Email Christina Meek
Email Jenny Fish
Newsroom HomeBlogsStoriesSoundtrack ProjectNewsroom ArchivesChamber Home Page

From Baseball Cards to the Memphis Startup Scene: David Waddell Capitalizes on an 'Obsession with Investing'

The following article is featured in the 2016 Winter Issue of Memphis Crossroads Magazine. Click here to read more from this issue.

President, CEO and Chief Investment Strategist David Waddell, of Waddell and Associates often faces misperceptions about investment professionals.
For instance, he’s not going to sell you on high-risk investments and get rich quick schemes.  If you’re a W&A client, he’s got his eye on your long-term goals and the disciplined planning it’ll take to achieve them. If he recommends an investment strategy, he and his team of about 20 seasoned professionals are most likely practicing it themselves. And if you’re under his financial counsel and you’re worried about your money, don’t be. Waddell’s personal mission – and that of his boutique investment advisory and wealth-management firm – is to remove financial anxiety by providing clarity in a world filled with confusion.
“I want Waddell and Associates to be recognized as an ultra-high-quality, trustworthy business that helps people navigate the choppy seas between here and what they hope to have in their futures,” he said. “I don’t want to be known as the highest return generator out there, because you must take excessive risks to do that.  I also don’t want to be known as a category killer out-growing everybody else for growth’s sake. On my deathbed, if Waddell and Associates has helped our client and associate families achieve what they want for themselves, it will have been a fulfilling career.”
So far, it’s been a successful formula. In 2014 and 2015, Waddell and Associates made CNBC’s list of the Top 100 Fee-Only Wealth Management Firms in the nation, ranking 39 and 29, respectively. The accolade is awarded based on a firm’s regulatory record, client and professional diversity and reputation among industry peers.  It’s also not an application-based process.
“They just sort of found us here in Memphis, which makes it special,” Waddell said. “They also used a quality criteria, rather than a size criteria, making it much more meaningful to us.”
As for the spark that kicked off his decades-long history of investment career success, Waddell has a surprising answer.
“Baseball cards,” he said. “I’m a collector by nature, and when I figured out that the stuff I was collecting had value and that I could sort it and trade it by that value, I was hooked. I loved the sport, but I began to love the currency of the players even more.  It was a pathway to an obsession with investing.”
Today, he’s driven to succeed on a more personal level.
“I live and breathe the markets, but what actually gives me my daily dose of adrenaline is hearing our clients’ stories,” Waddell said. “Their stories just fascinate me. Life’s a challenge, and you’ve really got to grind to succeed. Hearing how our clients have persevered and have been successful in such a vast variety of endeavors totally charges my batteries.”
His passion for fostering personal success stories makes Waddell a perfect fit for the Chairman’s Circle’s EPIcenter: 1,000 Entrepreneurs in 7 Years Moon Mission, in which he has a lead role. Waddell, also a new member of the Greater Memphis Chamber’s board of directors, brings a strategic financial perspective to the initiative, which aims to grow the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Greater Memphis area. More entrepreneurs, Waddell said, can have a ripple effect on many other aspects of the city, including more jobs, better educational resources, a boosted civic self-perception, and talent retention and attraction.
In order for it to work, however, Waddell says the initiative needs both corporate and individual investments. 
“I just know that if we could get 1,000 entrepreneurs running around like free-radical elements, bringing art, bringing culture, bringing excitement, bringing energy, that it would really twist the prosperity flywheel for our city,” Waddell said. “But to do that, we’ve got to capitalize them. A lot of capital can be sourced elsewhere, but at least 50 percent of what we need is going to have to come from Memphis. So the governments, foundations, corporations, and individuals all have to get aligned behind supporting and nurturing our entrepreneurial class. We can’t just wish for it and go back to business as usual.  We need to adopt a culture of economic philanthropy.”
He says Detroit is a perfect example.
“Detroit is revived because they got behind their entrepreneurial ecosystem. There were a couple of big champions, they raised $100 million, they matched it with outside funding, and Leslie Smith, who’s now here, was the shepherd of that administratively in Detroit. We’ve got everything we need – we just need the capital.”
Leslie Smith, president of EPIcenter and former president and CEO of Detroit’s economic growth catalyst TechTown, says she values the shared passion and the kindred spirit that she sees in Waddell.
“As EPIcenter’s board chair, and as an entrepreneur himself, David has been tireless in his support of the local entrepreneurial movement. He consistently advocates the importance of making a big bet on Memphis because he truly understands the transformative impact such an investment can make on our city,” Smith said. “I’m so grateful for his selfless commitment to and continued support of this game-changing entrepreneurship Moon Mission.”
And yes, although Waddell isn’t big on selling the “big bet” to his clients, he believes in making one himself through his wholehearted support of entrepreneurs. And as with his clients, Waddell has his eye on the long-term plan for Memphis. He strongly believes that the city’s rich history of philanthropic giving can tie in perfectly with the growth of the entrepreneurial landscape here, if only people could see the connection.
“We must recognize that philanthropically there are two tracks – feeding people fish, and teaching them to fish – and we must appraise whether the way we’re allocating our dollars is unlocking our full potential,” he said. “We’re a tremendously generous city. We don’t need to exclude what looks like an economic development agenda on the basis that it’s not something we’ve considered philanthropic before.”

Story by: Erinn Figg
Photo by: Troy Glasgow

Posted: 2/23/2017 7:30:00 AM | with 0 comments
Filed under: ChairmansCircle, Members, MemphisCrossroads

Blog post currently doesn't have any comments.
Leave comment Subscribe

Is nine = six ? (true/false)

The latest news from the Greater Memphis Chamber. For more information, contact Director of Communications Christina Meek at (901) 543-3504 ( or Communications Specialist Jenny C. Fish at (901) 543-3558 (