From mailroom to CEO AS SEEN IN THE
Greenville, S.C. • Friday, August 31, 2012 • Vol.14, No.35
From mailroom to CEO
Trevor Gordon makes a home at the helm
of the Sandlapper financial companies
By DICK HUGHES | contributor
Sandlapper Securities CEO Trevor
Gordon’s office is decorated with
memorabilia of various musicians
from Frank Sinatra to Elvis Presley.
While Gordon is a music lover, he
said his interest in the performers
is also rooted in their abilities as
GREG BECKNER / STAFF
Still, keeping Sandlapper small and
independent is important to differentiate the services from large national broker-dealers, he said. “Big firms don’t do
a lot of products I am able to promote.
A firm that has 12,000 to 15,000 registered representatives doesn’t have the
time to do the due diligence I am able
to do on an underwriting of a $20-million offering.”
Gordon has run the company since
its inception without debt. “If I went
out and borrowed a bunch of money,
I probably could grow exponentially
faster, but I have been able to manage
the growth,” he said.
Gordon decided to stay in Greenville
after flirting briefly with moving the
business to Florida, where he got his
start. There’s a large market there for
financial services, he said, but also a lot
“It was a very short-lived process in
thinking of taking it to Florida. I created a home here. South Carolina has
been very pro-business, and I haven’t
had any impediments from the state,
GREG BECKNER / STAFF
Fresh out of the Army and a couple
of years beyond high school at age 20,
Trevor Gordon got his start in the securities business pushing a mail cart at
Raymond James in St. Petersburg, Fla.,
and later moved up to a “dictation-taking, go-get-my-lunch secretary.”
It was “a great opportunity to see all
the intricacies of the trading floor, the
fixed-income department, syndication,
watching money move, watching securities move,” he told the Journal last
week. “I joke that if it paid better I’d still
be doing it today.”
Well, he’s not.
Today – 21 years later – Gordon is
founder and CEO of four Greenvillebased financial companies that meld
a complementary spectrum of investment products from the simple to the
The four entities are branded as Sandlapper Capital Investments, Sandlapper
Securities, Sandlapper Insurance Services and, the newest and soon most
publicly visible, Sandlapper Wealth
Management – an addition Gordon
considers a natural progression.
“It is a natural fit for us to move more
toward the planning and advisory side
of the business,” he said.
With the wealth management company, which the Securities and Exchange Commission approved to operate as a national financial advisory firm,
Sandlapper now has what may be the
only full-service broker-dealer agency
in the state.
“I couldn’t bet the farm on it, but I
haven’t seen any others,” Gordon said
in an interview in offices in the Bank of
America building in downtown Greenville. The Bank of America address is
temporary. Gordon and his partners
are in the process of acquiring property that they can redevelop as a place
of their own with high public visibility.
In the three years Sandlapper has
been in business as an independent
firm, revenue grew from $1 million to
$5 million. The company has 30 to 35
independent agents representing Sandlapper across the country, a number
that could grow with the financial advisory business just underway.
“I feel like I could manage 100 relationships and really know and understand the people. That would be a nice
sweet spot for us,” Gordon said.
However, if opportunities come
along “to buy broker-dealers,” Sandlapper could handle 500 to 1,000, he
Sandlapper Securities executives (from left)
Jack Bixler, principal and national sales manager; Trevor Gordon, CEO; and Karl Leonard,
president and financial professional, meet in
the city or the county in getting the
Gordon came to Greenville after
stops in New York, Texas and Southern California, gaining experience in a
wide diversity of investment products
and honing his financial research and
In that span between St. Petersburg
and South Carolina, he also earned
bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration from Kentucky
While working for a firm in Orange
County, Calif., that packaged syndicated real estate under an IRS 1030 Exchange, Gordon got to know and joined
John Boyd of TIC Properties in Greenville, which was doing similar work.
The 1030 allows investors to defer capital gains if they use proceeds from sold
properties to buy “replacement” property within a short period of time.
Gordon became a partner in TIC and
affiliated companies, but when the bottom fell out of the real estate market
in 2008, he found himself “staring at
this massive portfolio of real estate and
thinking to myself, ‘I am not even qualified to be a receptionist there. Here I
am a principal in this company, and
there really isn’t a job for me.’”
He saw Sandlapper Securities, which
had been created by TIC in 2005 but
largely used to simply market its own
syndication, as an opportunity to use
his strengths in securities. TIC was the
majority owner; Gordon “owned a little
bit by myself.”
“I wanted to build a better mousetrap,” he said. “I saw a lot of brokerdealers, especially in the independent
channel, go belly-up the last few years,”
particularly in the area of private placement of investments.
Gordon figured his experience in private placement syndication, combined
with his broker-dealer experience, gave
him skills in careful risk management
to identify red flags early and avoid pitfalls that brought down so many broker-dealers.
He went to his partners at TIC with
his plan. “I said, ‘Guys, I want to build a
full-service independent broker-dealer.’
They said, ‘Great, best of luck to you.
We’re real estate guys.’”
Gordon set out on his own with
Sandlapper, recruiting Jack Bixler, an
old friend and colleague, as a partner
and Karl Leonard, a colleague from
Raymond James, as president of the
wealth management company.
When Gordon talks about the core
values he infuses in Sandlapper, he
harks back to what he learned from the
mentor whose mail he delivered and
later opened as her secretary in that
first job in St. Petersburg.
“The job evolved into a marketing
position; and in order to understand
and market the research we were doing,
I ostensibly became an analyst to place
in perspective quantitative data with
Contact Dick Hughes at