Alumnus Ian Massey puts his UCI literary journalism degree to use on a daily basis. He regularly meets with people, asks inquisitive questions, builds a rapport founded on trust, and makes sure to do his research. But he isn’t a typical reporter – or even a reporter at all. At 29, Massey is the co-founder and vice president of Providence Wealth Planning, with offices in Irvine and Corona. Although he advises clients on how to manage their finances, he says he still considers himself a “journalist at heart.”
As a UCI student, Massey was an avid sportswriter for the campus’s New University newspaper – earning him six writing awards from the California College Media Association – and an intern for the Pacific Club IMPACT Foundation. When he graduated in 2013 with a B.A. in literary journalism and a minor in business management, it seemed as if a promising writing career was on the horizon.
However, as he searched for work as a postgrad, Massey questioned whether he truly wanted to follow the traditional path of a journalist. The industry was changing, and he wasn’t convinced it was for him. Many of the job openings in journalism at the time were out of state, and he wasn’t ready to leave his roots behind.
“I’m very family-oriented, and I love Southern California,” Massey says. “My whole immediate family is still here, so I was looking at jobs thinking, ‘Do I really want to move to the Midwest to follow a minor league baseball team?’ I realized I wanted to try something new, and it worked out better than I could have imagined.”
He decided to get licensed as a financial adviser. With his father and brother in the wealth management industry and some business education under his belt, Massey had a sense of the kind of work it entailed.
“When I first started, I walked around to every respected adviser’s desk in the office asking questions,” he says. “I wanted to learn from the best. I still pick my mentors’ brains every day; I’m constantly learning.”
Massey found that he enjoyed building relationships and helping people solve challenges. He wanted to make a meaningful difference by putting his clients’ best interests ahead of his own. And when it came to financial planning, doing research and running calculations came naturally to him.
“I was obsessed with baseball stats as a kid and used to memorize all kinds of useless facts and information about sports, so I think that’s one reason why I was also really drawn to personal finance and working with numbers,” Massey says. “Now I try to memorize my clients’ pets’ names and how much they have in every bank and investment account. It’s not useless information anymore. People love it when they can tell that you actually listen to them.”
With only about 5 percent of financial advisers in the United States being under the age of 30, wealth planning can be a tough industry to break into as a recent college graduate. Many clients are in their 50s and 60s and are looking to trust someone with their life savings. Massey was just 22 when he began working as an adviser. It was his strong interviewing skills and personability that helped him overcome that initial barrier.
“My strength as a journalist was reporting. It was second nature for me to ask good questions and get people to open up,” Massey says. “If I can get a good conversation going and have them laughing or smiling – whether we’re talking about family, sports or the world – or find some commonality, people start to feel comfortable, and it helps build trust. Then it unfolds to ‘Let’s talk about your finances.’”
In his first year, he was at a firm with more than 150 advisers, and Massey was named “rookie of the year,” beating out all the other new advisers. Then, in his second year, he was named the company’s “rising star.”
Five years ago, Massey, his father and two other advisers joined forces to form Providence Wealth Planning. Together they’ve expanded their staff and now manage just over $500 million of their clients’ assets. Their motto is “Because Family’s Important,” a nod to the reason Massey shifted his career path. Had he not stayed in California, he may not have met his wife, Roxanne, also a UCI alum and now a civil engineer.
Throughout the coronavirus crisis, Massey has spent hours in virtual meetings with clients both in and outside California. “The pandemic forced us into isolation, but it also created opportunity,” he says. “Many people who had been putting off their finances for a long time finally had a chance to jump on a virtual meeting and get their financial house in order.
“I’m looking forward to getting back to face-to-face meetings, but it’s been nice to see new faces and familiar faces virtually – to finally see the family dog in the background and listen to the kids argue.”
Massey has established himself as someone who’s committed to his craft – a career that he did not expect as an undergrad but believes he was perfectly prepared for.
“When I applied to college, I thought I wanted to be a reporter for ESPN someday. I never thought I would end up in the financial industry. But I’m just really glad I chose UCI,” he says. “I gained a great deal of experience with the campus newspaper, in my journalism workshops and in my business classes. It made me very well-rounded and helped me find success in my eventual career. I might not have gone the route I thought I would go when I was 18, but it all fell into place.”