A few started their careers in other fields and some began life in meager surroundings. But eventually, all 10 winning reps reached the top ranks of the brokerage industry. Collectively, they have 204 years of experience and more than $2.2 billion in assets under management. Learn how they develop trust in clients, respect in colleagues and gratitude in the community.
It's a rare moment to have an epiphany — when you realize, for example, that you want to change your career path.
That happened to David Bromelkamp 12 years ago. “I woke up and realized that I didn't want to be a partner in a CPA firm,” he says. He left his job as an accountant and took a few months off. “I came to the conclusion that what I wanted to do with my life was help people with investing.”
Hiring on with Dain Bosworth, now Dain Rauscher, Bromelkamp started out as a transaction-oriented broker, but began converting to managed money in 1995. In 1996, he passed the exam to become a Certified Investment Management Consultant and plans to add a Certified Investment Management Analyst designation this year.
As part of the transition, Bromelkamp cut his client base from 650 to 150. The mix is 70% individuals and 30% institutions. His production last year was $1.1 million: 70% managed accounts, 13% mutual fund trailers, 13% in finder's fees for venture capital deals, and 4% stock and mutual fund trades.
Bromelkamp maintains a hefty $1 million individual account minimum. “We still opened 12 accounts last year,” he says. A member on his board of client advisers suggested he institute a minimum retainer fee instead of a minimum asset level, and he's considering it.
His strong staff of four allows Bromelkamp to focus on spending time with clients. Jeremy Graff is a broker/partner who does asset allocation and money manager research. After Graff becomes a CFP, he will focus on tax, estate and retirement planning.
Chris Steffl, an intern training as a broker, will become a partner. He sets up seminars, handles marketing and business development.
The client service manager is Kelly Carlson. “She helps clients with whatever they need, basically pampering them,” Bromelkamp says. And Heather Turben is administrative manager. “The more administrative stuff taken off my plate, the faster I can grow my business,” he says.
A big fan of coaching, Bromelkamp enlisted team and personal coaches. The Hunter Group in Atlanta “knows how to build a team, hire them, give the team structure, set goals and clarify who's doing what,” he says. His personal coach, Jeff Staggs of Jeff Staggs & Associates in Mound, Minn., helped him double his business.
Within the firm, Bromelkamp is a member of the Dain Rauscher Senior Consulting Group, the top 4% of brokers who meet certain asset and professional requirements. Additionally, he sits on the Dain Rauscher Broker Advisory Council, communicating with senior management about clients' and brokers' needs.
Outside the office, Bromelkamp does community service work, but his family comes first. “I'm very protective of my time,” he says. He has three kids ages 3, 5 and 7.
He focuses his outside activities on his church, the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis, where he has served on the finance committee for six years, and his alma mater, St. John's University, for which he does fund-raising.
Bromelkamp also started a donor-advised fund at The Minneapolis Foundation, the largest community foundation in the state. “This is one of the ways I am able to give back to the community,” he says. “I have been very fortunate in my career, and I feel an obligation to give back to the community both with my time and money.”--Tracy Herman
“Dave is a true example. He has passion for the [managed money] business and is committed to doing it right. If I had 100 Dave Bromelkamps in the firm, I'd be thrilled.”
— Sandy Duerre, associate product manager, Dain Rauscher, Minneapolis
“There is absolute integrity with Dave. In addition to integrity, there is a high level of performance. I have not found an error. His follow-through is absolute.”
— client Mitch Trockman, Minneapolis
At 76 and after 53 years as a broker, Jerry Brown is still addicted to the industry, which he describes as “hypnotic.” “Once you're in it,” he says, “you don't want to get out of it.”
Brown has been a broker since 1948 — all with Morgan Stanley and its predecessor firms. He was a producing branch manager from 1951 to 1998, and then returned to production full time in a partnership with his daughter, Vanessa.
