Alumni Spotlight: Scott Phillips

1986 grad: Investors are hesitant

Folks who invested $40 per share on May's Facebook initial public offering have winced since then, watching their shares fall by double digits.

The hype and then a technical glitch that led to millions lost during the first few moments of trading are just one recent and well-publicized Wall Street episode.

Perhaps those particular investors should have hesitated.

The economic downturn of the past few years hasn't gone away entirely, although many say there's improvement on several fronts. Still, investors are wary. That's the experience of 1986 finance/accounting graduate Scott Phillips.

"The economy has been challenging the last few years," he said, "and we've certainly seen clients hesitate to take action regarding their financial situation."

That's the art, or science of investing, especially in a poor economic environment. "On the reverse side of that, we've seen a lot of people who have been scared and did not take action who have suffered losses in their financial portfolio," he said. "Now, they are looking for solutions to prevent future losses and to give themselves a more predictable gain through annuity products. We've been able to capitalize on that in this market but, it has definitely been a struggle."

Phillips, who also received an MBA at WVU in 1988, is managing director and registered principal at Gateway Capitol Financial in Baltimore, Md. Under his leadership the company has grown to three other offices in the Metro D.C. area –Elkridge, Md., Rockville, Md., and Falls Church, Va.

Phillips is president of the Baltimore WVU Alumni Association and lives in Glenelg, Md. He said another aspect of the economic troubles is that finding people interested in professions in finance and wealth management is more difficult.

"Typically, we've had no trouble finding good people, but that has been more difficult in the last few years, and we're not quite sure why," he said. "But overall, I think we've done pretty well. We're out there helping people plan for retirement, and we've found that there are a lot of people who are in a bad situation and do not have a lot of confidence that their retirement future is secure. Fortunately, for them and for us, we're able to help them become a little more confident in their future."

Phillips, who serves on the B&E Visiting Committee, said he enjoys his profession because it gives him satisfaction to help other people.

"The best part of my profession is that I have the ability to run my own business," he said. "Of course the best part of running my own business is that I can help a lot of people be successful. It's very gratifying to bring people into the financial services business and watch them become successful. In this industry, success does include making money."

He said students who want to be effective should work on interpersonal skills. "While in school, they should learn all they can on developing their people skills," Phillips said. "They can become involved in organizations and sports teams to learn how to get along with people. After school, they need to continue to work on self-development. Just because they graduate, learning is not over. They need to constantly work on skills through reading, attending workshops, taking additional classes and whatever knowledge they can obtain to continue learning. It truly is a life-long process."

Phillips said he has fond memories of his time at WVU, living at the "Towers," attending sporting events, making friends — and beating Oklahoma in 1982.