trying to drive inbound client flow. At this time, what we’re trying to do is drive the breakaway advisors from JPMorgan from these other locations, by saying, hey, you know, bring your clients with you. And, you know, instead of a 35% payout, you’re gonna be on 100% payout, you don’t have to get called back to the office, right? So right now, we’re just in the process of proving out the model, right, proving that the model works. And then with the first 40 advisors that we’re bringing onto the platform, and then from there, it’s just scaled up, you know, our goal is to hire 5000 advisors over the next five years. To put that in perspective, UBS has 6500 So that’s, that’s kind of our five year target there.


Matt DeCoursey  19:19

Yeah, I’ve actually had a couple of friends that are financial advisors that worked for companies that you would have heard of and went to go start their own offices and I’m actually in the last couple years to have one that’s a friend that I’ve talked to about, you know, doing some work for me and for others and you know, some of the questions I had well, what’s what’s your platform? What do you what do you when you talk about asset management, while the majority of my investment is back into myself, there are more stable things that you know, and you talk about retirement you know, retirement products, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And so part of with certainly charter as well as is providing these advisors the ability Ready to show me what my assets are doing? Is that correct?


Steven Woods  20:04

Exactly? Yeah, you have you have full control over the assets through the app through the web platform, you can see what what’s going on at all times. One of the real benefits for the client, who’s dealt with a more full service side of things, is it sad to say, but let’s say you have an advisor, and something starts going the wrong way, you would be really surprised to how, how quickly those advisors will hide under their desks and maybe not take the phone call, right? So, you know, it’s great to give the client the ability to enter and exit a position without the advisor. So if something’s going the wrong way, and the first advisors hiding under the desk, which we, you know, we don’t want, obviously, but the client can exit their position, right there from their phone or their desktop.


Matt DeCoursey  20:54

Well, and that’s, that’s a real thing. Because if you look at someone that has 100 clients that they’re advising and shits hitting the fan, you know, you mentioned like that whole like, Hey, let me call let me say, we want to do this, we want to do that. I mean, I want an advisor. That’s not I don’t want them to make that call, I want you to, to move and act in my best interest. Because if, yeah, and then you know, I mean, part of as well, too, is like, Why? Why would I hire a financial advisor? I mean, dude, because if unless you’re sitting there watching this stuff all day, every day, these things can fluctuate wildly for you in a heartbeat. Yeah. So that you mentioned Apple, like the I read it, and in the Wall Street Journal the other day that the average personal portfolio is 19%. Apple. And if for some reason that took a shit, that’s gonna have a big impact on a lot of people.


Steven Woods  21:46

Yeah, exactly. I mean, I think I think even I think Berkshire Hathaway is right now they’re holding, they’re holding 53% of their assets are now I believe, something close to that. And so, you know, 100%, if they start selling you, you want to


Matt DeCoursey  22:03

Warren Buffett’s probably not going to take my call, whether I should buy or sell that Apple, I mean, either. Well, and then some of that ties into a lot of different things. So you mentioned this Stirlingshire, you’re with the asset manager, management, some of that, so I do actually have financial advisement, but it’s also tied into accounting and other things. Because, you know, like, here’s the thing for those of you listening, if you if you’re just getting started with entrepreneurship, one of the things that becomes frustrating is that okay, so Full Scale my business, I guess, this is probably a good time to mention that today’s episode, startup hustles, powered by, we can help you build a software team quickly and affordably. But with that, you know, the complexity of, of finances for an entrepreneur are exactly that they’re there can be more complex. And you know, there’s, I don’t know, man, there’s a million different things, you know, part of my income comes from the I do pay myself a salary as the CEO of my company, I get an override on our sales and our sales increases. And then if the company does well, myself, and my business partner will receive dividends or just distributions is they are technically phrased, but they are essentially a dividend. All these things are taxed at different rates, you have all these different things that could occur. And then also, complex for me is I’ve got 300 employees in the Philippines. So I’ve not only got one set of books, I got two sets of books. And then here’s another thing too. How about currency exchange, currency exchange last year was a huge windfall for us because the US Dollar strengthened itself by about 12% versus the Filipino pesos, which meant that I actually had 12% More for every dollar that goes the other way, that can be a whole nother thing. Okay, so all this, all this stuff, all and becomes quite complex. And if I want to sell something, do my best to sell something that would generate a big loss for me to write off against or like, and there’s a lot of different moving parts, does Stirlingshire give give consideration or ease of accessibility to the accountants of the world that your financial advisors are often going to tell you? You should check with your accountant. Right. So we are as I come in,


Steven Woods  24:12

yeah, so we, we don’t do tax work at that point. But we can point you in the direction of some tax professionals if if you don’t have one already, right, right. But we for sure can help with the tax law selling and things of that nature.