Considering his number of years in the industry, Brown has had an impact in a variety of areas. He estimates he's trained a couple hundred brokers. He is a big believer in continuing education. He's pressing his own daughter to get her CFP designation. “Every financial adviser should be teaching themselves … what to do with an estate,” he says.
Brown's influence has been especially strong in New Jersey. In 1951, he became the first — and only — broker in the town of Vineland, known at the time for its fresh eggs and chicken farms. Later, Brown wound up opening a string of offices in other New Jersey towns like Cherry Hill, Princeton, Atlantic City, Toms River, Bridgeton and Hammonton.
“In our little corner of the world, even most of the competition to our firm sprang from people who learned and got their start in this business from Mr. Brown,” says Maria Grant, his sales assistant for 23 years.
Brown's New Jersey ties extend beyond brokerage and into the business community itself. In the 1970s, he was instrumental in starting a local bank to meet the needs of businesspeople. Evenhandedness was — and is — his trademark.
“Jerry was interested in [loan] structures that would be beneficial not only to the bank, but beneficial and fair to the borrower as well,” says Bart Speziali, an executive vice president at Sun National Bank in Vineland, and one of Brown's longtime clients. “From that, he developed a great reputation in the business community.”
He also plays a role in philanthropic groups. Brown is a founder and board member of the Newcomb Hospital Foundation, which supports a local nonprofit hospital. The foundation conducts an annual giving campaign and other fund-raising events. Outside of New Jersey, he has helped raise money for the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., and to preserve artistic treasures in Florence, Italy.
Brown has $200 million in assets under control, and his 2000 production was $600,000. Forty percent of his business is stocks with a mix of 30% bonds, 20% mutual funds, 7% insurance and 3% managed accounts.
There are three major issues to consider about any investment, according to this veteran rep. The most important is liquidity. “The stock market is the only place I can think of where you can call up from your house, and we'll have a check waiting for you,” he says. The second is diversification. And the third is the strength of a company's management. “They must be very hard-working, serious-minded and dedicated.”
Brown is upbeat about the tech revolution, especially when it comes to fiber optics and biotech. He says he's “jealous of everyone who's going to live to see wonderful, marvelous things and have a much better lifestyle than we've ever had before.”
Brown has no plans to retire because being a broker, he says, means being “on the cutting edge.”--Rosalyn Retkwa
“Jerry's just one of these people you marvel at — enthusiastic, positive, one of the people who has a great deal of passion for the business.”
— John Olson, vice president and regional director, Morgan Stanley, New York
“Jerry's strength is in the preservation of capital and in increasing capital at the appropriate times, not in his gross and in how much he's going to make.”
— client Gershon Stern, Vineland, N.J.
Round Hill Securities
Los Altos, Calif.
At the age of 28, Rick Glaze was teaching design at the Philadelphia College of the Arts. That's where the thought hit him: “This is not what I want to do anymore,” he remembers saying to himself.
So Glaze conducted his own survey to uncover the world's fastest-growing businesses and decided to choose a new profession from that list.
Which field came out on top? Financial services. “I knew it would be a difficult transition from teaching, but I knew it would be worthwhile,” he says.
Today, 24 years later, Glaze is entrenched in the financial industry, managing more than $153 million in assets at his Los Altos, Calif., branch of Round Hill Securities.
Glaze started out at Dean Witter and later moved to Prudential Securities in 1991. But his business didn't take off until he remade himself into a fee-based, discretionary money manager using a Prudential program. In 1997, Glaze left to become an independent rep to customize his business.
“There's a certain amount of healthy apprehensiveness when you leave a big firm to go out on your own,” Glaze says. “But like jumping out of a plane, you know you have a parachute and that you'll land OK.”
He was anxious to establish a program without the limitations he encountered at the wirehouse. As an independent broker, Glaze says he has the freedom to manage portfolios using his hybrid investment style. “Our program is eclectic in that we don't stick strictly with growth or value stocks,” he says. “We're able to use both disciplines when we feel it's good for the client.”
