Who would have imagined that spending the night at a friend's house as a teenager would lead to the career of a lifetime? That's what happened to Vicki Harris. She and her best friend, Laura Bond, were in their pajamas having breakfast when Lyman Bond, Laura's dad, asked Harris to consider a job as his assistant.
He was a broker with Thomson McKinnon Securities in Indianapolis. "I told him I took typing in high school, and that I would try it," Harris recalls.
Harris started in January 1982, and 18 years later, she's still going strong. The firm was acquired by Prudential Securities in 1989. Lyman is now senior vice president of investments with The Bond Group, and Harris is a registered assistant.
In the beginning, it was baptism by fire. "Lyman showed me the ropes, and I listened and learned," Harris says. "Lyman is a stock trader. I sat next to him, and we shared a Quotron. I heard his stories. It was very, very exciting to be around someone who built a book that way."
They complemented each other. "We clicked," Harris says. "I knew what he was thinking when he was on the phone with a client. I would grab a research report for him."
Three years into Harris' job, Bond suffered a stroke. She stepped in to run the business. "We had been working together long enough that I knew what to do," she says.
Harris also helped Bond transition back to work. "When he came back, he had trouble writing," she says. "I knew from sitting next to him what he wanted to do. I would write it for him."
Today everybody in the Indianapolis office relies on Harris to some extent. Around the branch, she's known as the expert on operational procedures. Time and exposure are on her side, she says. "Lyman does everything - stocks, mutual funds, commodities, options."
In 1986, L.H. Bond III, Lyman's son, joined the firm, and Harris helped train him. Later, Edward Villanyi, Lyman's son-in-law, and Kerrie Best joined in 1993 and 1996, respectively. Two client service assistants, Kamaria Maxey and Derek Schaffer, were added to enable Harris to focus on more challenging assignments.
Along with managing the assistants, assisting the brokers and their clients, Harris is the mother of three children, ages two, four and five. Getting up at 5 a.m., she readies the kids for day care and is in the office by 7:30 a.m.
Most of her days are spent on the phone serving clients. "Superior service is what differentiates one broker from another," Harris says. "That's where my focus has been. If someone needs checks, it happens that day, not the next day."
Harris likes solving problems for clients. "They bring in a stock certificate their great aunt or their mom gave them," she says. "They have no idea of the value. I work on getting it deposited, organized for splits and figure the cost basis. It can be overwhelming, but it's rewarding when you present it to the clients."
Harris learned how to do this by observing Bond, which goes along with her advice to sales assistants: "Listen and always be aware of what's going on around you. If you're coming into the business, work with someone who's dynamic. Make sure you share the same philosophy and beliefs."