Virginia Beach/Port Saint Lucie, FL Based Firm Offers Dynamic Range of Financial Services – Now Including Investment Grade Diamonds – Via A Network Of Over 200 Brokers
Marveling at his continual ability to orchestrate deals, regroup and grow his company no matter the odds, one of Daryl Bank’s colleagues at Dominion Investment Group recently made a whimsical observation that sums up the can-do spirit of his entire career. “If you were strapped and bound and left in the desert with nothing,” she said, “you would get up, dust off and rebuild your entire business from scratch.”
Bank, who originally formed Dominion as the investment division of Virginia Beach based Resource Bank in 2003, says his drive to succeed on behalf of the thousands of clients his firm has worked with over the past decade comes from the fact that he lives for the deal.
“I enjoy closing sales and building things up from nothing,” say Bank, the company’s Managing Partner who lives in Port Saint Lucie, Florida, where he runs one of its two major offices; the other is in Virginia Beach.
“I wake up between three and four in the morning ready to work because I truly enjoy what I’m doing. Though I’ve taken on more of a managerial role with the firm as we have evolved, I am still involved in helping people accomplish their goals, fix problems and work through their financial issues. This is an era of information overload and people are more confused about making investments than ever before. We’re all giving them the information and service they deserve and developing comprehensive plans that meet their objectives.”
Bank has developed Dominion Investment Group (whose main offices are in Virginia Beach) into a multi-faceted company that includes divisions for insurance, Registered Investment Advisor (RIA), franchising, estate planning, tax preparation, trust services and, most recently, investment grade diamonds.
The Port Saint Lucie office houses the trust, tax and investment banking arms of the company. The retail and wholesale insurance, Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) and franchise divisions are based in Dominion’s main office in Virginia Beach. Dominion has close to 50 full time employees and over 250 financial sales people that work with the company across the country.
Bank’s success has led to a weekly gig for the past three years plus hosting the syndicated radio show “Putting Your Financial House in Order.” Broadcast in four markets in South Florida as well as Hamptons Roads, Virginia, the consumer driven program addresses, Bank says, “regular people dealing with their financial lives, things like IRAs, tax planning, college planning, investments, insurance, Vet benefits, buying and leasing cars. I frequently invite guests to the show, everyone from an estate planner and money experts to a venture capitalist that invested in a portable golf club that breaks down into a book bag.”
Bank, who grew up in Chesapeake and was the first member of his family to graduate college, credits his birth father, a longshoreman, for his intense work ethic – and series of serendipitous but hard won opportunities for helping him launch a career after a discouraging early setback. He put himself through school, eventually pursuing a Master’s in Public Policy and an MBA at Regent University, while working full time as a longshoreman in one of the country’s busiest ports (Norfolk, Virginia). Newly married, he took a major pay cut to start his financial career at Dean Witter Reynolds. One week prior to completing his training with Morgan Stanley (which had merged with Dean Witter) at the World Trade Center – and a few months into his time there – they let him go, telling him they didn’t see him as a long term candidate.
The man who originally hired Bank advised him that the best office in the area to work for was PaineWebber. When the manager there didn’t follow up or respond to his calls, Bank showed up, parked himself in their lobby and demanded that he have the courtesy to say no to his face. The upstart’s confidence, attitude, demeanor and persistence won the manager over and – breaking all the rules – the manager hired Bank even though he had no real experience.
He made up for that almost immediately, having the good fortune to be partnered with a Wall Street veteran named Walter Neff, who did institutional sales in New York with PaineWebber. Neff brought his Wall Street contacts into retail relationships in Virginia Beach, and soon Bank was helping manage personal accounts for big time money managers who appeared regularly on CNBC, and other top clients like the editor of Gourmet Magazine.
“It was pretty amazing,” Bank says, “being this little guy in Virginia Beach thrust so quickly into working with private equity and mutual fund managers. Walter and I were doing true Wall Street stockbroker stuff. I enjoyed it because I was dealing with sophisticated, complex financial transactions when most of the reps were doing retirement planning and annuities, not stocks and bonds.”
