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By NORAH MACHIA
The extended Morgia family in Watertown has been known to many north country residents for years as financial and estate planning experts, offering investment advisory services and asset management.
Anthony Morgia, 78, Michael A. Morgia, 50, and Phillip “P.J.” Banazek, 51, all serve as managing directors and partners of The Morgia Group of HighTower Advisors LLC, 151 Mullin St.
A third generation has entered the family business as well. This past spring, Nico Morgia, 25, who is the son of Michael Morgia, joined the firm as a client service associate.
All four men graduated from LeMoyne College, Syracuse — Tony Morgia in 1960; Michael Morgia and Phillip Banazek in 1988; and Nico Morgia in 2013.
The three managing directors and partners left the Watertown office of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney five years ago. The Morgia Group, a standalone investment advisory firm, then affiliated with the Chicago-based HighTower Advisors.
In 2011, they constructed a new 3,500-square-foot office on Mullin Street.
Nico Morgia, who worked as an intern at the family business during college, joined the firm this past spring after working at the Bank of New York Mellon.
“I liked the idea of being around my family and working with them,” he said. “I’m actually more comfortable that my bosses are my family.”
“I have no problem asking questions or giving my opinion,” he added.
That’s the type of workplace atmosphere that Tony Morgia, who started in the portfolio management field in 1968, has tried to promote in the family business for years.
“At some point, everyone has to feel part of the business” said Tony Morgia. “Each generation can mentor the next.”
Part of working together as a family involves mandatory meetings, which also include staff, and “everyone is free to say something and offer their opinion,” he said.
“We must be willing to see both sides of an issue,” Tony Morgia said. “But we must still keep the main focus on the client. We put the client first because we have a fiduciary relationship with the client.”
It was 20 years after Tony Morgia began his portfolio management career that his son, Michael Morgia, joined him. Approximately 15 years later, they recruited Mr. Banazek to their team.
Mr. Banazek is related to the Morgia family through marriage. In 1994, he married Tony Morgia’s daughter, Jennifer, who is also a LeMoyne College graduate.
Despite being at LeMoyne at the same time as Michael Morgia, the two men did not meet in college. Mr. Banazek actually met his future wife through a friend of the Morgia family.
Mr. Banazek had spent 13 years working as a certified public accountant for a Syracuse firm before he joiend The Morgia Group.
“Mike and I were looking for a partner, and we wrote down 10 names and started crossing them off,” said Tony Morgia. “P.J. was the only one left on the list.”
But “we didn’t want him to feel pressured, so we decided to just mention in passing that we were planning to hire someone,” said Tony Morgia.
The strategy worked, and Mr. Banazek and his wife relocated to the north country.
“This is one of the best places to raise a family,” Mr. Banazek said.
Having three partners with different backgrounds and areas of expertise is a huge benefit for the client, he said.
“We each have our own skills that we can share with clients,” Mr. Banazek said.
Mike Morgia, who started in the business right after the stock market crash of 1987, said he made an arrangement with his father to try it out for two years, and then re-evaluate his decision.
Both father and son decided it was the right one.
“You need to have very open communication when working with family,” said Mike Morgia. “And you must set expectations at the beginning.”
“Our No. 1 philosophy is risk control,” he added.
While Tony Morgia said “I love the business and plan to continue working,” he also noted, “I don’t want to be the quarterback.”
“I’ve been mentoring, but Mike and P.J. are now setting the direction,” he said. “It was not a difficult decision on my part. I knew their capabilities, and that they would run this business efficiently, and would run it right.”