It was the type of CFO position that Gary Zyla probably would not have been able to find outside of Genworth Financial, a financial services company that he had first joined in 2004.
Not that his resume didn’t already have some solid CFO prerequisites, but the leadership challenge that Zyla was about to take on was less about capital management and more about establishing the business functions required to run a business day by day.Read More
“Genworth said, ‘Look, this is a very broad role—we’re going to take a leap of faith with you,’” recalls Zyla, whose appointment as CFO of Genworth’s newly formed California-based subsidiary came 7 years after he had first joined the company.
Still, what happened next was arguably the most pivotal moment of Zyla’s career, as in 2013—2 years after he had relocated to California to better fulfill his CFO duties—Genworth announced it was selling his division to a private equity firm.
“Once it was sold, I was the CFO of this 350-person privately held business,” continues Zyla, who subsequently began reporting to the company’s private equity owner.
“The new owners were very clear to me about what they wanted the business to be,” comments Zyla, who reports that the owners would ultimately earn four-and-a-half times their original investment before selling the business known as AssetMark to Huatai Securities Co. Ltd. in 2016.
Besides the two private equity ownership transactions (2013, 2016), Zyla’s CFO career chapter at AssetMark includes an IPO (2019) and six different acquisitions within the past 7 years—which is not bad at all for a finance leader who has yet to look outside his company for opportunities.
Says Zyla: “I was given an opportunity and then other opportunities found me.” –Jack Sweeney
“As CFO, you are the CEO’s key strategic partner, and your core team is, first and foremost, the executive team of the company. Do not underestimate the power of a strategic finance team in making a difference and propelling a great company to even greater heights.” –Gary Zyla, CFO, AssetMark
Made Possible By
CFOTL: Tell us about AssetMark … what does this company do, and what are its offerings today?
Zyla: AssetMark is a service provider to financial advisors in the country. About 35% of Americans use a financial advisor to help them to manage their money. There are about 300,000 financial advisors in this country, and every single one of them needs, basically, a platform for investing their clients’ money. Some of them are in enclosed shops, such as Edward Jones, but many, many of them are what we call “independent,” and they get to choose what platform they use. They can use a big name like Fidelity or Charles Schwab, or they can use a smaller name like AssetMark.Read More
Our strength is that we can provide three really important things for independent financial advisors. First, we provide an open architecture technology that gives them a lot of flexibility in their investment choices. Second, we provide them with an excellent curated investment portfolio that basically helps them to narrow down the complicated world of where to put money. We do this curating of investment solutions. Third, we provide white glove service to these financial advisors.
All of these financial advisors with whom we work are basically small businesses, so we’re a B2B. We’re the larger B that works with these smaller Bs, these small financial advisor offices, these “mom and pop” shops with maybe three or four advisors in the office. Maybe the nephew’s working the front desk and the niece is handling the calls—whatever, right?
Imagine a small office. They need support. They need support in building websites. They need support in taking calls from clients about account changes. They need support for their technology and for their marketing and customer segmentation. We provide all of these services to the financial advisor with one goal—our one mission—which is to make a difference in their lives so that they can make a difference in the lives of the investor.
We have about 8,000 advisors who work with our platform, which right now is handling just a little bit shy of $100 billion in assets. We believe that we’ve had a winning formula for many, many years, with our firm having been founded about 25 years ago by a few guys out of Berkeley. Now we’re a publicly traded company that’s going to be targeting more than $600 million in revenue this year. jb
AssetMark | www.assetmark.com | Concord, CA