Ironically, he gained clients when he left the corporate environment. “I got calls from people who were reluctant to go with me when I was at a big firm,” Glaze says. “They said, ‘Now that you're an independent, that's where I want to be.’”
Much of that, Glaze says, is related to cost. “We have better fees,” he says. “At 1% to 1.5%, our fees are less than half of what they are at big firms.” He produced $880,000 in 2000.
And given his discretionary approach, client service is key. “We focus on being there every day, looking over our clients' portfolios and keeping to the nuts and bolts,” he says. “When clients call us or we call them, they're left with the impression that we're on top of things.”
When he's not working — which isn't often since he dubs himself “a 24-7 guy” — Glaze manages more than $500,000 for local charities through the Los Altos Rotary Club. The club gives grants to a teen home that provides shelter for troubled girls.
Glaze, who is married with two children, is also on the board of the Los Altos YMCA, where he helps raise more than $100,000 annually for sports scholarships.
And being a native of Nashville, Tenn., Glaze is heavily into music. He plays guitar, sings and writes songs. Glaze recently produced a CD, “The Silicon Cowboy,” that includes such tunes as “My Dot-Com” and “Virtual Love.” A snippet of the songs can be heard at www.rickglaze.com.
“‘My Dot-Com’ is my perspective on the Silicon Valley craze,” says Glaze, who performs at Rotary and YMCA fund-raising events. “Part of the song goes, ‘My dot-com has come and gone, the wheels came off, and it didn't take too long.’ I wrote it as comic relief, though the message today is a little bittersweet.”--Rick Weinberg
“Rick's nature, demeanor and professionalism are among his most impressive traits. He not only cares about customers, he cares about people at the firm.”
— Tom Sboto, executive vice president, Round Hill Securities, Alamo, Calif.
“The people I respect in the industry are the ones with passion. Rick is one of those people. He's not complacent. He's always looking to be better and better as a professional.”
— broker Gerry Burchard, Round Hills Securities, Alamo, Calif.
Twenty-five years ago, fresh out of graduate school, Christopher Jay was offered a job as a broker with Merrill Lynch. He had a choice: Take a position in Portland, Ore., with an indefinite start date or start training for an immediate opening in Anchorage, Alaska.
He headed toward the northern lights.
“I came up here with no grand design,” Jay says. “Anchorage is a growing community, an open door community. It's not so structured that it's hard for somebody new to get accepted.”
Jay says being an “immigrant” was an advantage. “I had the freedom to fail,” he says. “I didn't start in a community where I grew up. I wasn't cognizant of making a fool out of myself. I just did it.”
Building his book the old-fashioned way, Jay got on the phone and called prospects. He also joined organizations to become part of the community. Today, Jay has 3,000 clients and controls $450 million in assets. His production was $1.9 million last year. Sixty percent of his business is managed accounts.
How did he get there? “Day to day to day to day to day,” Jay says. “There's no secret other than that. I'm fortunate to have some good [staff] people. And clients are loyal, supportive and great sources of referrals. The majority of my clients have been here my whole career.”
Most of them are individual accounts, including multiple generations of families. “I also have spin-off accounts — family companies and some institutional accounts,” he says.
To manage his enormous client base, Jay has two full-time assistants, Sheila Marchbanks and Lupe Wright, and a part-timer, Melissa Sistar, who handles special projects. The team also includes broker trainee Theresa Kimmell, who was formerly a sales assistant.
Effectively serving 3,000 is “an ongoing discussion,” Jay says. “It's more of an art than a science. I have a sixth sense of who needs what, where, when.”
Figuring out when to contact clients is based on his intuition rather than a software program.
In terms of computer technology, Jay admits, “I'm a dinosaur.” However, his staff does use a contact management program.
Jay's assistants are on the front line when the phone rings. “They make the determination if I need to talk to the client,” he says. “If it's a check request or a statement needs explanation, I won't know about it until later on. If it's something about the account, I will be the one.”
