By Patra Taylor

During his time in graduate school, Josh Silverman used to tell his fellow students that he wanted to work in an art gallery with a dance floor. “They all laughed at me,” recalls Mr. Silverman, the founder and chief executive officer of Jericho Advisors. But he admits he was only half kidding when he imagined his perfect work environment.

 

Inspired in part by famed art dealer and American art expert, Norman Hirschl, Mr. Silverman developed a lifelong passion for art. “Mr. Hirschl used to frequent Williams College where I attended grad school,” he explains. “I thought he was great. He just wanted to teach art to anyone who would listen. When he accompanied some of us students to London during our winter semester, Mr. Hirschl took us to see contemporary galleries that were showing work that was lively and vibrant and interesting, and people were interacting with art in a way that was far removed from academia. I said, ‘that’s for me.’”

After earning his masters in art history from Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., Mr. Silverman was on his way to making his dream come true, taking a position as an art dealer at a contemporary gallery in Boston. “In the late 1990s, the art market was booming in the Boston area,” he continues. “We were selling a ton of work and turning over five and six-figure checks to artists for whom financially it was often feast or famine. I thought there was a problem with that. It was then I recognized a gap in the creative community where traditional financial advice often overlooked or ignored those professions. That was a big part of what got me into what I’m doing now.”

Mr. Silverman grew up in River Vale, N.J., a one-stoplight town located about an hour from New York City. “They really did roll up the sidewalks a 4:30 p.m.,” he insists. “My father was the town doctor, and my mother ran the office for him. It was a successful small business.”

According to Mr. Silverman, as a teenager, he worked in restaurants and other local businesses on the Jersey shore during the summers. “I was always fascinated by business and I wanted to be in the business side of the art world,” he says. “That’s the part that interested me the most.”

After a working for a few years as an art dealer, Mr. Silverman decided to make a change. “I wanted to transition,” he explains. “I had hit the career ceiling as a gallery manager, and I really wanted to get into something more challenging and more transaction-oriented, to learn more about sales. So I took a job working for a regional technology company selling computers, software and printers and such because I’d never really done much cold calling.”

As it turned out, that grueling year he spent selling technology just happened to be the year the dot-com bubble burst. “I was selling to everyone, from individuals to multi-national corporations, just trying to get in the door to get them to buy some of the most boring technology ever created,” states Mr. Silverman. “I had a lot of fun and made some good money doing it. It taught me a lot about persistence and negotiations.”

In 2001, Mr. Silverman felt ready for a more serious career, and took a job with Northwestern Mutual, a life insurance and financial services company, where he started as a financial representative. A month later, 9/11 happened, followed by a stock market crash. “It was really interesting building a financial advice-based business during that time,” says Mr. Silverman. “You would think that in a time when planes are crashing into buildings and markets are crashing that people would be lining up for help. They weren’t.” Again, it was his persistence, as well as a focus on creative class, hospitality, and restaurant businesses, that enabled him to find success in this role.

Life took an interesting turn when Mr. Silverman and his new bride, Tiffany, visited Charleston in 2003. An informal interview a friend had arranged with Merrill Lynch quickly turned into a formal interview that resulted in a job offer. “I was looking for a change because I really wanted to get more involved with equities, and more into money management than the risk management side. Northwestern Mutual is a really great insurer, but they are focused on that.”

The Silvermans found Charleston appealing. “The weather was nice, the drinks were strong, the people were friendly and the food was awesome. So we said, “Why not?” “It was great,” he recalls. “I built a successful investment practice with Merrill. I also started re-hanging art in the office and throwing art events in the space, bringing in clients who wouldn’t otherwise have set foot in a brokerage firm.”

But in 2006, the nation’s financial world was in turmoil. “In my company, the management shuffles were crazy,” Mr. Silverman notes. “I remember spending more time answering client questions about why our corporation was in the news so much and so few questions about the money we were managing and the important aspects of what we were doing there. The best move I made was to quit because deep down I knew there was something wrong about what was going on there, and I didn’t want to be a part of it.”

