We had the good fortune of connecting with Ali Dhanji and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ali, other than deciding to work for yourself, what was the single most important decision you made that contributed to your success?
It’s hard to single out just one thing that contributed to where I am today. There have been numerous decisions that have helped in achieving my personal and professional success. One thing that stands out was my decision to work internationally. In 2008, I got an opportunity to move to Africa, Ghana to be precise, to setup and expand the Wealth Management business for the bank I was working for at that time. Back then, I had no exposure to Ghana or Africa and had no idea about what that place had in store for me. However, I took my chances and moved there. And that was the beginning of my 10 years of living and traveling across 14 African countries. The friends I made while being there, the food and culture I experienced, the professional growth opportunities I experienced – were all irreplaceable. And if I look back in time, that was one of the best decisions I took that had the biggest impact on my professional development and success – both, professionally and personally.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
bringing financial confidence to individuals, families and businesses. To me, confidence comes when you are prepared for the worse and are aware enough to make informed decisions – and that is exactly what I do for and with my clients.
I got into the Wealth Management industry because I wanted to help people not go through similar situations like my family and I did. In my senior year, we lost three family members who were also the breadwinners for the family. Of course this devastated us personally and financially because like many, we had a lot of financial aspirations but we lacked a financial plan. As humans, when the times are good, we often neglect planning for the worse and that was a mistake I saw firsthand. Since then, it has become my mission to help others make informed and educated decisions about their finances so that they are prepared for the unforeseen. And after 16 years in the Wealth Management / Financial Advisory world, I have been blessed to have touched so many lives.
I have clients from across the country who range from the Traditionalists, or the Silent Generation, to the iGen, or the Generation Z, and everything in between. However, there are 3 important things that I like my clients to develop, irrespective of which generation they belong. And I like to explain them with 3 stories:
1. Prepare – Harry Houdini, the great American-Hungarian illusionist, did not get hurt from any of his death defying stunts throughout his life. However, a punch in the gut most likely took his life just because he had not prepared for that casual encounter with a college student.
2. Discipline – A true story of a receptionist who put aside a small amount of money from each paycheck was able to leave an inheritance of over $7million to her heirs. No action is small. All it takes is discipline to continuously do small things again and again and again.
3. Persistence – this message was displayed in 1911 when Roald Amundsen and Robert Scott raced to the South Pole. Despite having less resources at his disposal, team Amundsen’s discipline of marching 20 miles each day, irrespective of what the weather was outside, not only won him the race to South Pole but also made him return safely while the other team not only lost the race but perished on their way back.
The message I want to convey is that the difference between success and failure is not your best or the worst day. It’s the quality of all your days. Success is about the discipline and persistency of the 20 mile march you put in your own life each day no matter what life throws at you. Whether you’re looking for professional, personal, financial, spiritual or any other types of success, I believe this is the common principle that will lead you to success.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Houston is such a vibrant and rich place! The food scene here is next to none. The museums are so enriching. And not to forget, we are the space city of the world.
When in Texas, do as the Texans do! A week-long trip in Houston has to start with a trip to Goode Company for a perfect Texas style BBQ. If Goode Company BBQ does not satisfy your craving for some ribs and briskets, nothing else will. Another must in Houston is Lupe Tortilla. Possibly one of the best places for Mexican food in and around Houston. Ragin Cajun would be another spot to hit along with Himalaya for some great Indian spicy food. And in between of all the munching, a visit to the Space Center, to the beach, Moody Gardens and the museum district. Especially the Museum of Natural Science. And if there are children involved, then a trip to Houston Zoo along with the train ride at Hermann Park and a visit to the Children’s Museum would be a must.
Houston’s a melting pot of culture, traditions, food, entertainment – you name it. There is simply no shortage of things you can do in this city without running out of time. No wonder Houston has been my home for 4 years now and will remain my home for a very long time.
To those reading this, if you are ever visiting Houston or you simply want help with navigating your way around Houston, I would love to be of help.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Woah! Too many to name. Just like every superhero needs a sidekick, there have been many within my family, friends and professional network who have helped me in my professional life. However, there are two individuals who I would like to highlight for the huge impact they have had in my career.
I moved to the United States almost four years ago and joined Merrill Lynch as a financial advisor. My hiring manager, Silas Girgis, who was the Market Executive at that time stands out. The immense support and motivation he provided during the initial years was a much needed encouragement anyone would have needed in a new country and a new business environment. He was able to allow me to see things in a different light when I came across challenges. I wouldn’t have come this far in building my financial advisory practice if it wasn’t for his guidance and inspiration. Even though I may not be working with him anymore, I still respect and look up to him the same way I did under his leadership.
Another person who has had a significant impact on my professional life was my manager, Gautam Duggal, when I started my career in the Wealth Management industry. It was way back in 2007 when I was presented with an opportunity to move to Africa and manage wealth management products for Ghana and West Africa. Moving to a new place is never easy and specially if you have a big responsibility on your shoulders. It was Gautam’s handholding and patience that enabled me to outperform in my role. Not only did I successfully managed the Wealth Management business in West Africa, I went on to work under his leadership for the next 10 years in several different roles and countries. I have high levels of respect for him and what he has done for me. I am proud to have known him and also his lovely family.
Those are just two of several individuals that I am highlighting here. Like it says in an African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” To those reading this, if you have not found a mentor or a coach yet, I highly recommend you to find one who will genuinely help you propel in your professional life.
Other: Ali Dhanji Financial Advisor Raymond James & Associates, Inc. A: 5847 San Felipe, Suite 1400, Houston, TX 77057 O: 713-787-2126 E: Ali.Dhanji@RaymondJames.com Raymond James & Associates, Inc. Member New York Stock Exchange/SIPC on the page where your interview appears.