Miller Serves His Clients – and Pfeiffer – With Heart
By the time David Miller ’04 was in high school, in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., he was playing soccer well enough to field scholarship offers from several universities. The only question was whether he’d play outside midfield in the NCAA’s Division I or Division II.
Coaches at the Division I schools on his radar told him he’d likely redshirt before he could compete for playing time. Such a scenario did not sit well with Miller, who wanted to play immediately. He visited Pfeiffer University, which was in Division II at the time, and “fell in love” with everything from its small campus atmosphere to its soccer team, which welcomed him with kindness.
“I considered other schools, but I just kept coming back to Pfeiffer,” said Miller, who now serves on Pfeiffer’s Board of Trustees. “It was where I felt comfortable, where I felt looked after and cared for.”
To this day, Miller raves about his decision to attend Pfeiffer, and his reasons for doing so go way beyond the success he enjoyed on the pitch. “Were it not for Pfeiffer, I would not be where I am today,” he said, referring to his professional success.
Miller began his career as an analyst with an investment management firm in Washington D.C., where he researched and analyzed portfolio holdings. He moved from there to Powell Financial, where he spent 9 years as a partner, overseeing the firm’s planning and investment process. In 2014, Miller received the Advisors With Heart award presented by WealthManagement.com and in 2015, he received the Charlotte Business Journal’s 40 under 40 recognition, which spotlights outstanding individuals who are shaping the future of Charlotte, N.C. In that same year, he became the Managing Director of MBL Advisors, a McColl Brothers Lockwood Company, where he led the family office wealth management practice.
In 2018, Miller founded Auctus Advisors. The firm, named “Charlotte’s Best in Wealth Management” in 2022 and 2023 by the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer, grew from his desire to run a fee-only investment advisory firm. Miller amicably spun out his wealth management practice at MBL Advisors, and Auctus Advisors, was born.
Miller majored in political science at Pfeiffer, but he also loaded up on business courses during his senior year. These helped paved the way for his early career success, as did earning an MBA in finance from East Carolina University, in 2010.
Auctus typically serves clients who have $5 million in investable assets and, generally, a net worth of between $10 million and $150 million. Miller said that the key to achieving this kind of success is offering clients “trust and confidence.”
He also stresses that Auctus, which means growth in Latin, promotes “growth in all facets.” One of the most important of these is philanthropy: Each year, through #AuctusGives, the firm’s charitable arm, Auctus donates a percentage of its corporate profits to charitable initiatives nominated and suggested by their clients.
The firm selects one charity for its male clients and another for its female ones. A birthday card is sent to each client in which that year’s beneficiary is identified; the aim is to introduce charities that Auctus clients may not know about.
“We wanted to grow philanthropically,” Miller said. “We wanted to grow and make an impact on the communities we serve. We wanted to look for ways to give back and help the communities that have helped support us.”
Miller, now a mentor at ECU’s College of Business, an active member of the Pfeiffer University Board of Trustees Budget and Finance Committee, and Chair of the Enrollment committee, stresses that mentors can make all the difference in moving the career of a young financier forward. That mentorship can take many forms, and he notes that he has personally benefited from several of them, including senior professional colleagues who have helped him along the way.
Miller’s Pfeiffer experience was marked by its own pivotal mentorship experience. During his freshman year, he became caught up in the new-found freedom of college life and “had too much fun.” He missed numerous classes, and his grades fell to the point where his athletic-academic scholarship was jeopardized.
Laura Dean, then Pfeiffer’s Dean of Students, called Miller in and urged him to turn things around in a hurry. She told him that during the fall semester of his sophomore year, he’d need to post a 3.75 GPA to hold on to his scholarship.
“She also said, ‘I will make sure you’re in class,’” Miller said. “She held me accountable. She cared. She wanted me to succeed.”
Miller got his act together and made the Dean’s List throughout the rest of his time at Pfeiffer. He also met Alejandra Buchanan ’03, a Pfeiffer soccer player who eventually became his wife.
Today, Miller’s greatest motivation in serving on Pfeiffer’s board is ensuring that subsequent generations of Pfeiffer students get to benefit from similar experiences. He’s convinced that had he attended a larger university, he would have dropped out.
“I would have been lost,” he added. “My professors at Pfeiffer knew who I was; they cared who I was. Pfeiffer gave me the tools I needed to move to the next step in my education and career – and helped set me on the path for my work at Auctus now.”