Keith Rowling, shown beside his renovated Gulf Stream home, says South Florida is like New York was in the ’60s. ‘It's definitely growing but there's a lot more runway.’ His five-bedroom home was built in 1948. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star
If you cruise the A1A corridor in south Palm Beach County it’s a familiar sight: A buyer purchases a multimillion-dollar mansion on the beach, then has it torn to the ground and starts over with his own design.
Not Keith Rowling. Already one of the most successful wealth advisers in the nation at age 39, Rowling has moved into four residences in Delray Beach and Gulf Stream since coming from Michigan in 2016 and chosen to renovate each one.
The latest is a five-bedroom house on a one-acre lot in Gulf Stream built in 1948 that he purchased last August.
“Many people would have looked at it as a tear-down,” said Rowling, whose family includes a fiancée and an 11-year-old daughter. “Instead of tearing it down we gutted it, and it’s kind of a bohemian beach house now. It’s really cool, actually.
“I love renovating houses. We modernized this one effectively: new floors, new kitchen, new bathroom, put a lot of light into it. Took out all the old crown moldings, all the heaviness of the old house. So now it’s very airy, very white. It’s kind of a really cool beach-house look now.”
Rowling launched his investment career as a teenager, using his lawn-mowing money to buy five shares of Boeing stock after reading in U.S. News and World Report that the company was about to launch the 777. He became a vice president at UBS Paine Webber and moved on to become managing director and financial adviser at Morgan Stanley in Michigan for nine years.
He’s been managing director at Merrill Lynch in Palm Beach since 2017. Forbes ranked him No. 4 on its list of Next Gen Best in State Wealth Advisors in 2019 and No. 5 in America’s Next Gen Advisors in 2020.
He first moved to coastal Delray Beach, then to a townhouse in Gulf Stream before he “kind of stumbled across” his recent purchase.
“Walking down the beach in the middle of COVID, I kind of realized if I didn’t do it now I never would be able to,” he said. “And since then the real estate numbers have just been amazing. I found this place pre-COVID, then decided to buy it during COVID.”
To say he’s bullish on the future of the area is putting it mildly.
“South Florida is like New York was in the ’60s,” he said. “It’s definitely growing but there’s a lot more runway. The financial capital has always been attracted here, but the intellectual capital that’s coming is going to change this place.
“Florida booms and busts, but you’ve never seen intellectual capital flood a very small place.”
— Brian Biggane
Q: Where did you grow up and go to school? How do you think that has influenced you?
A: I was born in Farmington Hills, Michigan, and went to Brother Rice High School in Bloomfield Hills. I then attended Notre Dame University, meaning I went to Catholic schools all the way through. I liked it a lot. Most of the time you’re there with mostly middle-class kids, and the work ethic and Midwest values that instilled were very beneficial in my growth. I had one sister, Jennifer, who also went to Notre Dame.
Q: What professions have you worked in? What professional accomplishments are you most proud of?
A: Only one profession. I started in wealth management at the age of 17 as the protégé of a top female adviser, Martha Adam. I worked for her all through my time at Notre Dame and then joined her as a partner in 2004. I’m on the Barron’s and Forbes top financial adviser lists, and crossed $1 billion in asset-funded management in 2020.
Q: What advice do you have for a young person seeking a career today?
A: Start early, you can pay now or pay later. Don’t be afraid to take chances. Adjust your sails often, and when you find your spot, be 110% committed to make it succeed.
Q: How did you choose to make your home in Gulf Stream?
A: My 11-year-old daughter, Charlotte, is extremely asthmatic and the Midwest winters were torture for her. The salt air of South Florida is an incredible therapeutic. Gulf Stream is an ideal locale, a small town situated in the middle of what is rapidly becoming the “new world.”
Q: What is your favorite part about living in Gulf Stream?
A: The combination of incredible beauty, low-key lifestyle and a group of neighbors who are equally accomplished and genuine. For me it’s the best-kept secret in South Florida.
Q: What book are you reading now?
A: I’m rereading Abundance, by Peter Diamandis. It reminds us how the technological revolution is creating incredible opportunities and advancements in all areas of our lives. In these times we must remember there are always reasons to be optimistic; even the vaccine and how quickly it came about is revolutionary. Humanity finds a way.
Q: What music do you listen to when you want to relax? When you want to be inspired?
A: It’s all pretty much the same to me. My fiancée does the playlist, so whatever she’s listening to. I wish I had a better answer, but that’s it.
Q: Have you had mentors in your life? Individuals who have inspired your life decisions?
A: Starting in high school working for Martha Adam. She was my mentor and one of my best friends from 16 until she passed several years ago. She was one of the top female brokers at Paine Webber in Michigan when she started in the late ’60s. She gave me my start in the business and taught me everything from stocks and bonds to clothing and wine.
Q: Who/what makes you laugh?
A: My daughter, Charlotte Rowling, and my fiancée, Kristy Rao. The combination of the wit of my 11-year-old and that of a lifetime New Yorker, neither of whom hold much back!
Q: Do you have a favorite cause? If so, why is it important to you?
A: I love being a father; my daughter is my life. We spend an inordinate amount of time together. Whether it’s on the boat, in the backyard or struggling through Singapore math, we celebrate life together.