Aftermath

On Sunday evening, Aug. 28, 2005, the night before Hurricane Katrina was to hit Gulfport, Miss., financial advisor Bob Sawyer reckoned it might be a good idea to make one more visit to his Stifel Nicolaus office to board up some of its windows. Before leaving, Sawyer went into his desk and pocketed his Social Security card. After looking around the office for a few moments, something told him that

On Sunday evening, Aug. 28, 2005, the night before Hurricane Katrina was to hit Gulfport, Miss., financial advisor Bob Sawyer reckoned it might be a good idea to make one more visit to his Stifel Nicolaus office to board up some of its windows. Before leaving, Sawyer went into his desk and pocketed his Social Security card. After looking around the office for a few moments, something told him that he probably should grab his computer hard-drive tower, which held all 1,200 of his clients' data for the past 15 years. That last-minute decision is probably what saved his practice from collapsing in the aftermath of the hurricane.

Then the storm came, and it was unlike any he had experienced before. Sawyer, 51, awoke at five in the morning to fierce winds and hammering rain. “The wind was so powerful I couldn't open up the front door,” he recalls. “It was sucking up trees from the ground — an 80-foot oak landed right in my front yard.” Katrina, of course, would go on to take the lives of nearly 2,000 people and cause billions of dollars in damage — making it one of the deadliest and most costly storms in United States history.

Aftermath

Katrina was so overwhelming and costly that regional broker/dealer Stifel Nicolaus didn't have plans to reopen Sawyer's downtown offices, and instead offered to relocate him to Sarasota, Fla. The move wouldn't be too onerous, at least theoretically. After all, Sawyer and his wife Suzie, who is also a partner at his firm, helped launch the Sarasota Stifel Nicolaus branch.

But, after spending two months working from the Florida office to “regroup and get our thoughts in order,” Sawyer did something most reps spend years pondering: He went independent. Sawyer and wife decided they could not abandon their clients in Mississippi.

“So many of them had lost their homes and businesses, and it was a time when they needed their financial advisors the most,” he says. In January they decided to open temporary offices in Gulfport while the city was in the middle of a major clean up. In the meantime, they could renovate the old offices, the lease of which he would take over from Stifel. Fortunately for the Sawyers, Stifel Financial, the parent company of Stifel Nicolaus, owns a separate independent b/d subsidiary — Century Securities — which they joined. The senior management at Stifel Nicolaus, including Jim Zemlyak, chief financial officer and chairman of the board, was in constant communication with the Sawyers throughout the process. “When my wife and I were working from above the garage at one point, using a candle for light, I got a phone call from Zemlyak asking us how he could help out,” he says.

Sawyer says the details of the transition hardly fazed him. “After going through one of the biggest natural disasters this country has ever seen, you're still very much in a daze for a long time after. Mentally and physically, you're not there,” he says. Over half of his clients lost their homes or businesses, or both, to the storm. Remarkably, Sawyer says he didn't lose much of the roughly $90 million in client assets he managed.

The Importance of Home

In March 2006, Sawyer and his wife set up shop in a 70-foot, three-bedroom trailer home to begin their independent operation as Trinity Investments. The trailer was about two blocks from their ruined downtown office and was complete with phone system, Internet access and fax machines. The setup cost the Sawyers about $100,000.

They worked from the trailer for a year while the offices were being renovated downtown. Just this past month, the Sawyers and their three assistants were able to move back into their offices. Says Sawyer, “It was important to us that we keep the same location for our clients.”

The Independents

There are literally thousands of independent broker/dealers.Here's a list of some of the largest by rep count.

Firm: Producing Reps Average Payout Recruiting Executive Clearing Firm Parent Co. URL
Linsco/Private Ledger
San Diego, CA, 858-450-9606
7,700 $230,830 Bill Morrissey Linsco/Private LPL Holdings Ledger Corp. Inc. www.joinlpl.com
HD Vest Financial Services
Irving, TX, 800-742-7950
5,266 $29,246 LuAnn Colosimo WFI Wells Fargo & Company www.hdvest.com
Raymond James Financial Services
St. Petersburg, FL., 800-998-7537
3,155 285,954 Richard Averitt Raymond James & Associates Raymond James Financial www.advisorchoice.com
Financial Network Investment Corp.
El Segundo, CA, 800-879-8100
2,400 129,400 Cheryl Chiara Pershing ING www.financialnetwork.com
Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp.
Fort Wayne, IN, 800-237-3813
2,390 146,030 Robert Dineen National Financial Services, LLC Lincoln Financial Group www.lfa-sagemark.com
ING Financial Partners
Des Moines, IA, 800-356-2906
2,200 93,400 Bonnie Reed Pershing ING www.ingfinancialpartners.com
Royal Alliance Associates
New York, NY, 800-821-5100
2,032 176,000 Gary Bender Pershing American International Group www.royalalliance.com
AIG Financial Advisors
Phoenix, AZ, 800-GOAIGFA
2,020 125,000 Chris Radford Pershing American International Group www.aigfinancialadvisors.com
PrimeVest Financial Services
St. Cloud, MN, 800-245-0467
1,900 NA Sean Casey PrimeVest ING www.primevest.com
Securities America
Omaha, NE, 800-989-8441
1,766 197,275 Gregg Johnson National Financial Services, Pershing Ameriprise www.securitiesamerica.com
InterSecurities
St. Petersburg, FL, 727-299-1800
1,658 71,170 Tom Moriarty Pershing AEGON USA www.intersecurities.com
FSC Securities Corp.
Atlanta, GA, 800-547-2382
1,649 167,000 Tim O'Rourke Pershing American International Group www.fscorp.com
Mutual Service Corp.
West Palm Beach, FL, 561-835-4100
1,524 126,959 John Poff Pershing Pacific Select Distributors www.mutualservice.com
Walnut Street Securities
St. Louis, MO, 877-WALNUT 1
1,359 107,091 Craig Markham Pershing MetLife www.walnutstreet.com
Securian Financial Services
St. Paul, MN, 888-237-1838
1,349 35,325 George Connolly Pershing Securian Financial Group www.securianfinancial.com
Equity Services
Montpelier, VT, 800-344-7437
1,179 28,500 Kenneth Ehinger NFS LLC National Life Vermont Group www.equity-services.com
National Planning Corp.
Santa Monica, CA, 888-711-6720
1,176 127,744 Shawn Dreffein Pershing National Planning Holdings www.natplan.com
Commonwealth Financial Network
Waltham, MA, 800-462-3638
1,150 245,000 Janice Hart National Financial Services Commonwealth Financial Network www.commonwealth.com
ProEquities
Birmingham, AL, 800-288-3035
1,100 69,077 Mike Mungenast Pershing Protective Life www.proequities.com
NFP Securities
Austin, TX, 512-697-6000
981 217,859 Jeff Montgomery National Financial Services, Pershing National Financial Partners Corp. www.nfp.com
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