Leaving a ‘LGSE’ Living from First Rate Values and a Purpose-Driven Primary Aim

[00:00:07.930] – Alex Serman

Welcome everybody, to this month’s edition of Whiskey & WealthTech. I’m Alex Serman, the Managing Director of Wealth here at First Rate. Joining me today is Blake Miller, the Chaplain of First Rate and also the host of the First Rate Legacy podcast. So today is a bit unique that we’re going to have a bit it of a crossover episode between the two shows. We’re going to be talking about whiskey like we normally do in our podcast, but then instead of talking about a WealthTech topic specifically, we’ll be talking about Blake’s podcast, what that means for First Rate, how that ties into WealthTech and we’ll go from there and see where the conversation leaves us.

[00:00:46.990] – Blake Miller

Anytime you can combine whiskey and reverence, great things happen, right?

[00:00:51.880] – Alex Serman


[00:00:54.290] – Blake Miller

I kid, of course. They’re kind of so happy to be here. Thanks for thinking about me and thanks for bringing  whisky to my office. Or bourbon, I should say.

[00:01:04.390] – Alex Serman

Absolutely. So speaking of the bourbon today, we’ve got a pretty special bottle here. It’s the Peerless small batch bourbon out of Louisville, Kentucky. And so I actually had the opportunity to visit this distillery in person a few weeks ago and did the tour and it was a pretty incredible experience. Very knowledgeable folks, very cool operation they have set up there. And so one of the interesting things about this distillery is it was actually started pre prohibition, went out of business when most everybody went out of business.

[00:01:40.270] – Blake Miller

I’ll do that to you.

[00:01:41.300] – Alex Serman

Yeah. When you’re not allowed to sell your main products, that kind of ruins your business plan there. But in the last few years, a descendant of the founder was able to restart the distillery and the US government gave them back their DSP license, so they’re still experience permit. So Peerless has the DSP of Kentucky of 50. So that sounds like a pretty high number until you realize that if you started a distillery today in Kentucky, you’d be in the upper $20,000.

[00:02:16.250] – Blake Miller

They’re very much an OG.

[00:02:17.780] – Alex Serman

Yes, so very much an OG and have a wonderful product. And so, without further ado, let’s dive right in here. Cheers.

[00:02:27.410] – Blake Miller

Cheers. Smells like it will burn.

[00:02:32.830] – Alex Serman

No, it’s very smooth. I get a lot of cinnamon and vanilla, maybe like a baked apple pie on the nose there.

[00:02:51.320] – Blake Miller

That is good. My throat isn’t regretting it, it really just is a nice calm, smooth, mellow burglary.

[00:03:06.070] – Alex Serman

Yeah, this is a good after dinner sipper. Goes down easy, keeps you warm at night as we’re getting into these colder months. Definitely a good standard port to have around.

[00:03:19.760] – Blake Miller

Yes. Although in Texas, colder months mean 65 for Christmas.

[00:03:27.140] – Alex Serman

Might still be wearing shorts for Christmas.

[00:03:29.460] – Blake Miller

But then, who knows, we might have a blizzard come through. Snowpocalypse 2.0 in February.

[00:03:37.780] – Alex Serman

There is a lot of truth in that as well. Peerless also makes a fantastic ride, so if you are more inclined towards rise, they’ve also got you covered there. And again, this is just right in the middle of downtown Louisville, a few blocks away from some of the Other Things distillery, as you may have heard of. And so if you’re in the town, highly recommend checking them out.

[00:04:01.180] – Blake Miller

So Blake, tell me a little bit.

[00:04:02.640] – Alex Serman

More about the Legacy podcast, what it’s about, why you started it, and kind of what you hope to get out of interviewing people like me, really, to hear their stories and help inspire others. Yeah.