Some of Jay's evenings are occupied by community service work. He serves on the board of Alaska Public Telecommunications, parent to the public TV and radio stations in Anchorage. For Providence Hospital, Jay is on the foundation board and the investment committee. He's also active in Rotary Club.
Jay allowed some previous board positions to expire and has turned down offers for others.
“There are five nights in a [work] week,” he says. “If you're gone for three or four, it doesn't make for a good home life.” His wife and three children are a priority.
Jay doesn't socialize much with clients because of his family.
“Some people do dinners,” he says. “Others play golf. My family comes first. I put my heart and soul into the job. But there's more than one dimension to my personality.”--Tracy Herman
“Chris follows through with what he promises. He's realistic. He does not raise people's expectations beyond reality. He's professional in the best meaning.”
— client Steve O'Hara, attorney, Anchorage, Alaska
“Chris is not high-pressure. He takes a common-sense approach. When we're afraid, before we get a chance to call him, he calls us to tell us the latest.”
— client Sandra Moeller, Anchorage, Alaska, and La Quinta, Calif.
If he weren't so successful, you might dismiss Bob Moore's business philosophy as naive or simplistic. But there's plenty of evidence to prove it really works, including client assets of $680 million and personal production of almost $1.6 million last year.
His approach is simple and straightforward:
Work harder than anyone else, especially the competition.
Surround yourself with wealthy individuals.
Truly appreciate your profession.
“I was 25 years old when I started at Merrill Lynch,” Moore says. “And I always told myself that if I didn't make it, it wasn't going to be because I didn't try. I worked Saturdays and Sundays. I didn't take a sick day or a vacation day during my first five years.” He's been at Merrill's Wichita, Kan., branch since he became a broker in 1983.
One of the reasons he works so hard is that he had such a humble upbringing. His father was a house painter and his mother a janitor. Times were tough. “We never had much, but I learned a lot about hard work,” Moore says.
His professional life also had a rocky start. Relying entirely on cold calling, Moore generated just $65,000 in production credits during his freshman year. Then something happened that changed the way he thought about the brokerage business. While listening to a conference call held by the marketing director of Merrill Lynch Asset Management, Moore became a believer in managed accounts. Today, roughly 70% of client assets are with professional money managers. The remainder of his production comes from mutual funds and insurance.
Moore is sure of his choice. “Three-quarters of my revenues come in even if I never [drop a ticket],” he says. “Transactions really are a commodity and will be free someday.”
“He's done a fabulous job of building a very high-quality business,” says Frank Hoover, Moore's branch manager. “He had annuitized revenue this year somewhere around $1.5 million before he ever walked in the door in January.”
Moore prides himself on finding the best money managers available and offering a full array of financial planning services.
And he does it with just one assistant. Registered rep Connie Haller has been his sales assistant, “confidant and right arm” for the past six years. Their productivity has not gone unnoticed by Merrill management.
“By most standards in the industry, he is understaffed,” says John Kuddes, director of Merrill's advisory division in Leawood, Kan. “But the dedication of Bob and his assistant are incomparable.”
The bulk of his business today comes through referrals and networking. And his client retention rate is phenomenal. “He likes his clients, and that's why he doesn't lose them,” Hoover says.
Moore is also active in his community. He is a volunteer with the American Heart Association, active with the local music theater and sits on the board of directors of the Wichita Symphony.
Instead of resting on his laurels, Moore continues to outwork the competition, trudging into the office at around 7:15 a.m., feeling privileged to be there. Last year, his determination helped him scoop up an additional $200 million in client assets.
“When you have those meager beginnings, you tend to appreciate the opportunities that our business offers,” Moore says. “I feel truly blessed.”--Michael Hayes
“I find Bob very personable and easy to talk to. If I have a question, I can call his office, and there's no problem.”
— client Sister Judith Lindell, Dominican Sisters, Great Bend, Kan.
“Bob is committed. If you're out of town, he'll make that extra effort to find you. He's more interested in a happy client than in making money for himself.”
