For many Americans, the 1995 O.J. Simpson murder trial marked a turning point in history. For teenager Christina Orta, an encounter with one of the trial’s key players set her on a new path that led to a career as a financial advisor.
“At 15 I thought I wanted to go to law school, but after meeting with one of the prosecutors who was on the O.J. trial, I decided that wasn’t what I really wanted,” Orta said. “I’ve always been a math person and a people person, so my dad said, ‘Why not work in my office a few hours a week?’ I fell in love with it.”
At that time, Orta’s father, John Lindsey, was an advisor for a large wirehouse. Today, the two are partners and co-owners of Lindsey & Lindsey Wealth Management and Ascent Wealth Management. Both practices operate from an office in Westlake Village, California.
Her passion for helping people reach their goals led Orta to earn a bachelor’s degree in finance from Loyola Marymount in 2005. After graduation, she gained valuable industry experience with a mortgage broker and a wholesaler. Even though she had planned all along to join her father’s practice in 2018, an unexpected change at her wholesaling firm stepped up her timetable by a few years. She joined the practice in 2014. Today, she serves as vice president.
“I had to decide if I wanted to continue to wholesale or make the leap,” she said. “I had an enticing offer to keep wholesaling, and I wasn’t necessarily against the idea.”
While the change meant a 50 percent cut in income, Orta said with persistence she built a book of business. Two years later, she was earning what she did as a wholesaler. About the time she came on board, her father was starting Ascent, a professional alliance partnership that allows for revenue sharing with an estate attorney, who owns 40 percent of the practice. Lindsey owns 50 percent and Orta owns the remaining 10 percent.
Even though she is the minority shareholder, Orta has become the primary advisor at Ascent, a role she embraces.
“We got Ascent going in 2015 when the markets were down and diversification wasn’t working,” Orta said. “The S&P was outperforming diversified portfolios. Doing client reviews wasn’t easy at that time. But now we’re doing reviews with clients who stuck with us and they’re seeing it’s doing what we wanted it to do.”
Her patience has paid off. Ascent has grown to over $115 million in assets under management and opened branch offices in Sacramento and Pasadena, California. At the same time, Lindsey & Lindseygrew its assets under management from $137 million to $175 million.
At 34, Orta is nearly half the age of many of her clients. While she admits being a young, female advisor can present challenges, she said the key to her success has been her industry knowledge and understanding her clients and their needs.
“I’m female and young, but I don’t fight it. I know I have a higher hurdle to hit,” she said. “Age isn’t necessarily an obstacle. It comes back to education and going above and beyond for a client, giving them that next phase planning and walking them through what you’re trying to accomplish.”
A career as an independent advisor can be rewarding, Orta said. But because of the way many millennials were brought up, the challenges that go along with starting a practice may be scaring them away from considering it as viable career. Orta, whose mother is a real estate agent, admits she had a leg up because she was raised by sales-savvy parents who prepared her for the rigors of building a business.
Since becoming an advisor, she’s gained further support by participating in Securities America’s LIFT program, which paired her with a senior female advisor who served as her mentor.
“She taught me you have to stop and work on the business. You can’t always be in the business, or you’re not going to grow,” she said.
For the next generation of advisors to succeed, the industry will need to provide more mentoring opportunities like she received, Orta said.
“I think a huge issue in the industry is a lack of quality training programs and mentorships,” she said. “Millennials aren’t big risk takers. They’ve been overcoddled. You can be successful and make good money in this career, but it’s going to require interaction with people, not just talking on the phone.”
For millennials willing to brave the challenges to reap the rewards, Orta recommends following a path similar to hers. Her younger sister, who currently works for a wholesaler, plans to join her and her father in a few years.
“I had a conversation with a guy the other day who was getting his MBA and thinking about becoming an advisor,” she said. “I recommended he go work for a product company in some capacity or in a home office or get into a practice with a succession plan. A lot of people don’t appreciate the value of working for a wholesaler. But it gives you more credibility with the client.”