Michael Hampton moved from music to money

February 25, 2011
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When Michael R. Hampton first considered becoming a financial adviser, he didn’t even own a suit.

Today, he has a closet full of them as vice president, investments, retirement plan consultant and financial adviser for Raymond James & Associates in Grand Rapids.

“I’m not one of those classically trained finance persons. I came from the entertainment industry — from the music business,” said Hampton. “I like the ability to get to know a human being … and have a valuable input to helping them accomplish something.”

Raymond James is a publicly traded financial services holding company headquartered in St. Petersburg, Fla., with 2,200 locations around the world. Through a host of subsidiaries and affiliates, the company’s network of 5,300 employed and independent advisors offers financial planning and investing services for individuals and companies.

Seven Grand Rapids locations are affiliated with Raymond James, in a market dotted with at least 10 brokerages houses that have a national footprint. The17 advisors in Hampton’s office are actually employed by the company, but others are independent, he explained.

When the company was founded as Robert A. James investments in 1962, the Dow Jones Industrial Average ended the year at 652.1. Last week, the DJIA was more than 12,000.

Back in the 1960s, while Mr. James and Mr. Raymond were becoming established, Hampton was growing up singing in Missouri, trying college and then later serving in the military before moving to the New York City area to work in the music business.

But in 1979, he decided that being at home as a husband and father was more important to him than the constant travel required of a music man.

“I was traveling 250 to 300 days out of the year with the 10 major acts that we managed,” Hampton recalled.

“When our first child came along, one evening in the recording studio we had just finished getting the prep work ready to bring in Kool & The Gang to record  — the management company I was working with, that was their contract, to manage them — and my wife brought in our young child, and it was one of those epiphanies,” Hampton said. “How are you going to be a parent if you’re gone all the time?”

He started networking to figure out what his next career move might be.

Michael R. Hampton
Raymond James & Associates
Title: Financial Advisor
Age: 62
Birthplace: Sikeston, Mo.
Residence: Cascade Township
Family: Wife, Linda; son, Dr. Aaron Hampton, and his wife, Lisa; grandson, Lucas.
Business/Community Organization: Board member, St. Cecilia Music Center; Grand Rapids Rotary Club and Charities Foundation, Paul Harris Fellow; Economic Club of Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, World Affairs Council of Western Michigan’s development cabinet, West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology.
Biggest Career Break: “Being invited into the investment business when I was totally open to changing out of what I knew.”

“One day, I got a call from my investment advisor,” he recalled. “He convinced me I ought to cut my hair, buy a tie, buy a suit and come into the investment business. At first, I laughed, but he convinced me.”

Hampton started his new career in the New York-New Jersey area in May 1979, joining Fittin, Cunningham & Lauzon as a financial consultant, according to his company biography.

The following year, he moved to Thomson McKinnon Securities in Morristown, N.J., and by 1984, he was managing the branch office. In 1985, he moved to a similar post in the Indianapolis office.

In 1989, Prudential Securities Inc. purchased Thomson McKinnon, and two years later, Prudential sent Hampton to Grand Rapids.

He said he immediately felt at home in the River City.

“I love it here,” he said. “This is home. I’ve lived all kinds of places around the world and I’ve never lived anyplace any longer than here.

“The thing that attracted my wife and I to Grand Rapids? Values. Everyone I talked to seemed to understand the value of people, the value of community and the value of business, but mostly about integrity, being involved with the community, philanthropy.”

Several years into his Grand Rapids assignment for Prudential, the company called and asked him to transfer back to New York.

“By that time, I had fallen in love with Grand Rapids in terms of its community, and the Economic Club and the Rotary Club, and opportunities to serve on boards and make a difference in the community. This is one of those towns where, if you are willing to volunteer in civic things, in charitable things, they’ll put you to work.”

He turned down the offer from Prudential, and in 2002, he joined Raymond James.

In the past 20 years, he said, he’s been delighted to watch the growth of business, education and culture in the area. With his background in the music industry, Hampton was involved in the early committees when planning for the Van Andel Arena was just getting started.

“It just made Grand Rapids a more enticing place to be,” Hampton said of the arena.

Hampton grew up in Lebanon, Mo., as the youngest of five children of Clarence Hampton, a minister, and his wife, Eileen, a homemaker and cosmetologist, both now deceased.

“I began singing in front of a church at age 3,” Hampton recalled. “By age 6, I discovered that people will actually pay you to sing, and I thought that was kind of a clever thing. We were poor, so if I could collect any money coming in, it was important.

“I cut my teeth on gospel and R&B. The artist I remember influencing me the most from age 5 was Ray Charles.

“From day one, I was attracted to the business side — what made people good enough to make people want to pay them.”

After graduating from high school in 1966, Hampton said he attended Central Bible College in Springfield, Mo. He attempted to transfer to a larger college, but in the process he was unable to file his draft deferment paperwork quickly enough, and he heard through the grapevine that his number had come up.

“I went and joined the Navy,” he said. He wound up in a “top secret organization” in electronic military intelligence in Japan, he said.

“With my excellent hearing and my knowledge of recording equipment, it was probably one of the best assignments I could have had.”

When he left the service, Hampton said, he was in Hawaii, where he “just bummed around for a while.” He returned to the mainland when his father had a heart attack, and worked in training at Western Electric.

It wasn’t long before he gravitated toward the New York City music scene.

“We did clubs, CBGB’s, that kind of stuff, watched groups develop like the Talking Heads, David Byrne, Patti Smith,” Hampton said. “I sang, I performed, I produced — whatever it took. Eventually, I became a good engineer. That got me into production on major tours.”

According to his Raymond James biography, Hampton was president of Skywheel Productions and director of audio productions and engineering for Jefke Productions and Showboat Entertainment.

Hampton’s adult life has been shaped by participating in the Baha’i faith, which holds tenets of the unity of humanity, the rejection of prejudice and the promotion of equality, elimination of extremes of poverty and wealth and universal education, among others.

Hampton said he met his wife, Linda, through mutual Baha’i friends and proposed a week later. They have been married for 35 years, and coped with the tragedy of losing a son, Mike, in a car accident when he was 15.

“He was a happy-go-lucky guy, but there was a side of him that was really deep. … We were blessed to have him as part of our lives,” Hampton said.

Hampton’s other son, Aaron, is a percussionist, he said. Rather than pursue music, however, he chose to become a doctor, and today is a local internist. He is married to Lisa and they have a son, Lucas.

In addition to his work and community activities, Hampton enjoys reading, public speaking and exercise, and, of course, music of all genres. He said he is a member of The Recording Academy and has an annual vote for the Grammy awards.

“I have a tiny little footprint in Grand Rapids among the giants of business and industry and philanthropy,” he added. “I’ve been able to learn from these people and maybe share a perspective that wasn’t there before.”

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