— client Andrew Hutton, partner with the law firm Hutton & Hutton, Wichita, Kan.
Raymond James Financial Services
Fighter squadrons often have an unofficial “money guy” who handles squad members' taxes and investments. John William Moore, who flew fighter jets for the U.S. Air Force for more than 10 years, was that guy. So when he ended his military career, the brokerage industry was a natural choice.
From the start, Moore was not your average cold caller. In his rookie year, he set a record for the number of new accounts opened — not by making product pitches, but by making appointments. That was more than 20 years ago.
Today, as president of Albuquerque, N.M.-based John Moore & Associates, which is affiliated with Raymond James Financial Services, he's still flying high, with more than $1 million in 2000 production and $137 million in assets under management.
About 75% of Moore's business is fee-based equities, arranged in portfolios he manages himself. Moore follows a highly structured stock selection process based on 11 different market indicators, concentrating on “fine American companies.” In 2000, his equity growth clients outperformed the S&P/Barra Growth Index by 13.66 percentage points, and trading account clients beat the S&P 500 Index by 13.37 percentage points.
To help him, he has six full-time employees and four part-timers. In particular, Karen Karl, Moore's registered sales assistant of 14 years, is integral to his success.
“Karen's the second most important person in my life, right after my wife,” he says. “Before she and I started working together, I'd been going through a sales assistant about once every two years. Then I decided to treat the relationship like a marriage, to pay well and to look beyond the day-to-day stuff.”
Another pivotal career move for Moore was gaining his Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA) designation. It requires taking a one-week course taught at the Wharton School of Business, preceded by 50 to 60 hours of home study. “Going to the CIMA class was the most significant thing I've done,” he says. “It helped me understand the process for investing large dollar amounts for institutional clients, information which has been valuable for retail clients, too.”
Over the years, Moore has shared his knowledge through training classes at his previous firms, including EF Hutton and Prudential Securities, as well as at his current firm, teaching fellow brokers how to research equities and break through production plateaus.
He's also authored a book titled “The Almighty and the Dollar,” covering what he calls a holistic approach to managing money, focusing on budgeting, goal-setting and getting out of debt.
Moore is president of the New Mexico Planned Giving Council. “We created seminars to teach nonprofit organizations how to design charitable gifts, which has turned into opportunities for us to manage endowment and foundation money,” he says. “Our service includes performance measurement and money manager monitoring, which is where the CIMA skills come into play.”
Even in his leisure time, Moore is still working. Two years ago, he assembled a “financial ministry,” consisting of 15 counselors (not brokers) who assist members of his church experiencing financial difficulty. “The counselors receive 20 hours of training on how to make a person's life work financially,” he says.
Has he given up flying? No way. Moore flies fighter jets for the U.S. Air Force National Guard. And in work and community, he continues to soar.--Tad Leahy
“John makes great decisions because he is driven and accountable to the right things, not personal gain but personal integrity.”
— client Terry De La Porte, Albuquerque, N.M.
“John is extraordinarily focused and a consummate professional. He runs his life and business by a clearly delineated set of standards.”
— Dick Saunders, vice president of business development, Raymond James Financial Services, Atlanta
Salomon Smith Barney
Gold River, Calif.
Mark Morgan prides himself on having happy, involved clients. “I'll do whatever it takes to make my clients as happy with me as possible,” says Morgan, a Salomon Smith Barney rep in Gold River, Calif. “I have a genuine interest in their lives, not just their investments.”
The main way he expresses that interest is through communication. Showing his personal attention to detail, he sends articles or books he thinks clients might enjoy. And to reflect his savvy as a broker, he mails an annual letter recapping the market and his business.
But only a select few get Morgan's brand of pampering. An 18-year veteran of the securities industry, he made a strategic decision three years ago to limit his client base, focusing on quality over quantity. “There's only a finite number of relationships to which you can provide that level of service,” he says.
