Briton Hill of Weber Global Management: 5 Things I Learned as a TwentySomething Founder
“If I had any advice to give, it would be to figure out your strengths and weaknesses as quickly as possible and be honest about them. To be successful in any field, I think being self-aware is beneficial and very helpful especially when it comes to building the right team. You will want to surround yourself with people whose strengths complement your own.”
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As a part of our series called “My Life as a TwentySomething Founder”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Briton Hill.
Briton Hill became a very successful investor in his teens. Now the President at Weber Global, he applies those same principles that made him successful to his clients. Briton has quickly achieved the reputation as one of the leading ultra-high-net-worth investment strategists in the world.
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Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! What is your “backstory”?
I grew up very poor in a small town in Utah. I remember my parents talking about money problems and I remember feeling worried about money at only 7 years old. Fortunately for me, even though my parents didn’t have a lot of money at the time, they still valued financial education and recognized that if they’d had a financial education sooner, things would probably be different.
I saw my dad sitting on the floor with some 1-ounce Silver Eagle coins one day and he showed them to me. He began telling that Silver and Gold were a great investment at the time. I was only a kid, so I didn’t really comprehend the concept of investing, but to seven-year-old me, this was like a pirate’s treasure and I wanted some.
Back in 2002, 1-ounce Silver coins sold for only $4–5 an ounce, and my Dad offered to take me to a precious metals dealer near our home to purchase them. I had a few hundred dollars stashed away in my room, so I was able to buy a bunch of these coins at what was a great time to do so. This started a pattern that lasted for years — working to earn money, then investing the bulk of that money into Silver and gold coins — and by the time I was 16 in 2011, I had several thousand ounces put away.
When I turned 16 in January of 2011, my Dad gave me a copy of an investment newsletter called The Weber Global Opportunities Report written by legendary investor, Chris Weber. Chris had made his first million as a teenager in the precious metals market back in the 70’s, and I happened to own a lot of precious metals at what was the height of a massive bull market. I felt an instant connection to Chris and I was hooked on his writing and followed his bi-weekly reports religiously.
Following his recommendations made me financially independent by the time I was in my early twenties. I had a sufficient net worth to do really whatever I wanted in life, so college wasn’t for me; I wanted to be an investor, and I already was one. What degree was there for that? So, I dropped out of the University of Utah after one semester. But I loved finance and investing, so I got a job at Fidelity Investments in October 2016 as a stockbroker, and decided it was time to express my gratitude to Chris.
I mustered up the courage to email the publisher of his newsletter and asked them, if possible, to relay my thanks to him. I shared my story of how he got me excited about investing at 16 years old and how by following his advice, I was very comfortable financially. I thanked him for what he was doing and for igniting my passion of investing, then I shared some things I was noticing about investor behavior while at Fidelity. To my surprise, Chris wrote back, and he and I ended up hitting it off really well. We emailed back and forth, daily, for weeks. Eventually, I decided to ask him if I could work for him or with him at any level, especially in a money management capacity. His response was, “It will take an act of God, but I will let you know.”
Not exactly the response I was hoping for since I can’t control acts of God, but at least it wasn’t a blatant “NO!” We emailed a few times after that, but then lost touch and I didn’t hear from Chris until about 6 months later. I suppose The Gods of the Markets smiled upon me because the next email I received from Chris was a partnership offer. He had a falling out with his old money management partner and wanted not just an employee, but an equity partner in a new firm, Weber Global Management. It was a dream come true for me, and Chris gained a partner who understood his philosophy and way of thinking at a core level. After all, he was the one who had shaped my way of thinking for so many years.
In August of 2017, I met Chris in person for the first time and Weber Global Management was formed at a small ranch near Zions National Park in Southern Utah. We submitted our paperwork to the appropriate regulatory bodies, I helped Chris pass his Series 65 exam, and on December 7th, 2017, we took on our first client. Today, we manage hundreds of clients in dozens of countries and hundreds of millions of dollars.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company? What lessons or takeaways did you take out of that story?
Here’s a funny story: Both Chris and I are pretty simple guys who are easy to please. We don’t like to draw a lot of attention to ourselves, and we enjoy cheap food and dumpy hotels when we are traveling on our own or together. Our clients and business associates naturally assume we live lavishly and eat at the fanciest restaurants or stay at the ritziest hotels whenever we travel, and that’s not usually the case.
