VALERIE BROWN, CEO of Cetera Financial Group

LAST YEAR'S CHALLENGE: Reorganizing a group of b/ds from ING Advisors Network into Cetera, which targets the hybrid market.

HOW SHE'S DOING: Assets are up from $75 billion at the end of 2009 to $82.5 billion by mid-2011, including $6.3 billion in net new assets. Advisors are growing modestly as well: 4,866, up 68 from the end of the first quarter of this year. Brown says gross dealer concession per advisor is up more than 15 percent year over year at the end of the second quarter, to $190,000.

MARK CASADY, CEO and Chairman of the Board, LPL

LAST YEAR'S CHALLENGE: To attract and retain advisors, especially those of substance, in the midst of its IPO.

HOW HE'S DOING: The firm's IPO in November raised $44 million. As of the first quarter of 2011, the firm had 528 net new advisors compared to the first quarter of last year. Unfortunately, the firm's top producer, Ron Carson, has established an RIA and plans to gradually transition his $3 billion in assets into his own b/d. He will continue to use LPL as a custodian and clearing firm for his RIA and b/d, however.

DENISE VOIGHT CRAWFORD, Former President, North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA)

LAST YEAR'S CHALLENGE: Help thousands of mid-sized RIAs — those with $25 million to $100 million in assets — prepare for transition to state oversight.

HOW SHE'S DOING: In January, Crawford announced her plans to retire after 17 years as Texas Securities Commissioner. Meanwhile, the SEC pushed back the deadline for firms to make that switch to June 28, 2012.

JOHN HUSSMAN, President, Hussman Investment Trust

LAST YEAR'S CHALLENGE: John Hussman, in 2008, turned bearish, protecting shareholders in Hussman Strategic Total Return (HSTRX) by dumping stocks and taking some short positions.

HOW HE'S DOING: His strategy this year is underperforming. Worried about budget deficits and persistent unemployment, he avoided most stocks and emphasized fixed income. That left him trailing 97 percent of his competitors over the last 12 months in the conservative allocation category. But his long-term track record remains strong — he outperformed 98 percent of his peers; he was stellar during the recent bear market.

TIM JOHNSON, Ranking member, Senate Banking Committee, Potential Incoming Chairman

LAST YEAR'S CHALLENGE: To take on the role of chairman of the Senate Banking Committee and to oversee Dodd-Frank implementation.

HOW HE'S DOING: Johnson is now serving as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. Republicans have been pushing hard to repeal some provisions of Dodd-Frank. Thus far, Johnson has demonstrated a willingness to examine many aspects of the law, but no legislation amending Dodd-Frank has yet been considered by his committee.

MICHAEL KAVANAGH, Chief Administrative Officer, Head of Independent Business Channels at RBC Wealth Management

LAST YEAR'S CHALLENGE: RBC acquired the old Bear Stearns custody unit from JP Morgan, and as head of the new unit, Kavanagh was tasked with attracting and retaining high quality RIAs.

HOW HE'S DOING: In November of 2010, Kavanagh announced his retirement after 25 years with the firm. Catie Tobin took over. Since last August, the custodian increased its RIA base by 103 percent, with average assets of $180 million.

ROBERT J. MCCANN, CEO, UBS Wealth Management Americas

HOW HE'S DOING: See feature story beginning on page 55.

JOHN PAULSON, Founder and President, Paulson & Co.

LAST YEAR'S CHALLENGE: Paulson built on his success in predicting the credit crisis and subprime implosion by navigating his funds into new macro trades: long gold, bullish on the U.S. economy.

HOW HE'S DOING: His funds were down for much of 2010, but came roaring back to finish the year up 17 percent. So far 2011 has been tough, with three of his Advantage funds down by between 7.5 percent and 18 percent. But gold has been strong and his International, Credit and Recovery funds are all up in the low to mid single digits.

GRAHAM TUCKWELL, Founder and Chairman, ETF Securities

LAST YEAR'S CHALLENGE: The London-based company has launched four physically backed precious metal ETFs — gold, silver, platinum and palladium — and has opened a Wall Street office.

HOW HE'S DOING: ETF Securities is still awaiting SEC approval on 18 ETFs that would take long or short positions on a broader range of commodities. It has launched three new precious metal ETFs: two products that invest in a basket of precious metals (GLTR and WITE), and an Asian gold ETF (AGOL). Company assets have nearly doubled in the past year, to $29 billion.

ELISSE B. WALTER, SEC Commissioner

LAST YEAR'S CHALLENGE: Converting Dodd-Frank into reality.

HOW SHE'S DOING: Walter isn't shy about breaking from the pack if she thinks regulatory efforts are falling short of what's needed. In January she wrote that she was “quite disappointed” with an SEC study on the need for enhanced exams and enforcement resources for financial advisors. Among other things, her eight-page letter said the agency faces “completely inadequate resources” for fulfilling its examination mandate for advisors.

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