Morgan gradually turned over management of roughly 90 accounts to other financial consultants with whom he had an informal alliance. “These accounts reflected clients who were looking for more of a product-oriented adviser as opposed to someone who would oversee a bigger picture,” Morgan says.
And to control the growth of new accounts, he has a $1 million minimum. He currently serves 165 clients with a mix of 50% managed accounts, 20% stocks, 20% funds and 10% bonds.
Working with a full-time sales assistant, Morgan keeps in touch with clients through frequent phone calls and office visits. He even accommodates those who live in other cities by driving to their homes at times convenient to them. “I want my clients to feel appreciated and involved in what's going on.”
Morgan, who holds the Certified Investment Management Consultant designation, is a member of SSB's President's Council and the 1998 recipient of the Consulting Group's Pacesetter Award. His philosophy: “If you want your clients to be happy with you, you need to be happy with what you do.”
Clearly, the happiness factor works. Morgan's production last year was just over $1 million with $190 million in assets under management. He's on track to reach $1.2 million gross with $210 million in assets by the end of this year.
Who else contributes to his success? Allied professionals. “Much of my business now comes from referrals from local CPAs and attorneys,” he says. That's not surprising since Morgan makes it a point to gather year-end tax information for many of his clients. After organizing it into individual binders, he invites the client's CPA out so they can go through it together.
“It sure makes my job easier, and it's good for the clients, too,” says Ken Dodge, a CPA in Sacramento, Calif. “We have a number of clients in common, and Mark is the point man coordinating the lawyer, the client and myself to make sure we all stay in the loop.”
Outside the office, Morgan volunteers for the local chapter of the American Lung Association. For the past three years, he has helped organize the group's main fund-raiser, the Celebrity Waiters' Luncheon, and brought in SSB as a major sponsor.
“Mark has been responsible for raising tens of thousands of dollars to support our work,” says Jane Hagedorn, executive director of the Sacramento, Calif., office of the American Lung Association. “He sets the benchmark and inspires others to follow his lead.”--Michelle Gabriel
“I started out doing a little business with Mark but quickly ended up giving him all of my business. He takes the time to sit down with me and carefully go over each and every aspect of what we're doing.”
— client George Ganiats, Sacramento, Calif.
“Mark is very serious about keeping abreast of all the changes in the tax laws that affect his clients, making sure they are in the right program for their goals.”
— attorney Gary Perry, Sacramento, Calif.
In 1983, Randy Stender was on Merrill Lynch's fast track. At 26, he was named the Eugene, Ore., branch manager, the youngest manager in the Merrill system at that time.
After seven and a half years of managing, Stender decided to jump off the track and return to his first love — financial consulting.
“I just didn't want to manage anymore,” he says. “I had young children and didn't want to be moving every two or three years to take another management position. I saw what my peers [in management] were doing. It was a lifestyle I didn't want.”
Since then, Stender has never regretted his move back to the rep ranks. “[Managing] was a good experience, but I love being a financial consultant,” he says.
Today, with more than 600 clients and $180 million in assets under management, Stender says he is still excited about going to work when he wakes up every morning.
“No two days are the same in this business,” he says. “It's really refreshing and thrilling.”
Stender's target clientele in Eugene is high-net-worth individuals and small-business owners. He prides himself on developing relationships. “My philosophy is to sit down with clients, discuss their goals and objectives, and agree on a plan to achieve those goals,” he says. “Service and suitable recommendations make for happy long-term relationships.”
And so does the judicious use of the reins on overzealous clients. “Recently, I've had clients call and thank me for not letting them get too heavily involved in tech stocks,” he says. “In some cases, it was a real battle to keep them out, and I know I lost some accounts. But it makes my day when they say thank you.”
Stender's efforts and production level have also been recognized by the firm. He is a perennial member of Merrill's Circle of Excellence, a club for reps whose gross exceeds $1 million annually. His business mix is 65% stocks, 14% funds, 10% bonds, 10% managed accounts and 1% insurance. He runs his book with help from two registered assistants, Judy Faust and Stephanie Hoos.
