Farmington Hills resident celebrates 30 years in financial biz

Greater Farmington Founders Festival

Farmington Hills resident Phil Serra’s 30-year career in the financial world started with a class he took during his senior year at Brother Rice High School in Birmingham.

Phil Serra
Phil Serra (contributed)

“I had to follow six stocks,” said Serra, a Senior Vice President and Wealth Management Advisor with Merrill Lynch. “The teacher said, ‘Some people do this for a living.’.”

After earning a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree from Oakland University, Serra spent two years as a Certified Public Accountant before heading “straight to Wall Street.” This year, he was named to the Forbes Best-In-State Wealth Advisors list, which features 3,000 top advisors across the country.

Serra said he has always been inspired by his Italian immigrant parents, who arrived in the U.S. speaking no English and with little education. Even so, they taught themselves money management and built successful businesses. Their example drives his passion to volunteer and mentor as a Better Money Habits Champion.

The secret to good finances, Serra said, is simple: “Basically, if you take in more than you pay out, you’ll be successful.”

Coach, mentor

Serra also attributes his success in business to great coaching and mentors, and he’s now mentoring young financial advisors. The relationships he’s built within the company, he said, have become an extension of his family.

This year, Serra joined the “Big Brothers & Big Sisters” program; he meets weekly with a Madison Heights high school freshman. While he’s been able to share his passion for financial education with is mentee, the education and inspiration have gone both ways.

“It’s never too early for the student to teach, and never too late for the teacher to learn,” Serra said.

Somehow creating what he calls a “53rd week” in the year, Serra puts in about 100 hours of charitable work annually with organizations like Capuchin Soup Kitchen and the Salvation Army. It’s personally fulfilling, but also an integral part of his work with Merrill Lynch.

“The better stewards we are, the better connected we are to the community,” he said. “We are only as good as the communities we serve or empower. It’s an extension of the culture that we try to build, with collaborative relationships.”

Serra has been a Farmington Hills resident since 1992. His family is active with St. Fabian Catholic Church, and he has coached youth baseball.

“It’s just a great family environment that has been good to my two boys,” he said.