In 1984, a counselor, dissatisfied with his work teaching disabled adults, opened the Fresno Bee and discovered his calling…
Waddell and Reed, a mutual fund company in Kansas City, Missouri, was looking to open a branch in Fresno. Anyone interested in joining the Waddell and Reed “team” was invited to attend one of several scheduled seminars. Skeptical of this new adventure, David Williamson attended two seminars before signing on for an interview. The 20 individuals selected to man the new Fresno branch attended “loose” training in the evenings to prepare them for sitting for the Series 7 and insurance licensing exams. Those who passed their exams were first required to quit their day jobs and were then asked to hold seminars of their own, reciting the speeches scripted by Waddell and Reed to anyone and everyone willing to listen. Potential clients generated by these seminars were offered instructional consultations, where they were granted the pleasure of listening to yet more scripted speeches. Within a year, the division manager quit and the Fresno branch was dismantled. Not such an auspicious beginning.
Having already left his teaching position, David decided to stick with financial planning and contacted the local financial planner association in search of contacts. After speaking with some local planners, David decided to join a firm owned by a local planner. The planner’s clients were heavily invested in Limited Partnerships and the planners worked on a commission basis with a variety of broker-dealers. In 1987, the firm incorporated and David bought into Financial Advisory Associates, Inc. Around this time, FAA and another local firm owned by Gary Leffler decided to join forces in an attempt to become the “big player” in town. After the merger, problems began to surface. There were 8 owners (all chiefs, no Indians), all with different ideas and different approaches to client service. Eventually, they decided that it would be best to part ways.
Gary and David formed Portfolio Advisors in 1990, moving from commission to fee-only service. In the early years of PA, they focused on designing portfolios of mutual funds. Around 1994, David decided to meet with the people at Dimensional Fund Advisors (DFA), a mutual fund company, to discuss their (controversial) investment philosophy. From that point on, he began working to incorporate much broader diversification for his clients’ portfolios and took a more structured asset-class investment approach.
David made another savvy move in 2002 hiring Dustin Smith. Dustin ultimately became the 2nd planner in the firm. They expanded and improved internal processes and hired and trained staff to streamline the service and carry on his vision for generations to come. In 2004, Michelle Carter came on board and eventually became the 3rd planner. The result, years later, is a firm with the depth to carry David’s vision far into the future. All planners collaborate on portfolio design and service model decisions, which results in a similar service to all clients and satisfies our founder’s vision.
In 2007, David and the rest of the team split from Portfolio Advisors to create Pathways Advisory Group, Inc. A few years later Jeff Karst joined the firm to become the 4th planner. And more recently, in 2014, Dustin joined David at the ownership level by purchasing an ownership stake in Pathways. Not long after, in 2015, Jeff purchased shares as well. The future is bright and hopes are high. Who knows where the path will go from here…