Active in the community, Stender leads the 20-member board of Kidsports, an organization that runs community sports programs involving 25,000 youngsters and more than 4,000 adults as coaches and referees. Stender coaches soccer and baseball. He and his wife of 26 years, Susanne, have three children, Sam, 13, Hank, 10, and Sally, 7.
A second-generation Eagle Scout, Stender is the treasurer of Pack 241 and volunteer leader for Troop 100 of the Boy Scouts. He is hoping his sons will become the family's third generation to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout.
A patron of the arts, Stender is also the founder and chair of the Gallery at the Airport Committee. Designed to provide visitors to the Eugene Airport a glimpse of the region's best, the gallery showcases local art and art assets with four exhibits annually.
His interests extend beyond the aesthetic into the athletic, too. Stender spends his lunch hour playing handball. He was the state ‘B’ Singles Champion in 1998. (Not bad for someone who picked up handball as a hobby.)
After 22 years in the business, Stender has experienced being both a branch manager and million-dollar producer. But he's most content using his energy to meet the daily challenge of serving clients and growing his business.--Tom Nelson
“Randy does a good job of making picks and staying in touch. We had another broker we weren't pleased with. Randy knew that and took over our account. It was like moving from fog to daylight.”
— client Jean Borland, Veneta, Ore.
“Randy can deal well with men or women of any age. I can confidently send anyone to him. I can't say that about other brokers. He's very thorough.”
— Rhonda Osterman, CPA, Mueller Yuva & Osterman, Eugene, Ore.
A loyal Minnesotan, Ross Strehlow grew up in a small town near Minnesota's lake district, leaving only to earn a degree in finance at Arizona State University. Sheepskin in hand, he returned to put down roots in suburban Minneapolis.
But something from his Arizona experience stuck with him. It was a college paper he wrote on Honeywell, a financial analysis of the company and the prospects for its stock. The exercise drew him into the brokerage industry.
Now a 20-year veteran rep, Strehlow still applies the same fundamentals before picking stocks for client portfolios.
“I like to find undiscovered companies or ones that have had a problem but will recover,” says Strehlow, a broker at Dain Rauscher in Shoreview, Minn. “The general public misses the boat. People look at buy recommendations, but the price may reflect that already. I try to find the companies before the buy recommendations, then let the analysts boost the price.”
He looks at factors such as a relatively low P/E ratio, a strong balance sheet with little or no debt, and a reasonable valuation relative to book value and to sales. But numbers aren't the whole story, he says.
He tries to spots trends and holds meetings with management whenever possible. “I want to know what is happening in the industry, whether the company is a leader in the industry, and I want to see that the management team works hard.”
For example, when silicone breast implant manufacturers were getting hit by lawsuits, a firm that made saline implants was able to double what it charged for products. The low P/E of the stock made it a good investment, so he recommended it.
Another favorite investment — Minnesota firms. He believes a certain work ethic and entrepreneurship is characteristic of the state's people and businesses. “We have a lot of good companies right in our own backyard,” he says.
Having worked for several brokerage firms, Strehlow maintains good relationships with other reps in the community. Brokers and analysts often call him for advice. He only recommends stocks after he has tracked them for a while, and he rarely recommends a stock unless he's buying shares for himself.
With 2000 production of $932,000, Strehlow's business is mostly commissions, although some newer clients pay fees. Most of his clients' investments are in small- to mid-cap equities. He built his book by cold calling and by personally visiting business owners.
Two licensed assistants help Strehlow with client communications, and both are Minnesotans, he notes proudly. Service assistant Kristi Determan handles correspondence and sees that nothing falls through the cracks. Sales assistant Robb Belschner talks to clients about their portfolios.
In spite of long hours, Strehlow has an active life outside the office. He finds time to coach his 9-year-old son's basketball and baseball teams and to go hunting and ice fishing. He enjoys golf at a nearby course as well as in Arizona, where his daughter now attends his alma mater.
