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Strategic Financial focuses on employees to drive growth

By Traci DeLore (news@cnybj.com)

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Strategic Financial Services recently opened a Little Falls office in the Rock City Centre shared workspace building. It’s one of three new locations along the Thruway corridor for the financial firm. (PHOTO CREDIT: ROCK CITY CENTRE FACEBOOK PAGE)

UTICA,N.Y. — Taking the helm of a business started by your father can be a daunting prospect. 

It’s a role that Alan Leist III, CEO of Strategic Financial Services — founded by his father Alan Leist, Jr, in 1979 — takes very seriously, honoring both the responsibility and the privilege the position has afforded him.

“We have this tremendous history and head start, that is a luxury,” he says. Noting that it can be easy to become complacent in such a situation, Leist instead is energized and focused on making the wealth-management firm a continued success.

In that vein, the firm recently opened its fifth new office location, as part of a strategy Leist calls the “Thruway +” plan and is in the midst of renovating its corporate offices as part of a renewed emphasis on workplace culture.

“We’ve been very fortunate to be able to attract great talent, great professionals in upstate New York,” Leist notes. That includes people in Rome, Syracuse, Rochester, Little Falls, and the Troy/Albany area.

Attracting top talent isn’t where the process ends, Leist notes. The firm also has to retain and reward those people so they can provide clients with the best possible service and experience.

“Part of that is meeting them in their community,” Leist says. That goes for clients and employees, he adds. So when Strategic found talent in communities outside its Utica home base, it just made sense to expand the firm’s borders beyond Utica.

That resulted in Strategic renting office space and opening offices at 1320 Floyd Avenue in Rome and 5788 Widewaters Parkway in DeWitt, near Syracuse.

This year, the strategy expanded into Rochester, Little Falls, and Troy, where Strategic rents office space in co-working locations for their employees that live in those areas. Greg Tedone heads up the Rochester location, Laura Powers and Kyle Dempster helm the Little Falls location, and Michael Durand is in Troy.

Branching out this way helps Strategic in several ways, Leist says. Of course, it helped the firm hire these new advisors, but it also casts a net across upstate New York to find new clients.

Alan Leist III

“Having boots on the ground gives us the opportunity to meet people,” he notes.

Another key initiative to the company’s growth is the remodel of corporate headquarters. “The optimal workspace design is changing,” Leist concedes. Everyone might not be working from home like they did during the worst of the pandemic, but there were definite benefits to having employees who are comfortable and working in a positive space.

The firm was honored in February for the third year in a row as one of InvestmentNews’ “Best Places to Work,” and Leist does not take the honor lightly.

“I think the pandemic was of course a tragedy, but also a wakeup call,” he says. “It reinforced our focus on making sure the team is fully engaged, is happy.”

The Strategic HQ office previously featured enclosed offices around the outside of the space and high-walled cubicles in the center. Realizing now that collaboration is critical to growth, Leist says many of those offices are gone, replaced with glass to let in more natural light.

Those high-walled cubicles are on the way out and will be replaced with workstations divided by lower walls that facilitate interaction and collaboration.

Some offices will convert into breakout/focus rooms where teams can meet when needed, and there will be individual focus rooms as well. Those can be used for things like Zoom meetings with clients or just a quiet space to work when needed, Leist says.

The final growth strategy Strategic is focused on is new technology, being rolled out now for beta testing, that allows clients to interact with the firm in new ways. It’s just another way, Leist says, to meet the clients where they are and provide an optimal customer experience. 

That experience, he adds, will hopefully lead to referrals and new clients.

With a team of more than 36 wealth-management professionals, Strategic services more than 1,000 clients (who live in over 30 states) in investment management, financial planning, and corporate retirement plans. The firm manages more than $1.8 billion in assets.       

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