In October of 2018, Chris and I met in New Orleans for our shareholder annual meeting. It’s only the two of us, so we usually just spend a few days exploring, hanging out, talking about the markets and visiting clients. Our meeting time came, and since this is a special annual occasion, we decided to eat at one of New Orleans’ finest establishments, Popeyes Chicken. Yep, the Popeyes Chicken with the spicy or regular chicken strips. I like to get a few of each with their Mardi Gras Mustard to dip them in. We ate our food, had our meeting, signed our documents on a greasy orange table, then went back to Chris’s hotel to report back to our corporate attorney via skype.
I’ll never forget the look on our attorney’s face when he saw our annual meeting location listed as Popeye’s Chicken. He thought we were joking, and it took us a few minutes of insisting and Chris producing his leftovers before he would believe us. It became a joke between us all, and now every year, we conduct all our big annual meetings at fast food restaurants. In 2019, we went to Dallas and ate at Whataburger, and in 2020, we managed to get into Jimmy Johns before the virus shut everything down. For 2021, I’m kind of craving In-n-Out, but we’ll see…
This whole experience taught me to not take yourself too seriously and find enjoyment in little things. I work closely with a lot of wealthy people — all of our clients have a pretty substantial net worth — and I’ve noticed the happiest ones are the people who can find enjoyment in simple pleasures, like Chicken Strips from Popeyes. Making money and buying things with money can become addicting, like any drug. People can torture themselves by thinking that lavishness and buying the next big thing will make them happy. But really, it’s just a temporary dopamine hit and you’ll need even more or something bigger next time. I feel lucky to have learned this at a young age, because I see people much older than me struggling with it still. Find what really makes you happy and the people you like sharing those things with, and just do that. For some people that’s nice restaurants and fancy hotels, but for me, I’m just as happy at Popeyes as I am at Prime.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I think what makes us really stand out is the fact that neither Chris nor myself have a formal college education, rather, we got our educations by investing for ourselves and doing very well at it. It wasn’t until after being successful money managers and investors personally that we decided to do it for others. I think most money managers have clients who are far wealthier than them and haven’t really done well for themselves financially. They went to school, got a degree in finance, then decided to become an investment advisor.
There’s nothing wrong with that, and those guys are probably a lot smarter than I am, but who better to understand the nuances of an ultra-high net worth individual than a money manager who is personally in the ultra-high net worth category? Our ability to relate to clients on a financial level gives us a unique edge in our space. Chris and I also have an age gap that helps us — I’m 26, he’s 66 — and that allows us to relate to a very broad group of people.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
There are countless people that I’m grateful for and who helped me along the way, too many to even name, but the one person I am most grateful for is Chris Weber. He has been a trusted friend and mentor to me for years now, and if it weren’t for him, my life would be very different. From inspiring me through his writing as a teenager, to giving me my dream career, I owe so much to him and I’ll forever be grateful to Chris for giving me a chance. It’s been such a privilege working closely with someone that I admired and followed for so long. It’s safe to say that if I never knew or met Chris Weber, I don’t know where I would be now or what I’d be doing.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
Yes! We are very excited to announce that a prestigious Swiss Bank has just agreed to do business with our firm. What this means is we will now be able to hold client assets in Switzerland, which provides wonderful benefits to anyone seeking to further protect their portfolio and ensure preservation of capital, regardless of what is happening economically.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I grew up Mormon, and part of the Mormon belief is that members are required to donate 10% of their income to the church. I no longer identify with the Mormon religion or consider myself Mormon, but I kept a lot of the core values I was raised with, so I try to donate generously to causes I believe in and that hit close to home for me.
Since I absolutely love kids, I’ve supported a few local Utah charities such as the Christmas Box House and Pour Overs with Purpose, I’ve also done stuff with Make a Wish. My Dad has congestive heart failure, so The American Heart Association has been one I’ve consistently donated to. I’m also a guy who can grow a great mustache, so last November I supported a friend who was raising money for Movember.
Most recently, I’ve been getting ready to do a match on some donations made to the Asian Pacific Fund in response to the violence against Asian-Americans. My Grandmother is from Korea, born in Seoul. My mom is half Korean, my sister is adopted and half-Korean, as well, and my Dad is quarter Hawaiian. These are the people I love, and I will do anything I can to protect them and make sure they know I love them. I’ve been blessed with a lot and philanthropy is an ever-growing part of who I am and where I derive my greatest sense of satisfaction. I look forward to doing much more in the future.
Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
Principles by Ray Dalio. I’m a huge Ray Dalio fan, and I find myself resonating with him on a core level. One of my biggest weaknesses is that I’m easily distracted. Not in the short term — I can stay highly dedicated to the task at hand — but in the long term vision of where I want to go and what I want to do. There are so many projects and opportunities that are interesting to me, and I wish I could pursue them all. One line from Ray in his book that has always stuck with me and that I think about probably every day is: “You can have virtually anything you want, but you cannot have everything you want.”
When I read this, I realized how important it is to figure out what I want and focus as much as I could on it. I can’t have everything, but I can have virtually anything, so I immediately began prioritizing what is truly important, what I actually want, who I really want to become. This advice has been life-changing for me, and if you look at some of the most successful people in history, they had tunnel vision focus on the very few things that were crucially important to them.
Can you share 5 of the most difficult and most rewarding parts of being a “TwentySomething founder”. Please share an example or story for each
1. Freedom and autonomy (within reason)
Running my own company and being my own boss has granted me the ability to do really whatever I want, whenever I want to do it. Now, that doesn’t mean I can play 24/7, but if I have some friends who are going on a trip somewhere, or if there’s an event I want to fly to, or if I want to work from Miami this month instead of Salt Lake City, I can usually work my schedule around to make it happen. As long as I am getting my work done and progressing the business forward, I can do what I want.
This is definitely crucial if you are going to be a founder of anything. Your people will only work as hard as you do, and if you are slacking and aren’t disciplined, they won’t work very hard. Not to mention your clients will take notice and begin to distrust you. Self-Discipline has been hard for me, but I’m grateful for the challenge. It’s not always easy to wake up early and watch the markets, or to force yourself not to procrastinate, or to go to the gym, but it’s worth it and rewarding. You get a deep sense of personal satisfaction when you pull yourself together.
3. People not taking you seriously
I mean, can you blame them? I was 22 years old and trying to get people to trust my expertise on financial markets when millions of dollars were at stake. It was really difficult to get people to take my word for anything, but I’m glad I kept at it because now it’s not so challenging and I have a track record to prove it. Most people in their 20’s are partying multiple nights a week and not very ambitious, so any true founder will be fighting an uphill battle to prove that they’re different. Don’t get discouraged, just prove to people that you know what you’re doing and do not give them any reason to think you’re just another 20-something-year-old party animal.
4. Build the right network
I strongly believe that the people you surround yourself with say a lot about the type of person you are. Your network will either support you in your goals or hinder you. I’m very lucky to have such great friends in my life now, but it took letting go of a lot of relationships that didn’t support my vision of who I wanted to be.
5. Trust your Gut
You should always surround yourself with the best possible advisors and experts and trust their opinions on matters that they are more knowledgeable on, but never forget, you know your business better than anyone. There have been times where I went against the better judgement of my advisors because my gut told me it was the right move to make. One such time was when we were considering migrating our clients from one brokerage firm to what I felt was a much better brokerage. The only issue is, we had only been in business a year, and many of our clients had just gotten established at the current broker. The concern was the move would be too disruptive to the clients and many would close their accounts rather than move to the better firm, and it was a rational concern. But I knew that the client experience would be far better at the other brokerage firm, and trade execution and pricing would be better for the clients as well, so I made the decision to move the clients anyways. Fortunately, it was a successful transition and we didn’t lose a single client. In fact, we actually gained new people by being on the better platform and many of our existing clients increased their investment with us because they were so happy. Trust your gut.
What are the main takeaways that you would advise a twenty year old who is looking to found a business?
If I had any advice to give, it would be to figure out your strengths and weaknesses as quickly as possible and be honest about them. To be successful in any field, I think being self-aware is beneficial and very helpful especially when it comes to building the right team. You will want to surround yourself with people whose strengths complement your own.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :- )
Easy. Ray Dalio. I think he and I share the same personality type, ENTP, and I just really have tremendous respect for him, how he carries himself, and how he’s lived his life. He’s a fellow money manager — one much greater and more knowledgeable than I — and he is big into philanthropy. He is also big on figuring out what your strengths are and using those to your advantage and building a team around that.
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