If any industry could use a dose of optimism right now, it's financial services. And for the men and women who toil every day on behalf of their clients, this year's 28th annual Outstanding Advisor Award winners could be exactly what advisors need. (Just read the cover story first, it's a bit of a downer … )
Every year, Registered Rep. receives hundreds of nomination letters from all types of advisors across the country for our annual OAA. Paring the pile down to 10 is never an easy task for the staff. However, reading about the high esteem in which many of your colleagues and clients hold you serves as a rather pleasant tradeoff. And with negative news reports dominating the Wall Street reporting scene, it couldn't be a better time for a reminder of just how many honest, giving and successful people work in this business. They are not only the best at what they do for a living. Many of them have devoted extraordinary amounts of time and effort to giving something back, whether to their own communities or those in far away places. They've got it good, and they want to brighten the lot of as many others as they can.
As it turns out, kids are a dominant theme among the various causes driven and supported by this year's winners. But there were several other themes as well: Marc Walsh is a volunteer pilot who flies patients to specialized medical care; William Lervaag collects thousands of tons of food surplus and redistributes it to those in need around Peoria, Illinois; Gerry Strid is fighting the uphill battle against homelessness in Philadelphia and his passion is palpable — he's the kind of guy who could get it done.
All 10 of the OAAs serve not only as a reminder of the human capacity for compassion, but also to illuminate the creative and ingenious methods we find to help one another. In many ways it's not surprising that financial advisors can be found leading these kinds of efforts. Organized, energetic, well-connected and accustomed to putting in years of spade work before the fruits of their labor can be seen, advisors make great fundraisers, consultants and volunteers for any cause. So, turn the page and read about this year's 10 winners. We think you'll be inspired. — John Churchill
Name: Stephan Q. Cassaday
Firm: Cassaday & Company, Royal Alliance
City: McLean, Va.
Years as a Rep: 31
Years with Current Firm: 15
Production: $2.1 million
AUM: $263 million
Product Mix: insurance, 5%; managed accounts, 95%
Specialty: integrated wealth-management
Designations: CFP, CFS
Licenses: Series 7, 8, 66, 65
When Stephan Cassaday was a boy, he came downstairs one Sunday and his father was sitting there with the newspaper, perusing the stock tables. “They were lined up all nice and neat, and he explained it to me in his usual careful and thoughtful way,” says Cassaday. “I was kind of hooked from that point forward.” He tried to get a stockbroker job straight out of college, but they told him he was too young. A year later, he tried again, and again they turned him away. But this time, he wasn't taking no for an answer. Cassady barged into the office of the president of brokerage Johnston, Lemon & Co., and at the end of their 40-minute talk, he had a job. That was 1977.
Some 16 years later, in 1993, Cassaday threw all of his savings into starting up Cassaday & Company, an independent advisory practice affiliated with Royal Alliance. Today he says it's one of the best advisory firms in Washington D.C. “We take care of clients,” he explains. Cassaday has built his firm in an unusual way: He identifies people he finds extraordinary, convinces them to come work for him, and then builds positions around them. “We have virtually no turnover,” he says.
Cassaday is just as energetic and driven outside of the office. He dedicates a substantial chunk of his time and money to supporting groups that help inner-city youth. “To think these people will ever get out of the cycle of poverty without some major help seems impossible. So we are trying to be smart about which charities will really have an impact,” he says. Cassaday began by contributing money to a place called The House, an after-school program in a rough inner-city Washington neighborhood. When he heard it was falling apart financially, he made personal visits with the director, as well as kids and parents, and helped them turn it around and run it like a business.
Cassaday also contributes his time and money to The Good Samaritan Foundation, which helps bright kids get out of failing schools and into private and parochial schools with scholarships. He's also a big donor to The Smile Train, which funds operations for children born with cleft palettes. And he matches employee contributions to charities of their choice. In all, through his own individual contributions and fundraising, Cassaday is responsible for gifts of $100,000 a year to these three charities.
“Steve rallies others to create change,” says La Wonda Harris, executive director of The House.
— Kristen French
Name: Chad Coe
Firm: Coe Financial Group, First Allied Securities
City: Deerfield, Ill.
