When Stella Bray and David Wisehaupt had an opening on their $1 million team at Merrill Lynch in 2006, Julie Fox jumped at the opportunity. “I wanted the chance to work on a big team, and with FAs who had a lot of potential, who were really driving the business,” says Fox. Fox started at Merrill in 1999 as a part-time support person and worked her way up to sales assistant, and later to branch manager's assistant, but she had never worked with such a lucrative group.

Three years later, Fox, who holds Series 7 and 66 licenses, is still supporting the two advisors, who run Wisehaupt Bray Asset Management, a division of RIA HighTower Advisors. Headquartered in Chicago, HighTower manages $15 billion in assets for several thousand clients. (HighTower doesn't break out individual advisor assets.)

Fox says her job is to keep three steps ahead of her advisors to make sure nothing slips through the cracks. Her nickname around the office is “Annette,” (“a net,” get it?) because she catches wayward slips and prevents them from turning into disasters. For example, when Fox noticed the balance in one HNW client's checking account was getting low, she informed her FAs that the client had been spending a lot and suggested they help the client set up a budget. She combats the challenge of time management by being proactive: “If we make the outgoing phone calls to the clients, our incoming phone calls are cut three quarters,” she says.

When her team left Merrill last December, Fox was an integral part of the transition process. In addition to managing the transition paperwork, Fox got her FAs up to speed on the new platform. She already had experience transferring teams into Merrill when she worked as a manager's assistant, and knew how important it was to build a relationship with the team's new custodian, Fidelity, so she established a rapport with Fidelity's transition team for future trouble shooting. Clients were relieved she was staying put. “When we left Merrill we had customers showing up the next day with the paperwork in their hand,” says Fox.

Fox's advisors call her a “true partner.” In addition to routine business such as preparing for client meetings and even participating on monthly client conference calls, Fox is credited with generating client referrals and helping the two advisors bring in more assets from current clients by identifying any new deposits that might be investable.

In the world of professional support staff, Fox says there are the “clock watchers” who do what they were hired to do, and those who take it a step further. “You take on more roles just to keep yourself growing,” she says. “That is what I do.”