[00:04:17.160] – Blake Miller

So the Legacy Podcast, it actually is an abbreviation, an acronym for the four core values of First Rate, which is Love, Give, Serve, and Enjoy. So with that you get Love, LG, Se, and if you kind of benegle how you say those four letters, in a word, it kind of sounds like legacy and we just run with it. But those four core values very much are part of the legacy of the founding of First Rate. What First Rate wants to continue being for decades, generations, centuries to come. Hopefully. That’s kind of what the podcast is, to look at one or a few of the different core values with a guest and how that core value is integrated into a specific moment or kind of a broader area of their life and their work in or around first rate and how we support and encourage and help facilitate people living their lives and living out these core values. So it’s fun to get to hear these stories. I’m very much am a storyteller as myself. I joked about the Reverend bit, but whenever us pastors get up to a pulpit, we can find a pulpit wherever we want and be very much into storytelling.

[00:05:49.880] – Blake Miller

The Legacy Podcast really is about storytelling through portrait and those the intrinsic value of our value system. It’s fun to get to do that with individuals and share stories from you as well and hear about the legacy you’re creating with your podcast.

[00:06:06.840] – Alex Serman

Awesome, thank you. I’m happy to be a part of it and help create that legacy.

[00:06:12.120] – Blake Miller

And that’s one of the things, even though it’s not a core value at First Rate, we talk always about pursuing your primary aim and there’s many ways that manifests. And one of the things that one of your primary passions is the first time I met you, right after I first started, you came back to full time here after you’ve done some part time before, and right away you’re introducing me to the world of whiskey that I knew enough, but not anywhere near what you knew. And so it was fun to get that bond and then see the passion that you have for that and then see how that same passion appears in different ways throughout your work here for a strip. Because of the love you have for the science and the taste of this whiskey, we can see in many of the interactions you have with clients and the community as our coworkers, how that passion, that love comes out in different ways and actions that frustrate and through your work. That’s why we love people pursuing their primary and because at first rate we get to enjoy, through the full core values, your best self.

[00:07:38.960] – Blake Miller

We appreciate that.

[00:07:40.720] – Alex Serman

Thank you for that. And I agree. I think it’s certainly been a game changer for me. Talking with clients, talking with coworkers, just talking about First Rate in general, that people think it’s amazing that this is something that I can actually do. It’s like, wait a minute, you’re a financial technology company and you’re allowed to have a podcast about drinking whiskey and you’ve got other folks that are pursuing their primary games that are just all across the board. And it’s a pretty amazing company that we’re able to do that without that having a potential negative impact on our careers or if we’re giving everything we need to be giving to the company. But really that those outside passions not only not take away from what we’re doing with the company, but actually make our experience with first trade that much.

[00:08:29.400] – Blake Miller

Better and make our experience. The clients always say they can tell the difference, not just in our products and our facilities, but in the people and how we interact. And that comes on both ends. It’s nice for me in my role as the chaplain First Rate, getting to work with all the first raters and provide care and counseling for them and their families just to hear how much that family gets extended to the clients and how knowing that that bond has been formed because of how core values are lifted out through the way each First Rater does their work. And thus their family grows to be who they’re working for. And so it’s nice to see. And then because of that, I also end up being a source of care for clients as well. It’s amazing to see how quickly a family grows through a company because of how people live out their true self and their best self and how those four core values really just kind of manifest that. Bestness not to worry about my stick with it. You started this podcast. It’s a rising star for sure. This is a south plug making you do a self plug because you just got a pretty distinguished honor recently.

[00:10:12.980] – Alex Serman

Yes, so recently I was named as part of the inaugural class of Arlington, Texas’s top 40 under 40. And so, First Rate is based out of Arlington, Texas. So right between Dallas and Fort Worth, where the Cowboys actually play if you’re unemployed.

[00:10:31.900] – Blake Miller

But they’re still the Dallas Cowboys. I live in Dallas, he lived in.