Years as a Rep: 11
Years with Current Firm: 9
Production: (last 12 months) $790,000
AUM: $190 million
Product Mix: insurance, 2%; stocks, 6%; managed accounts, 90%; bonds, 2%
Specialty: managed money; wealth management and retirement planning for individuals and companies
Designations: CDFA, RFC
Licenses: Series 6, 7, 24, 51, 63, 65
Chad Coe is, in his own words, an entrepreneur at heart. His motto is, “if you want something, create it,” and that is precisely what he has done, time and time again.
In 1997, after reading a book about the power of networking groups, and just three months before he started his first financial-advisory job at PaineWebber, Coe founded a networking group called the CEO Networking Group. Thirty people attended the first meeting, mostly people he knew from years of working as an accountant for family businesses. Within eight months the group's numbers had almost tripled, and he had a stable of people from which to draw new clients. A year later, he started a group for executives in transition, which grew to 300 members, many of whom wound up asking him to manage their money.
But by 2001, Coe began to feel shackled by the bureaucracy at PaineWebber, and he decided to launch his own practice, Coe Financial Group, Inc., with First Allied Securities. Today, that group manages $190 million, and provides wealth management and retirement, estate, and financial planning for individuals and companies. Chad also works as a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA), helping women through financial settlement and divorce planning issues so that they can become “newly responsible for their own financial independence,” he says.
Coe says he realized early on that helping people through his work wasn't enough. So in 1999, he and his wife Debbie founded the Special Kids Network. A non-profit charity with 70 volunteers, the network is able to provide other organizations — such as Cure Autism Now, the National Stuttering Foundation and Keshet — with financial support through a variety of events. The Special Kids Network raises approximately $125,000 to $200,000 annually for five children-centered organizations, and has raised over a million dollars since it launched.
Attributing much of his success to leadership skills, mentoring, entrepreneurship and his ability to evolve in the midst of a rapidly changing business, what Coe likes the most about his professional and charitable endeavors is the knowledge that every day is another opportunity to help others: “When I'm managing their money, I change their lives.”
— Nancy N. DiCostanzo
Cures for Kids
Name: Andy Kaiser
Firm: Mountain Hill Investment Partners, American Portfolios Financial Services
City: Atlantic Highlands, N.J.
Years as a Rep: 22
Yeears with Current Firm: 2
AUM: $150 million
Product Mix: managed money, 60%; stocks, 80%; bonds, 20%
Specialty: large-cap value, low p/e high-dividend companies, option overlay, discretionary fee-based advice
Licenses: Series 63, 65, 7
There was a point in Andy Kaiser's career, not long ago, when he almost called it quits. It was early 2003, just days after his six-year-old son, Ryan, died suddenly of heart failure. Kaiser, then an 18-year veteran of Wall Street, took a break from the business, and moved his family to Florida for nine months. “I needed time to think,” he says. He considered leaving his high-powered, money-driven job in New York City as a UBS advisor. When he did return to work, “it didn't feel right,” he says. It was time for a change.
Kaiser transferred his business from UBS's Manhattan office to one of its branches in Red Bank, N.J. — 10 minutes from his home. Two years later, he decided that wasn't change enough. The next step: launching his own firm as an independent advisor.
In 2004, Kaiser saw that the private pre-school his son Ryan had attended was up for sale and he worried that developers would knock the school down. So he and his wife bought the 12-acre plot. Today, The Mountain Hill School has over 200 children and is run by Kaiser's wife, Lauren. In 2006, Kaiser launched his own firm on that same plot of land and named it, fittingly enough, Mountain Hill Investment Partners.
When he's not busy helping to run the school or managing client assets, Kaiser is maintaining the Ryan Andrew Kaiser Memorial Foundation, which he established in late 2003. The foundation helps raise money for families with critically ill children in need of healthcare and grants, and obtains funding for doctors and hospitals that specialize in caring for, and curing, pediatric heart patients. The group has raised about $250,000 to date, and is in the midst of expanding its efforts to build free playgrounds across the east coast.
“I meet thousands of reps in my work. But every now and then you meet someone and you know immediately that you want a real relationship with that person. Andy is someone like that. He's someone you can have a friendship with,” says Lon Dolber, CEO of American Portfolios.
