Picking a Registered Rep. Ten To Watch list can be like diversifying a portfolio. Find some top wirehouse executives (large-cap equities), a few growing indie advisors (small-caps), a hedge fund guy with new ideas (commodities), a government official with industry influence (munis), maybe someone from academia (cash). Okay, that may be stretching it, but the point is, like selecting stocks, you want people with a good story to tell. Another parallel with investing: You expect interesting developments over the coming 12 months. (After all, we don't call the list the Ten We Remember Fondly.)

So it is with this month's annual feature. Some of the names are easily recognized, others less so. What's interesting about 2010 is that the dust hasn't settled on some major issues affecting the financial advisor industry even though the issues have reached a denouement. Last month, for example, President Obama signed the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul legislation into law. But much of the interpretation of those myriad regulations will be left to the SEC (two of the people on our list will have hands-on influence in this arena.) Some financial firms are branching into new markets, spurred by convulsions in the industry that are still being felt 18 months after the crash (Two names on the Ten to Watch are aiming for growth in the custody and RIA channels respectively.) Their ability to compete in those markets will be watched closely.

You'll find people on our list whose expertise will be challenged in the months to come. The ongoing economic recovery isn't a done deal in the minds of many in the industry. (Indeed, one of our picks is quite vocal on the subject, and is investing accordingly.) But don't be surprised if a name or two on this year's list is a bigger player a year from now. Last year we included Elizabeth Warren, chairwoman of the Congressional TARP Oversight Panel; she's now on the short list to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a centerpiece of Dodd-Frank.

Of course, these prognostications cut both ways, too. A year ago we selected Dan Sontag, head of Americas Client Relationship Group for Global Wealth Management at Merrill Lynch. He announced his retirement shortly after our issue went to press. Perhaps that's another similarity between Ten to Watch and investment picks for portfolios: past performance doesn't guarantee future results.