Paging through “The Nation's Most Outstanding Brokers for 1980,” awarded in these pages in the January 1981 issue (see photo below), one is struck by just how different the business is today. No surprise, right? After all, it's been 30 years. Still, when the editors of this magazine first featured 20 of the best brokers (as they used to call them), no one could have predicted how dramatically the business would change. Back then, this magazine was called Registered Representative. We shortened the name in 2002 and, who knows, we may have to revamp it entirely depending on how coming regulatory reform affects the retail financial advice business.

Few of the firms of brokers featured back in 1980 are still in business as standalone entities today. EF Hutton. Kidder Peabody. Rauscher, Pierce, Refsnes. Paine Webber Jackson & Curtis. Heck, you can even add Merrill Lynch to that list.

Back then, the “most outstanding broker” list was meant to honor the real top dogs, the big tunas at the major firms, as measured by production, by sales. Back then it was all about tax shelters and books of business. But over the last 30 years, this list has become more oriented toward charitably inclined advisors, who also excel at providing financial advice to clients.

Indeed, these days, our winners are as highly dedicated to helping people with their personal financial lives as they are to their philanthropic projects. Most of them give extensively both of their time and their money to causes they care about. It's inspiring to see what kind of impact a single person can have when he or she applies well-managed resources to a passion. We like how this business, and our own awards issue, have evolved.

Below, our ten winners:

Outstanding Advisor Debra K. Brede
Rebuilding children's lives.

Outstanding Advisor Christine Gustafson
Walking the walk.

Outstanding Advisor Steven Michael Lear
The full time philanthropist.

Outstanding Advisor James W. Mabie
Patron of the arts.

Outstanding Advisor Paul Manfrey
Captain kid.

Outstanding Advisor Dan Pinkerton
Character builder.

Outstanding Advisor John Schannep
Sheltering the needy.

Outstanding Advisor Mark Shepherd
Living to give.

Outstanding Advisor Linda Stirling
Help for grieving mothers.

Outstanding Advisor Jeffrey Wigbels
The survivor.