Mr. Silverman started a consulting firm, Silverman Strategies, which was structured as a fee-only Registered Investment Advisor. He also provided financial analysis for real estate development projects with an interest in green building and sustainable building in the community.

“It allowed me to focus in on what I felt was important for clients in the local market, and where I developed my ideas around local investing, without all the corporate noise,” he said. Three years later, he re-joined Northwestern Mutual as the company’s first wealth management advisor in the Charleston area. He says, “I went there to continue to build my practice, but also to work with their in-house insurance brokers to provide investment oversight. So while I managed my own clients, I helped most of the other insurance guys wrangle investment accounts. It was challenging work.” He also served as treasurer, and then president of the Board of the Redux Contemporary Art Center as a way to stay engaged in the art community.

When the corporate culture started changing at Northwestern Mutual in 2011, Mr. Silverman knew it was once again time for a change. “I felt I had accomplished all I could in their business model,” he said. With the breadth of everything he’d learned through his extensive background, all the pieces were finally in place to bring it together in a unique way. According to Mr. Silverman, Jericho Advisors, formed in June 2011, provides professional services and financial solutions to emerging and established entrepreneurs, business owners, corporations and nonprofit organizations.

“Our clients are varied, far more than a traditional financial firm, including artists and art galleries, restaurants, hospitality companies, startups, as well as established business,” Silverman explains. “We work with successful clients and broke clients, and I like to think that we have more of an attitudinal minimum than an account minimum. People come to us who really want to make changes in their businesses and their lives, and find a new way to relate to their finances. And we prefer to work with companies that are local or regional because that’s where we can be the most effective.”

“Jericho Advisors” seems the perfect name for Mr. Silverman’s latest endeavor because the walls have all come down when it comes to the financial services he provides. “It’s a collaborative effort,” he explains. “Clients no longer have to get advice in a vacuum with different providers. Before, they had to go to their investment guy who is focused on selling them stocks or mutual funds. Then they’d go to their insurance lady and she just wants to sell them more life insurance. Then they’d go to their accountant who’s really just trying to avoid taxes.

“The problem is, many professional advisors never really talk to each other, and there’s no one keeping the focus on how everything knits together. When you have clients getting mixed messages from multiple providers, it’s really hard to prioritize. Whereas, when I’m meeting with a client and they have a tax question, I go across the hall and our tax specialist is already up to speed on what’s going on. If a client wants to sell all his stocks and put the money into their company, our investment specialist doesn’t throw a fit, since he understands where their priorities are and how the client’s best interest is more important than his own.”

Today, Josh Silverman is excited about the new model for providing comprehensive financial services he’s created at Jericho Advisors. But so much for his dream of working in an art gallery with a dance floor.

Well, actually …

Jericho Advisors is still an active supporter of the arts in Charleston. The reception area at the office, located at 815 Savannah Highway, was designed to function like a contemporary gallery and show space, as well as a place for community events, book signings, and parties.

“I wanted to have a great place for artists and creative people of all kinds,” said Mr. Silverman, “in a space that would allow us take risks with the work we are showing. Since we opened our doors, we’ve been fortunate enough to showcase painters, photographers, graphic designers, jazz musicians, alt performers and street artists to a wide audience, and we run an active schedule of events, openings and communities activities. Of course we’re selling work, as there is a growing market for contemporary art in the Charleston region, but we’re doing it in a way that’s atypical, which is much more my speed.”

And you never know when Mr. Silverman will push back the furniture, roll up the rug and enjoy the great dance floor surrounded by beautiful contemporary art. “It’s happened before, and it will happen again,” he said with a smile. Mr. Silverman is living his dream here in Charleston with his wife and their three sons.

A humorist and features correspondent for the Charleston Mercury, Patra Taylor’s first book, What’s a Nice Girl Like Me Doing in a Gene Pool Like This?, has just been released. Readers may contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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