When PaineWebber was bought out by UBS AG and the business started to change, Bank decided to venture out on his own. His longtime mentor Lawrence Smith, who ran Resource Bank, a regional bank with less than ten branches, offered Bank the opportunity to create an investment division. Dominion Investment Group started as this investment arm as well as an independent company.
Before the bank ended up being bought out, this division rose from start up to #1 in its broker dealer group in just a year.
“Bankers think one way, investment people think another, and I have always believed that the problem between investment firms and banks is based on this culture clash,” Bank says. “Bankers don’t see themselves as salespeople and tend to look down their noses at investment folks as salespeople. Having identified these differences, I spoke to bankers in their language and investment guys in theirs, creating an important bridge between them which helped the interactions between divisions run efficiently.”
From 2003 to 2005, Bank opened four investment offices, formed an insurance company, as well as a property and casualty company, for Resource Bank. In 2005 he joined another bank and formed their investment division, rising, as he had done before with Resource Bank, from startup to #1 with their broker dealer in only six months.
Around the time Dominion Investment Group went entirely independent, in the late 2000s, the war drums were beating about the economy slowing down – and then came the crash. At the time, it was just Bank and Hudspeth in Virginia Beach, selling fixed annuities and insurance. Inspired by his dynamic history of overcoming obstacles and taking risks that ultimately paid off, his mindset about his business during this economically challenging time was exactly the opposite from most businesses and financial firms. While everyone else was preparing for the worst and scaling back, he had one thing on his mind: expansion!
“When the economy slows down,” he says, “many businesses make the mistake of battening down the hatches and letting people go. But typical of my nature, and in the same defiant spirit in which I built my company, I thought, ‘How can we expand?’ I knew there were challenges but my attitude was that we were going to do it. The fact that so many firms were letting talented advisors go made it the perfect time to pick up new advisors to start a new division – and then even more as each became successful.
“The majority of the divisions and array of services that are currently on our website were launched and grown during the downturn,” he adds. “The thing that always bothered me about the traditional bank model was that their goal was to just jam certain approved products down the client’s throat, but we were all about personalized planning. Our expansion into estate planning is a perfect example of how we kept growing. We were already working with lawyers in that world for some of our clients, and the process was always very slow. We thought, why not create this service in house, which would be more efficient, better and more affordable for our clients? Bringing that and other services inside has led to infinitely better value and customer service.”
Bank envisioned this level of expansion for Dominion Investment Group from the start but is the first to admit that even he never thought the company would be where they are this quickly. True to his ever expansive entrepreneurial spirit and “love of the deal,” he and his partners are committed to expanding their existing divisions while continuing to venture into exciting new territories.
The end of 2013 marked the soft launch of their latest venture, Dominion Investment Grade Diamonds, selling laser inscribed, GIA certified, high end diamonds for investment purposes. The division’s dedicated website, www.trustindiamonds.com, explains the practical reasons why diamonds are such a powerful investment: “Symbolizing wealth, quality, and love for centuries, the diamond shares many similarities to gold. Yet, while gold prices show volatility over time, the prices of diamonds have only shown steady growth. Diamonds offer better use as a store of value and currency hedge. This will only be enhanced as global demand increases. Dominion is so confident in the uniqueness of their investment process that they filed a patent on it.”
Top organizations and seminar companies are always asking Bank to come and give inspirational talks to large groups of people. While, as with financial planning, there is no “one size fits all” bit of advice, he is candid in revealing what lies behind his unparalleled success in the financial world. In school, “I wasn’t the best student at all,” he says, “in fact, I liked to joke that I was one of the guys who made the top half of the class possible. I may not be the smartest guy in the room, but I’ve got something everyone wants: a sick work ethic. If I want to get anywhere or accomplish anything, I’m going to do something about it. People that talk about my work make my job sound so fancy, but at the end of the day, what I’m doing comes down to my attitude, going after my dream and not letting anybody get in my way.
“What’s driving me to build and expand Dominion,” he says, “is greater opportunity to help people out. Diversifying is good for our clients and allows us to weather the markets as they go up and down – so if certain divisions go down via a natural cycle, others will be roaring. In an industry that fluctuates, it demands constant reinvention, we’re the guys who are going to remain steady and thriving.”