Matt DeCoursey  24:33

Yeah, I painted a picture of the complexity of asset management because I mean, you might be surprised like sometimes selling something or exiting something or creating a loss. Absolutely. And it can be actually be a really good thing for you overall, if it’s a if it’s a skunk kind of asset that you don’t want anymore. That may save you a bunch of money on taxes because you wanted to get out of it anyway, and then sometimes it’s best to just you haven’t technically made Your losses any money until you buy or until you sell it.


Steven Woods  25:02

Exactly what and also, a lot of times people will, you know, harvest losses with the intent to repurchase that same, that same position. And so you really need somebody to make sure that you’re not creating a wash sale, so that so that loss crystallizes. Something that no financial advisor can help with.


Matt DeCoursey  25:27

Well, yeah, and there’s a lot to be said with that. Okay, so you know, back to the 80,000 80,000 pound gorilla, I see that you raise some money along the way to get this going. How many people pointed out that you’re fighting an 80,000 pound gorilla by bringing this to market?


Steven Woods  25:45

Um, well, I’d say, not as many as you would expect, because I did this, mainly friends and family and former some former clients, we raise 1.6 million, and the majority of that is going to come from clients that have like a, you know, decent relationship with for many years, and then, you know, some some friends and family, they’re in Kansas City. But what I have run into is, the companies that I would typically go to that would help me as like a placement agent, right, because I come from the equity, public equity side of things. So I do have lots of connections and in various boutique firms that would I could normally call on to, to help, you know, raise, like an another $10 million for me. But you know, I come across the same roadblock, that same roadblock, is I can’t go to a firm, and have them put away a deal where the advisors are speaking to their clients, and essentially saying, this firm is going to change the asset management model. And it’s going to allow the advisors to keep a lot more money. And it’s going to, you know, tie the compensation that they make more closely to performance. Because if this firm is marketing our deal, they’re also helping us with recruitment. So all the firms that I would normally go to, to do do something like this, they love it right up until they find out, I’m going to be able to pay the advisors 100%, then they’re like, oh, we can’t bring that to our sales staff. Because our whole sales staff will leave.


Matt DeCoursey  27:25

What’s the hardest part about being an asset manager or financial advisor? Like, cuz, you know, there’s obviously, you know, as I mentioned, with kind of an annoying tone about it, I get hit up, like all the time, like, a lot, a lot. Usually in LinkedIn. It’s usually LinkedIn, it’s usually I get a connection request, and it’s got a really bad intro. That sounds more like something that you would say to someone on a dating site. Right, you know, and then and then, you know, it’s like, it seems to me like that, that client acquisition, and then let’s be realistic for a lot of people. Like I did the idea of the independent advisor, and someone that is, because it feels to me like like the excuse the excuse the reference, Edward Jones, like you have offices set up next to great clips, and strip malls and stuff like that, it doesn’t really scream like you’re giving me the best advice. I think, you know, you well, you’re from Kansas City, and I grew up in a part of Kansas City, just to be transparent, that had that had some well to do people and I’ve had friends who’ve had parents on the covers of major magazines, as financial advisors, they weren’t working for JP Morgan, they had their own firm, you know, and, and so some of that, you’ve got to get through that, that credibility, that veil of credibility in some regards. And, you know, what’s the hardest part about that for early stage advisors?