[00:10:35.120] – Alex Serman

Robinson, and they never actually played in Dallas. But that’s for another story. But I was honored to be inducted in this inaugural class. I was driving to work one day and had one of my mentors call me and say, hey, I want to nominate you for this honor. I think you’re deserving of it and that you’ve had an impact on the community in Arlington, that you’ve had an impact on first rate, and that I really think that you have a shot of giving this. And so I filled out some information and ended up being named. So pretty great honor, not extremely appreciative to just be thought of. I had no expectation that anything would come of it. It was nice to think that at least one person I had the faith in me and just went out of their way, even if it was a five minute conversation to say, hey, I think he deserved this. And so it went all the way to me actually being honored with this award. And first rate was kind enough to be the presenting sponsor at the 40 under 40 event. So we had David and Trina Stone speak to the greater Arlington community, talking about the types of leaders that these foreign people are and going to continue to shape Arlington, it’s the biggest small town in the world.

[00:12:08.650] – Alex Serman

We’ve got over 4400 thousand people, so it’s not exactly a small town, but it’s in great need of leaders, especially from younger folks, to be able to take Arlington into the next generation and really continue the upward trajectory of the city that we have. And First Rate has been extremely supportive of that. We not only care about our employees within these four walls here at first rate, but we care about their families. We care about the community in which we live, in which we work, we care about the community in which we do business. So where our clients are, where our international offices are. And so that ripple effect is tremendous whenever you see the impact globally that first trade has. So not just in Arlington, but all.

[00:13:02.880] – Blake Miller

Across the world, it’s such an honor to have. And I plug that because with wealth tech and with so many industries, it’s all about if you have to maintain a legacy, you need new generations to take on that male. You need innovation from the younger, from the young whippersnappers. You need someone to help start taking on that mantle. And it’s great to see that people recognize how you’re doing that. Even our founding Dave himself, he might not have been as young, but he was still a young whipper snapper who was looking to innovate the wealth tech industry. And he had a vision and from it started this legacy of First Rate. And it’s now in that transition where in order to maintain the legacy of First Rate maintain the legacy of four core values, it’s going to take the innovation of individuals like yourself and many other here at first rate that are younger than I and age me in ways that crush my soul at the most random of points every other day. But even though it’s humbling, it’s also exciting. But that’s such a key factor for WealthTech in any industry, but especially frustrated to keep the Legacy going, we need the next generation.

[00:14:26.750] – Blake Miller

And so it’s great to see you all stepping up, providing fresh voices and ideas for the company.

[00:14:36.360] – Alex Serman

Absolutely. And again, just thinking of that next generation, it’s not just people, but it’s for wealth products with the AI utilizing how trends are impacting the ways in which people use technology. And so we have to continue looking at innovation and continuing to evaluate what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and how we could potentially be doing it better. And so looking at that in ourselves, looking at that in our products, is very key. And being self-aware and being humble about it is key to being able to embrace that growth and accept the change that we need in our products.

[00:15:22.670] – Blake Miller

We need in our people than ourselves. I used to be scared of AI before I were to frustrate. I just always assumed it’d be like Skynet from the terminator. And that also probably aged me a little bit to get that reference.

[00:15:36.940] – Alex Serman

Hopefully more of our audience got that yet, I guess.

[00:15:46.080] – Blake Miller

One other thing I wanted to talk about for the LGSE podcast for years as well. It’s just kind of going back to this idea of young innovators taking on the mantle. How do you, as a managing director and being such a young director, how do you use any of the four core values in the way you kind of lead and inspire those within your team that are younger or maybe even older? How do you let any of those values, your primary teams, kind of inspire and lead your team and frustrate as a whole into the next chapter? Sure.

[00:16:35.780] – Alex Serman

So I would say I try to encompass all of the different four core values and the way I lead, love, giving, serving, and enjoying. But I think kind of at the root of that, the reason why love is first is because it’s the most important above those four values. So I think if you’re loving appropriately, then, you know, the others tend to.