— Halah Touryalai
Name: Daniel Palmer Kreer
Firm: Morgan Stanley
City: Monterey, Calif.
Years as a Rep: 35
Years with Current Firm: 35
AUM: $237 million
Product Mix: stocks, 65%; bonds, 35%; managed accounts, 30%; insurance, 5%
Specialty: client-driven generalist, comprehensive wealth management
Licenses: Series 7, 8, 63, 144 (restricted stock), 65, options principal
Daniel Kreer is a natural coach. And his love of coaching extends well beyond his clients to the advisors in his office, youth sports teams, and struggling teenagers with rough home lives.
After serving in Korea with the army, Kreer got his start in the business with the training program at Dean Witter, where he quickly rose to president of his class. That was 35 years ago. These days he's an assistant branch manager in his office, and while he finds his compliance duties burdensome, what he likes best about it is bringing ideas to younger brokers, and helping them expand their businesses. Kreer says he enjoys playing a similar role with clients: “A lot of people need help at planning their financial futures. It's enjoyable to help — to educate them.”
They seem to find it enjoyable too. In the past 35 years, Kreer has built a $200-million-plus book of business, is a member of Morgan Stanley's Director's Club and has sat on the firm's advisory council. He attributes his success to his stick-to-it-ive-ness. “When I was a rookie athlete, I was never a star rookie. I was always coming along and improving a little bit. It's the same in business: I've had determination and perseverance. I've tried to pass that along in my coaching experience,” he says.
Kreer feels that teaching people this lesson goes far beyond the swinging of a bat or hitting of a ball. And so he has often found himself counseling the kids on the team about larger life issues, especially those who had real problems at home. Take Ryan, a friend of Kreer's son. After shipping him off to a succession of disciplinary and boarding schools, Ryan's parents let him come home, but on a pay-as-you-go basis: They charged him for rent, meals and toothpaste. The day he turned 18, at the beginning of his senior year in high school, they turned him out of the house. That's when Kreer stepped in and asked Ryan to come live with them. He also encouraged Ryan to apply to college, to attend and helped him get in. “Ryan is a good kid, a little bit of trouble, but nothing to make a parent give up on him,” he says.
Kreer — who has also given his time and money to the Rotary Club, the Salvation Army and the York School, an independent junior college in his city, among other charitable projects — makes a good role model and father figure.
— Kristen French
Food for Thought
Firm: MasterPlan Financial Group, Commonwealth Financial Network
City: Peoria, Ill.
Years as a Rep: 40
Years with Current Firm: 3
AUM: $60 million
Product Mix: managed accounts, 20%; retail mutual fund accounts, 10%; planning fees, 10%; life insurance sales, 5%; new variable annuity sales, 55%.
Specialty: financial planning for retirees and widows
Designations: CLU, ChFC
Licenses: Series 7, insurance
The Peoria Journal Star once cited Peoria, Illinois, as “a great place to be hungry.”
The newspaper was not extolling (in this case anyway) the virtues of the city's culinary offerings, but, rather, the city's soup kitchens. One big reason: Financial advisor Bill Lervaag and three friends established The Heart of Illinois Harvest, a not-for-profit food rescue program that transports surplus food daily to local food agencies for free distribution to those in need.
Since Harvest's inception in 1992, more than 6,900 tons of food, with an estimated value of nearly $28 million, has been delivered. The charity reckons it has fed about 25 million meals to the hungry of Peoria. Each week, about 65 Harvest members transport about 5 tons of surplus food from 90 different donors (restaurants, grocery stores, hospitals, bakeries, schools, wholesalers and even individual gardeners offer fresh produce) to more than 70 charitable agencies that feed the hungry, including shelters and missions. Lervaag figures the food donations shaved about 30 percent off the food budget of one of the charities.
Lervaag says they don't pick up a lot of meat. “But we get leftover sandwiches and un-served food from restaurants,” he says. The call can come at almost any hour. Lervaag recalls a phone call he received one evening at 11:30 p.m. A caterer, closing up a party about 15 miles out of town, had about 30 boxes of leftover Kentucky Fried Chicken. Somehow, the caterer knew to call Lervaag. “I wasn't very happy about [the hour], but they couldn't wait,” Lervaag says. “So, I got in my car in the middle of night and drove over to get it.”