Steven Woods  28:58

Well, early stage advisors is definitely the hardest part is gonna be the client acquisition, like, without, without a doubt, right? If you don’t, you know, you have to put in 80 hour weeks minimum as you’re building your book, you know, for the first couple of years at least. And that’s a lot of times just going to be grinding it out cold outreach, if you don’t have a big network of people to go to if you don’t have, you know, the, you know, the, the alumni groups and friends and family and things like a lot of that’s going to be you’re going to annoy people with LinkedIn messages and you’re going to annoy them with cold calls, you know, yeah, and now, that’s if you’re at an independent shop, like if you do go to something like a JP Morgan, that they are going to, you know, kind of assign you some accounts, um, you’re gonna be able to target the people at the Chase Bank. Same thing with Merrill Lynch, you’re gonna be able to target People have, you know, Bank of America and things like that. So it’s gonna be a little a little easier. But yeah, this platform was kind of designed as a turnkey solution for advisors who want to go independent one, instead of instead of spending, you know, two years getting through FINRA and SEC approval to set up your own shop, you know, we’ve already created a solution right here where I can have you up and running in two to three days, you know, with with with our platform,


Matt DeCoursey  30:31

what kind of compliance hoops did you have to jump through and run around to even make this possible?


Steven Woods  30:39

Yeah, so FINRA approval, they say take six to nine months, is what FINRA is like the police of stockbrokers. They’re regulated under the regulatory body. So it ended up sort of six to nine months, it took us to an almost two and a half years from the first moment that we filed to get through your FINRA approval, because they’d never been


Matt DeCoursey  31:06

the point that things usually take two to three times longer and often cost the same multiple to actually bring to market.


Steven Woods  31:13

What was the what was the most annoying though, is we raised all the money that we that we raised was supposed to get us through the first two years. And FINRA, you know, whenever they were doing their the approval process, right, your cap table was completely locked, like I couldn’t raise additional money, because if I brought on new investors, they wanted to start the due diligence process over from the very beginning on this person or this entity or whatever. And so I had to make, you know, this money last, like you said, three times longer than it than it should have. But anyways, yeah, the regulatory process was very, very intense, to say the least they wanted to go through every little, every little piece of the of the platform. This is this is not like just starting a software company where you have to answer the government about everything.


Matt DeCoursey  32:11

Well, and that’s, that’s not uncommon. I mean, there’s, you go through the same thing with a ton of different industries. And, you know, the thing is, is, as you mentioned, that these things are not always going to happen at the pace that you want them to happen with. Also, rules and regulations change. You know, you look at like, Why does Why is something like TurboTax maybe a better option than some accountants, because the amount of tax code in general compared to the tax amount of tax code that changes every year is humanly impossible to keep up with? Absolutely, it is absolutely tough to deal with and then changes in I don’t know, changes in all of it. So. So yeah, I mean, overall, that’s I mean, that’s that dude, that sounds excruciating. I’m not, I’m not a, I’m glad I’m in the business of building software based on the based on the parameters and guidelines that other people set up, not the ones that I have to dance around third party regulation, because you could very much start to build like you’re talking about, and by the time that two years later, you get to have some wildly different rules, I would imagine.


Steven Woods  33:20

Yeah, absolutely. There was a couple things that we’ve built in there that, you know, we had to change due to some guidance guidance from from FINRA. But overall, you know, we just, if I didn’t know how difficult the vendor approval process was, I might not start. But I was I was just dumb enough, I guess that, you know, I just took it one hurdle is one hurdle at a time.


Matt DeCoursey  33:48

There’s a lot of things as an entrepreneur that later if I would have known, they would have been that difficult, I might not have tried. But at the same time, when you’re the PERT, when you actually make it through that stuff, like you’re kind of happy for that barrier of entry, because it does act as a moat, or a shield for keeping everybody else from running up behind you in some regards. Now. Now without it, I’m sure that there’s been there’s other competition that you’re out there dealing with.


Steven Woods  34:16

So speaking of that, the one question that does come up a lot is, well, how come somebody else doesn’t just how come somebody else doesn’t do this or hasn’t done this right? And I lay it out like this, the most beloved banker in the industry is Jamie Dimon. Right? Everyone loves them. But if he came out tomorrow, and he said, you know, we’re gonna, these 10s of billions of dollars in front end revenue that we get from the financial advisor from the asset management arms. We’re gonna let the advisors keep that money, and we’re going to move everybody to 100% remote and just kind of do away with all this real estate that we have. Right? He even though he’s the most beloved guy in the industry, he’d be frogmarched out there. Front door because their dividend would be gone. And, you know, their share price would probably collapse. And so they really can’t do a pivot to move everybody to 100% payout and 100% remote because it would decimate their, their, their share price. And, you know, the moat that’s created from FINRA and sec, knowing that they have known that it takes about two years to get through the approval process. You know, if someone decides tomorrow that they want to start a company to kind of imitate what we’re what we’re doing, you know, they’re gonna be a couple of years behind us. You can kind of think of it in this, the same terms for the mid tier firms that if they wanted to shift, you know, 200% out 100% remote, you know, a lot of the executives work or make a lot of their own take home pay off of overrides of big groups of advisors. So those overrides would be gone for those executives, so they don’t want to, you know,  shift that and get rid of the Hamptons house.


