A year of crossing finish lines

December 26, 2018 | GET MORE : Social Responsibility

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For Palm Beach wealth advisor Richard Gaff, years of working hard and adapting to adversity paid off in 2018.

A year ago, Richard Gaff resolved to beat cancer.


And he didn’t stop there. Over the past year, the U.S. Bank Private Wealth Management Associate Advisor and U.S. Army veteran beat cancer, got married, passed the CFP® exam, and ran the Boston and Chicago marathons. 

“Fulfilling,” said Gaff, when asked to describe his year in a word.

When we spoke over the phone, Gaff was nursing a swollen ankle he’d rolled a couple of days prior at Mile 8 of the Chicago Marathon, which he finished – with 18.2 miles of hobbling – to raise money for American Cancer Society.

This kind of ability to adapt and to deal with adversity has been a staple throughout Gaff’s life. When he was a teen, his family picked up their life in Indiana and moved to Florida after his adopted brother and sister were experiencing racist bullying during high school basketball games. 

After graduating high school in the wake of 9/11, Gaff decided to join the Army, soon after deploying to Afghanistan – which gave him new perspective. “It was the most eye opening and humbling experience of my life,” he said, adding, “We don’t realize how great we have it as Americans.”

Upon return to civilian life, Gaff took a job selling life insurance. He remembers during the job interview thinking “Man, they didn’t ask me any of these questions when I joined the Army.” After a short stint capped with the realization that the industry wasn’t quite the right fit, he transitioned to banking – on the eve of the Financial Crisis. 

“At first it seemed as if Palm Beach would weather the storm – and then Bernie Madoff happened,” he said. “I saw so many people in need of direction. Ten years later, helping them is what gets me up in the morning.”

Late last year Gaff joined U.S. Bank Private Wealth Management amid the bank’s expansion in Florida. Over the past decade, U.S. Bank has more than quadrupled its employee base in the state to 800 people spanning several business units. Among them, its Wealth Management division, which provides financial planning, investment management, customized banking products and more. Gaff, after spending much of the past decade developing a broad skill set for wealth management – including completing his undergrad and earning an MBA – is happy to have “found a place that is home” at U.S. Bank.

Given his profession, Gaff feels a responsibility to give back to his adopted community. He’s involved in several nonprofit organizations around town, where he’s known as the “Palm Beach Bow Tie Guy” for the collection of more than a hundred bow ties he chooses from daily. 

To close out his “fulfilling” year, Gaff pulled out one of his least-worn knots at his wedding, which was a black-tie affair. He and his wife, Danni, held a traditional formal wedding at The Breakers Palm Beach last month.

Now, as Gaff looks ahead to 2019, he resolves to make the next year one of “efficiency.” At the office, that means further developing his wealth management expertise, specifically in philanthropy. Outside of the office, it means fine-tuning his running and improving his marathon time, with London and possibly New York City on the docket.

With his track record, I think it’s safe to say he’ll be using the word “efficient” come this time next year.

Written by Pat Swanson with U.S. Bank.