Charitable activities are also important to Strehlow. He regularly participates in golf tournaments to raise funds for the American Cancer Society and other causes. He sponsors children in Guatemala and Bolivia through World Vision. And because he sometimes advises clients to gift appreciated stock, he sets an example with stock donations to his church and various charities.--Ruth Halcomb
“Most retail customers depend on their broker for advice. Ross does his homework and knows what is going on at companies.”
— G. James Spinner, former president, Summit Investments, Minneapolis
“I was the CFO of a company he visited, and he asked such good questions that I decided to become a client. He does a lot of work before deciding on a stock. I can bounce ideas off him, and he adds value to anything that I bring.”
— client Larry Shapiro, Minneapolis
George Abraham "Abie" Williams
When George Abraham “Abie” (pronounced a-bee) Williams says he hasn't gone far, he's not kidding. He has been a broker for 20 years in the same building he lived in as a baby.
Forty-six years ago, his parents rented the upstairs apartment over a stock brokerage. Today, the historic building in Radford, Va., serves as a branch of Legg Mason, and Williams is manager.
But in other ways, Williams has gone great distances. With $220 million in assets and $1.6 million in 2000 production, Williams is a member of Legg Mason's Advisory Council, a group of the firm's top 31 reps.
Sometimes Williams takes a bit of ribbing from his more metropolitan peers about Radford, a bucolic town of 15,000. He doesn't mind. “This is who I am,” Williams says. “I know how minds work in Radford.”
Williams' insight meant his methods of building business and serving clients have differed from the start. “I knew cold calling wouldn't work, and I was doing profiling on a yellow legal pad before anybody started doing it.”
His strategy: Get intensely involved in church and civic organizations, and focus on listening to clients, making written notes and solving their financial problems.
“I got business because people knew who I was,” Williams says. “They watch you and see how you handle yourself. People find security in dealing with people with roots embedded in the community.”
He's chairman of the deacon board at Calvary Baptist Church, sings in the choir and teaches an adult Sunday school class. He's chairman of the Industrial Development Authority, bringing new businesses and jobs to Radford. And in 1986, Williams founded the Radford High School Foundation, a group that provides enrichment funds to area schools. He continues as chairman and has helped to raise $300,000 thus far.
Just like his ties to the community, his relationships with clients are built on trust, concern and righteous labor. “I tell clients, ‘I'm going to love your money and work harder for it than you are,’” Williams says.
He's giving clients an extra dose of love these days.
“Clients say they can handle a tough market, but I sense they really can't from the look on their faces and the tone in their voices,” he says. That's why he's been on the phone a lot. “It demonstrates that I'm a professional and shows the value of the advice I give.”
Williams is the lead broker with a four-member team, including rep Gary Tibbs; Georgeanna Kimbleton, branch office coordinator; and Donna Gilmore and Crystal Duncan, customer service reps.
Forming a team and focusing on fee-based business are two trends he spotted early on, Williams says. His business is 70% fee-based, split between managed accounts and mutual fund fees. He handles accounts for about 800 households. Clients include a mix of high-net-worth investors and regular folk with some church and charitable organizations thrown in.
Williams is competitive when it comes to account gathering, rated among Legg Mason's top new account getters with 397 in 2000, 492 for 1999 and 471 for 1998. “Winners keep score,” he confides.
Speaking of scores: A father of three sons, Williams led the charge to refurbish the local Little League field, and topped off his effort with a personal touch — a scoreboard emblazoned with the Legg Mason logo. “We take our earnings from the community, and we ought to give something back.”--Janis Samaripa
“There's a good synergy in our relationship. Abie understands what I'm trying to accomplish. But sometimes I come up with crazy ideas. He's good at keeping me where I need to be.”
— client William King, M.D., Radford, Va.
“Abie is one of the biggest contributors to his community in terms of time and money. At a very young age, he has become a city father.”
— James Brinkley, president, Legg Mason, Baltimore, Md.