Matt DeCoursey  36:09

And then on the flip side, too, I mean, you’re talking about restructuring the entire revenue model of any company and that I mean, and that’s that’s a tough thing to do all the way down the line. I know that it’s my own company was certainly nowhere near as big as a lot of people who chartered companies. I mean, I’ve seen the difficulty and change management that can occur when you have just when you go from 100 to 300 employees doing it with 30,000 employees, man, I mean, that’s a whole nother that’s a whole nother art. All right, so here we are at the end of another episode of Startup Hustle with me again today with Steven Woods. Steven’s the founder and CEO of Stirlingshire. If you want to learn more about Stirlingshire, go to The easiest way to get to that is just scroll on down, and click that link that’s in the show notes. Today’s episode, Startup Hustle is brought to you by full If you need to hire software engineers, testers, your leaders Full Scale can help. We have people in the platform to help you build and manage a team of experts just go to answer a couple questions, let our platform match you up with our fully vetted, highly experienced team of software engineers, testers and leaders. At Full Scale, we specialize in building long term teams that work only for you, once again, And now it is time for I like to end I like to end my episodes of Startup Hustle with the founders freestyle. And what does that mean? That means I’m gonna give the mic to Steven and let him say whatever he wants, however he wants to whoever he wants, because these episodes, my number one feedback that I get at the end of him is wow, that went quick. I forgot to say this. I forgot to say that. So Steven, here’s the mic. What do you want to say on your way out?


Steven Woods  37:43

Oh, I want to say, you know, thank you very much for having me. And I just want to speak directly to any advisors that might be out there. You know, our goal is to hire 5000 advisors over the next five years. And, you know, I basically built this, if a company like Stirlingshire existed, and I was making $2 million a year paying a million dollars a year to go to work essentially, right. And if a company like this had existed, I just would have went and worked there forever. But because it didn’t, you know, I built you know what I believed to be better solution. And so if you’re tired of going back to the office, and you want to give yourself a raise, be to happy to talk where we’re hiring. Full steam ahead.


Matt DeCoursey  38:31

Yeah, for my freestyle, I’m gonna say that there’s, it’s easy to look at industries and I mentioned the 800, the 8000, or the 80,000 pound gorilla, you will hear that term. If you are wanting to create something new that disrupt something big that big gorilla is this big, powerful force that oftentimes has it has the best interest of things not being disrupted innovating or changing. Now, yes, you have a more difficult uphill climb when you have to do that. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile. Because most of the time when these things exist and need improvement, and whatever people within the industry all feel the same way. It just takes the courage and wherewithal for someone to come along and try to fix the problem. And with it, if and when you do, those are usually quite lucrative outcomes, but they aren’t going to come without a fight. So if you’re trying to disrupt a major industry, this is why people often say that there are riches in the niches. And there are and there’s a lot of money to be made there. But yeah, so you know, I commend you for your courage. One advice I got from this was actually from the founder of an autobody franchise chain called CARSTAR. And he was in our single digit podcast number like he was one of the first time that cameras like number seven or eight. And I said, Tell me about yourself. And he said, Well, man, I’m a coward. And I said, Well, that’s an interesting response. Tell me more. And he said, Yeah, I like to go, where I like to go and do things that no one else is doing in a place where everyone will leave me alone until I get really good at it. I don’t take on the giants. And that is the riches and niches play and then other people take on the giants and that’s okay, too. So just, you know what you’re getting into.


Matt DeCoursey  40:29

And once again, if you’re interested in learning more about what they build it Stirlingshire, there is a link in the show notes. I wish you the best of luck down the road. And thanks for joining me, Steven. I really appreciate it.


Steven Woods  40:42

Yeah, thank you. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.