Lervaag is instrumental in raising the $35,000-a-year it takes to run the charity and in cobbling together volunteers and in-kind donations to keep it going. Besides individual volunteers, The Heart of Illinois Harvest depends upon the kindness of local corporations — from free office space to free truck servicing to free answering services to free cell phones. For example, the group's first truck was purchased from UPS for $5,000. (The truck was worth $30,000, but UPS gave Lervaag a $25,000 “grant.”)
Why does he do it? “It's gratifying,” Bill says. “I am just tired of seeing this good food going to landfills. We really got to get out there and help people.”
— David Geracioti
The Father Figure
Name: David Maupin
Firm: Maupin Financial Services, Associated Securities
City: Redlands, Calif.
Years as a Rep: 24
Years with current firm: 24
Production: $1 million
AUM: $140 million
Product mix: managed accounts, 36%; stocks, 36%; insurance, 28%
Specialties: financial planning, income-tax preparation for seniors, widows, divorcees
Designations: CFP, IRS-certified Enrolled Agent
Licenses: registered principal, Series 7, 63, insurance
As a member of Rotary International, Dave Maupin, 63, tries to live the organization's motto: Service Before Self. “He believes in, and practices, committing random acts of kindness,” says Patricia Gerwick, who works at Associated Securities, the independent broker/dealer with whom Maupin is affiliated. “Dave is passionate about inspiring and supporting children in his community and the world.”
Indeed, he is: Maupin is a co-founder of the Quarters For Kenya charity (www.QuartersForKenya.org), a charity affiliated with his Rotary chapter, that supports two orphanages and a school. The orphans, housing 26 boys and 26 girls, lost their parents due to AIDS. Maupin is also a pilot, and in July 2007, flew around the world in a Cessna Turbo 210 to deliver $250,000 raised by donations to help the orphans, says Gerwick, who nominated Maupin for this year's Outstanding Advisor Awards. Maupin says he gives away about 40 percent of his income to charity each year.
Maupin is a also a spiritual advisor and mentor to young people in his town: He's a motivational speaker and teaches astronomy, finance and religion to high school students in Redlands, a town of 70,000 people located between Hollywood and Palm Springs. He also created the Compact Careers Club with the help of other local businesses, a program that aims to “inspire and encourage teenagers to pursue business careers,” says Gerwick, and to raise funds for college scholarships. He also supports Campus Crusade for Christ and Jews For Jesus.
Each year, he teaches a group of high school kids how to become millionaires. “First I teach them how to become poor,” Maupin says. “That route is simple: Drop out of high school, take drugs or get pregnant.” He says he teaches them the importance of saving. And he practices what he preaches. Maupin still drives a 22-year-old car with 129,000 miles on it. “Actually, the mileage is more like 300,000 because the odometer is broken. I refuse to fix it because it costs $500.”
His underlying philosophy is that having good moral values helps create a better physical living standard — and a better mental state, too.
His investing philosophy? He says, “It's the same that I teach to teenagers in my ‘How to Become a Millionaire.’ seminar and to the graduating M.D.s at Loma Linda University Medical School every spring: Give 10 percent to God, 10 percent to yourself and live joyfully on the rest.”
— David Geracioti
Name: Judith McGee
Firm: McGee Financial Strategies, Inc./Raymond James Financial Services
City: Portland, Ore.
Years as a Rep: 31
Years with Current Firm: 18 yrs.
AUM: $363 million
Product Mix: annuities, 13%; stocks, 13%; mutual funds, 62%; cash & equivalents: 8.5%; other, 3.5%
Specialty: high-net-worth planning
Designations: L.H.D., CFP, ChFC, CEO
Licenses: Series 1, 7, 24, 37, 51, health, life
Judith McGee truly started from the bottom up. In 1975, she entered the financial advisory world as a secretary and office manager at a financial-planning practice in Corvallis, Oregon, and from there, she says, she literally “typed my way to success.”
Two years later she was a full-fledged financial advisor, and by 1989 she was running her own practice through Raymond James Financial Services called McGee Financial Strategies, Inc., which specializes in high-net-worth planning. She has since served on the CFP Board, been listed on Barron's Top 100 Women Financial Advisors and been featured as one of America's Top Advisors in Research Magazine.
