Stephan Cassaday '76
“My job is about helping people solve problems every day,” explains Stephan Cassaday ’76, President and CEO of Cassaday & Company, Inc., an independent wealth management firm based out of McLean, Virginia. “People accumulate wealth and realize that all the moving parts can be complex, and making mistakes has real consequences. We believe that our presence more fully assures good outcomes.”
Founded with the mission of providing independent, objective and impartial financial advice to investors based on their individual situations, Cassaday & Company, Inc. has grown to over 45 employees, oversees or manages over $1.8 billion in assets, and proudly serves over 1,500 households nationally.
Cassaday was recognized by Barron’s, one of the world’s premier investing publications, as the #1 Financial Advisor in the state of Virginia for 2016 on its annual list of America’s Top 1,200 Financial Advisors State-by-State. Cassaday & Company, Inc. has been on the list for eight consecutive years, and was named #1 in Virginia in 2014. In addition, Cassaday is ranked on Barron’s list of 100 Independent Advisors in the nation as well as Top 100 Financial Advisors overall.
Not bad for someone who was too busy playing with his band to give his secondary education much thought. “Thinking I would make a living as a drummer, I waited too late to apply to college and Radford University was the only place he made the application deadline,” Cassaday explains. “It was a blessing in disguise and a great fit for me.”
Cassaday began as a business major, a degree that one would expect a successful financial advisor to have. Going against conventional wisdom, he deliberately changed majors to psychology. He felt the change would better prepare him for the realities of what one will face in the business world.
“Understanding motivation, emotion, perception and conditioning is key to being successful in business.” says Cassaday.
Cassaday also credits his social sciences degree with the quality of the firm’s workplace environment. Cassaday & Company, Inc. has received multiple recognitions as a ‘Best Place to Work’. Cassaday says it is simple – he treats people the way he would want to be treated and makes sure employees feel valued, empowered and, most importantly, think like entrepreneurs.
Cassaday routinely goes against conventional wisdom. “In my experience, dependence on axioms to make important decisions is a mistake and discourages innovation and progress. At every turn, we have looked at traditional ways of thinking and analyzed the various ways to do things differently to distinguish our firm.”
While at Radford University, Cassaday stayed busy outside of the classroom, serving in the student government and managing his band. “I think the non-classroom experience was the most influential for me,” Cassaday says. He encourages students to take advantage of these, as employers are increasingly looking for graduates with organizational and interpersonal experience. “Class is important, but so is experience. Your senses are heightened with real-world experience – there are real consequences for mistakes.”
Finishing his education at Radford University in three years, Cassaday landed a job at a local investment firm. In just two short years, he became the firm’s youngest vice president. During his 16 years working for Wall Street firms, Cassaday saw first-hand how the presence of corporate agendas, commission-based products and undisclosed conflicts of interest can hinder an advisor from making recommendations that were in the best interest of the clients. In 1993, he went independent and founded Cassaday & Company, Inc. so he could provide honest, objective advice.
“My employees are the reason for my success,” Cassaday explains. “I have a talent for seeing what people would be good at. I hire outstanding people with innate abilities that cannot be taught.”
The real secret to Cassaday’s success may be in his use of Radford University graduates.
“We get resumes in this office every day from all over the world, including from top Ivy League school graduates,” explains Cassaday. “I’ve found there is little correlation between grades and success when you find the right people. Seven of our 40 employees are Radford University graduates. When I need something done, I look to them because they are smart in the ways I need them to be.
“It is a great environment for both personal and academic development,” he continues. “Radford University puts the finishing touches on people.”
For more information on Cassaday & Company, Inc., please visit www.cassaday.com.