Undercover Agent to Merrill Lynch Executive
May 1, 2018
Melissa “Missy” Spickler, 63, says she can always tell when someone’s being insincere. Immediately after graduating from Michigan State University, where she studied criminal law, Spickler put her perceptiveness to the test as an undercover agent for the Michigan attorney general’s office. Her specialty? Business fraud.
Spickler’s undercover pursuits at a variety of local businesses lasted about three years and eventually led to a brief stint as a car and insurance saleswoman — an unlikely pivot until you hear her pitch. She sold a car her first day in sales, and after about a year, the self-proclaimed cold-call queen took to a career in finance, motivated by a customer who brashly told her, “We need women in business.”
It was the 80s then, and Spickler’s still using her people-minded intuition in wealth management today, leading her Merrill Lynch advisory with $1 billion in assets under management. The managing director of Spickler Wealth Management Group, and one of Forbes’ Top Women Advisors in 2018, says her strategy begins with knowing her clients. Listening to them, she says, can sometimes uncover a disconnect between what they’re saying and what they really want in terms of risk and rewards. “I always ask my clients: ‘If the market goes down today, are you going to panic?’” says the qualified portfolio manager, who also holds the Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor designation. “Some say yes. I don’t always believe the ones who say no.”
Frequent volatility, akin to today’s short-term market turbulence, informs the basis of Spickler’s wealth management mantra: Always invest as if you’re expecting a market correction tomorrow. Doing so should calm the mind during even the most tumultuous of market times. “We never get riled about what the markets are doing, but we’re always excited when we can buy into a lower market,” Spickler says.
Financial reassurance is the reason she’s never immediately all-in with her investment decisions. “I’ll dollar-cost average over eight weeks; I don’t go in today. If you do the right thing to begin with, you won’t have to worry the minute the market suddenly drops.”
Spickler still lives and works in her home state of Michigan, and her eight-woman, one-man team, which is based in the Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills, now manages more than 150 family clients who average about $2.5 million in liquid assets. The minimum she typically requires for entry: $2 million. She’s not, however, actually strict on that minimum, saying she’s flexible on the requirement because she ultimately plans to have the entire family relationship. “I love it that way; you get a fuller picture. The standard of care that can be provided to a whole family versus an individual can’t be beat.”