With 31 years as a rep, and $363 million in assets under management, Judith believes that a “genuine interest in people, good problem-solving skills and results,” have been key to her success. Judith's genuine interest in people extends far beyond the realm of finance — she spends as much time in community service as she does working in the office.
When she first began working as a planner, Judith launched a non-profit agency, the Women's Institute of Financial Education (WIFE), with the intention of providing divorced or widowed women with the tools necessary to achieve total financial independence. Today, she also provides training to law enforcement officers on issues related to the financial exploitation of seniors and investment fraud through the law-enforcement website, Crimeline.
Judith has also volunteered for numerous organizations over the years, including The William Temple House, which provides public assistance to Portland's working poor through counseling and social services. At the William Temple House, McGee has done everything from managing the accounts and donating her time to serving as board member on up to president.
Says Allen Hunt, executive director of the agency, “Judith's desire to help people who have had some tough breaks in life is both sincere and deep. Her passion for our cause, her creative problem-solving, her business savvy and her kind heart have brought this agency through many dark hours.”
As a mentor to young professionals, and even the Girl Scouts of America, Judith continues to empower through education, speech, and example, reaffirming her philosophy that “we have to be responsible for a world outside ourselves.”
— Nancy N. DiCostanzo
The Family Guy
Name: Stephen Schaefer
Firm: Smith Barney
City: Coral Gables, Fla.
Years as a Rep: 20
Years with current firm: 20
Production: $1 million
AUM: $200 million +
Product mix: equities (managed and non-managed), 30%; fixed-income 20%; funds, 30%; cash and cash equivalents. 18%; other. 2%
Specialties: HNW/UHNW families
Designations: CFP, Financial Planning Specialist, Senior Investment Management Consultant, “Advisor-Citi Family Office”
Licenses: Series 3, 7, 63, 65
Stephen Schaefer is a family man in every sense of the word. So, it's no wonder his career and his family are intertwined. After receiving his B.S. and MBA from the University of Miami in 1987, Schaefer went to work for his uncle and his uncle's sales assistant, who also happened to be his mother. Today the team also includes his wife, Carmen Patricia, who has her Series-7 license and works as the marketing sales assistant. Schaefer is one of 85 Family Office advisors at Citi, and his practice serves 65 high-net-worth families with a minimum net worth of $1 million.
Indeed, Schaefer feels family is so important that he has focused much of his charitable-giving work on providing for children without families or good role models of their own. And he's gotten his entire family involved in these efforts. “I make a point to keep a balance between the career, the community and the family,” Schaefer says.
Schaefer, his wife and their two daughters recently returned from their third trip to San Pedro Sula, the second largest city in Honduras, where his wife grew up. There they worked with orphaned, neglected and HIV-infected children living in the city's shelters, tutoring the kids and buying them supplies — such as fans, an air conditioner and mattresses.
The Schaefers also volunteer at a children's shelter in Miami providing respite care in emergency situations, and have acted as volunteer parents every weekend for children with unstable families. Schaefer says they have kept in contact with three sisters (now in their early twenties) who they took home for the weekends when they were 6, 8 and 9 years old.
Ron Rosenberg, who took over the Coral Gables Smith Barney branch in 1988 after Schaefer was only a couple of years into the business, says he immediately sensed that Schaefer was different from the other FAs. He was always in pursuit of new knowledge, and had more of a consulting focus than most of the rest of the advisors in the office. “As a manager I loved to have him because he would always present new information he just learned to the office,” Rosenberg says.
Schaeffer's life-long focus on the needs of others has rewarded him with a diversified portfolio of family bonds — immediate family, colleagues, clients and orphans.
— Christina Mucciolo
Name: Gerry Strid
Firm: Wachovia Securities
City: Berwyn, Pa.
Years as a Rep: 40
Years with Current Firm: 6
Production: $1.85 million
AUM: $265 million
Product Mix: insurance, 10%; stocks 10%; managed accounts, 70%; bonds, 10%
Specialty: financial and retirement planning
Designations: “My sons have those.”
Licenses: Series 7, 65
Gerry Strid has a fairly large brood — 5 kids and 8 grandchildren. But you get the feeling his family might also include a number of other troubled kids, as well as large portion of Philadelphia's homeless population.