[00:16:59.800] – Blake Miller

Follow pretty easily behind that.

[00:17:02.120] – Alex Serman

So for me, you know, I’ve got over ten people on my team that I’m leading on a regular basis, that I’m trying to be innovative. I’m taking what I’ve learned from prior managers, prior managing directors, and seeing what worked, what didn’t. How can I apply that to my team? How can I apply that to the situation? And how can I do that through a lens of love? And so, you know, whenever somebody messes up on my team or they’re we’re dealing with a client issue and we got to get it fixed. How do we do that through an expression of love? And so how do we do that in a loving way? And like you made this point earlier, that clients even see that in how our people act and how we interact with them, versus some of their other partners, their other vendors. It’s a stark difference in how we communicate with them and how we interact with them. And so I try to demonstrate that through my own actions as a leader, I have to leave myself first. And so I can’t be leading from behind, not acting in a loving way, not being transparent, not being willing to roll up my sleeves and do the dirty work and then expect my team to do all those things.

[00:18:27.540] – Alex Serman

So I have to do that myself in order to demonstrate that’s how a leader should act. For my team to then step up and be leaders in their own rights and to have the confidence to address situations, have the confidence to make decisions that are within their sphere of influence. And I’m really trying to build that autonomy within the team. And that confidence that if they know the right thing to do in a situation, they know they can do it. And they have my support to make those decisions and not be worried about repercussions. Because we all make mistakes sometimes. And if they make a mistake, they’ll know the team is there to support them, to support them and there to help protect them as they continue to learn and continue to build experience. And that goes from my employees that are very young to not so young. And so there’s really no age limit on that because if you stop learning, you’ll probably start dying. Yeah, take over, it’ll reflect you. But there’s no age limit which, okay, I’ve learned everything. There’s no more growth for me. And so really just demonstrating love in the way I try.

[00:19:53.660] – Alex Serman

I try to do this again, certainly not perfect in this, but trying to demonstrate the kind of ways in which I would like my team to act by acting in that way myself. There’s not anything I would do or anything I would ask my team to do that I wouldn’t be willing to do myself. So if there’s a mundane task that I am too important for, then that’s a problem. And so I need to be willing to step up and do the little things to make the big picture work appropriately. And that’s something that I want to encourage my team to do. Encourage them to branch out, make choices, really try to grow their experience and demonstrate that this job that we have isn’t just a job and that we spend, whatever 80% of our hours a week at work, something like that. It’s something that we need to enjoy what we do and we need to find a way to be exceedingly good at it and to enjoy it and to wake up and be excited about going to work and not just Fred another day at the office. They’re going to deal with these people again, but really encourage them to take a little bit of horns and make the most of this experience and get to have together.

[00:21:19.210] – Alex Serman


[00:21:19.500] – Blake Miller

I’m glad to hear that you really step up and are willing to do even the smallest attacks. So I really appreciate us being able to do the school joint venture. I enjoyed getting to hearing more story and the way you’re stepping up to extend the legacy of First Rate through your leadership and through the innovation that the products that this company has. Thank you.

[00:21:49.220] – Alex Serman

Well, thank you, Blake. It’s interesting being the one getting asked questions more asking questions.

[00:21:57.160] – Blake Miller

Having two hosts and sometimes they can say too many cooks in the kitchen is a bad thing. But I’ve enjoyed this dual Hell’s Kitchen experience.

[00:22:12.620] – Alex Serman

I appreciate you offering to have me on your episode and vice versa and making this joint venture here. I think it was a great change of pace. Wonderful to get to spend some time with you here. Some great bourbon.

[00:22:27.840] – Blake Miller


[00:22:28.270] – Alex Serman

Very much looking forward to doing this again sometime. And thanks for tuning in to Whiskey & WealthTech. I appreciate you tuning in and looking forward to talking Dean with you here shortly. Cheers.

[00:22:41.300] – Blake Miller


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