“I've always rooted for the underdog,” says Strid, the chief asset gatherer and founder of the Strid Wealth Management Group, a team which includes two of his children, Erik and Paul. Strid, a former defensive tackle for Villanova, lives in a house across the street from his alma mater. Aside from regularly serving as a post-game party spot, his house has, over the years, been home to more than two dozen kids from the area — kids with drug problems, kids that lost scholarships, kids that couldn't pay for housing or just kids that needed a hand. Some stayed for years at a time.
Strid's big heart and open arms have also made him a big name on the roughest streets of Philadelphia. He's known as “Zeke” — the “hick nickname” his mostly urban and suburban Villanova teammates bestowed on the farm boy from Connecticut 40 years ago. To Project H.O.M.E (an acronym for housing, employment, medical care and employment), he's indispensable. He has helped the group with fundraising, marketing and consulting, and regularly engaged directly with hundreds of the people the group looks after. “Kids and the homeless, that's who I'm good with,” he says.
Apparently, he's not so bad with his clients, either. Inspired by his own anxiety over the prospect of paying five college tuitions, Strid built an education-planning program that he eventually sold in the 1970s to Merrill Lynch, the firm he worked for at the time. Education planning became a core tenet of his financial-planning and retirement-planning practice, which today serves mostly family owned and run businesses (like his own) and professionals nearing retirement.
Serving people is undoubtedly Strid's passion. And after a four-way bypass surgery briefly put him out of action in 2007 — and off the fundraising circuit — he's back with bigger goals than before. In 2006 he organized a gala that raised $1 million in a single night. He calls his current effort the “I Care 50,” and the goal is to raise $50 million through $100,000 multi-year commitments. He can't disclose what he's raised so far, but says it beats his previous effort by a long shot: “So far, the response has been great.” The message is powerful, but in this case the messenger surely has something to do with it.
— John Churchill
Firm: Merrill Lynch
City: Houston, Texas
Years as a Rep: 23
Years with Current Firm: 23
Production: $1.1 million
AUM: $300 million
Product Mix: managed accounts, 70%; stocks, 12%; bonds, 10% ; insurance, 5%; other, 3%
Specialty: wealth planning strategies for high-net-worth clients and retirement plans
Designations: CFP (Certified Financial Planner)
Licenses: Series 3, 7, 63, 65, insurance
Marc Walsh claims altruism had nothing to do with his initial mission of mercy as a volunteer pilot for Angel Flight (motto: People Flying People In Need). He first learned about Angel Flight in 1992, just about when he was working on his instrument rating — a certification required to be able to fly in inclement weather. Angel Flight's South Central division was looking for volunteer pilots to fly patients for free to specialized facilities for medical care, and Walsh needed a certain number of flying hours to get his rating. “We were willing to fly patients everywhere to log hours,” Walsh says. But right away Walsh learned the passengers on these flights were extraordinary individuals, and each mission meant much more to him than merely logging hours.
“Once I started doing it, I realized what a difference these flights made in the lives of so many. One afternoon of my time could make it possible for a cancer patient to get life-saving treatment,” he says. Walsh was hooked from the very first flight. Since then, he has spent much of his free time supporting the organization by providing free air transportation to get anyone to a specialized medical facility, or participating as a member of its board. For the last 15 years, Walsh has fueled up his own four-seater, a Beechcraft Bonanza, and taken off on more than 100 flights to help people get desperately needed medical treatments.
Every flight, Walsh meets someone dealing with the most difficult circumstances, and very often with incredible strength and optimism. “Flying them inspires me to be a better person,” he says of his passengers. In fact, many Angel Flight passengers are too ill to drive or travel by commercial flights; many would simply not be able to get the medical care they need without the program.
“Half the cure is getting there,” explains Angel Flight South Central's Executive Director Jerry Dorré. Walsh's commitment and contributions make a dramatic difference. “As a board member and volunteer pilot for Angel Flight South Central, not only does Marc help guide and steer the organization to help more people get help in the future, everything he does is out of his own pocket. He is a man of compassion, and he uses his own time and resources to get people the help they need to get well.”
— Angela Covo