Firm: Merrill Lynch
Office: Stamford, Conn.
Years in Business: 10
Production: 1.1 million dollars
Assets: 200 million dollars
Staff: One assistant shared with another rep
Ten years ago, Merrill Lynch financial consultant Liz Angelone started offering financial seminars in public libraries around affluent Stamford, Conn. Looking out at her audience, she noticed something.
"More women than men were coming to my seminars," Angelone says.
That realization was the basis for the niche she established serving female clients. "It was a natural fit," she says. "The woman's market was largely untapped at that point and they were far more comfortable working with a woman financial consultant."
Although she never intended to specialize in women investors, demand was strong right from the start, and her business flourished as she followed that demand.
Today, Angelone's gross production is approaching 1.1 million dollars. About 60 percent comes from managed accounts, while the rest is mostly equities and a smattering of bonds.
Roughly 80 percent of her clients are women, including couples where the primary decision maker is a woman. A good portion of her clients are business owners who need help with retirement plans, lines of credit and comprehensive financial planning, she says.
In 1994, Angelone added another female-focused element to her business--helping women form investment clubs. These clubs bring groups of 15 to 20 women together to pool their resources and enter the market.
Angelone got the idea from an investor, who approached her at a seminar and asked if she was interested in participating. She was.
Over the past six years, Angelone has helped launch about 20 investment clubs. Although the revenue she earns as financial adviser to the clubs is miniscule, the networking, personal relationships and referrals are invaluable.
"You can usually find one person within an organization that is incredibly proactive, who is willing to share your name and phone number, and that will spread over time with no predictability," Angelone says.
Because she now networks within such tight-knit social circles, Angelone says she has to remain especially vigilant about client confidentiality. She never reveals the names of her clients to other clients, which can create some awkward situations, she says.
For example, while attending a party in July, three of Angelone's clients walked in together. Although the three were close friends, one of the women had no clue that all three shared the same financial adviser. "So when they walked in, and all three said, 'Hello, Liz,' she asked, 'Hey, how do you know Liz?'"
Angelone is adept at managing all sorts of client issues since she works alone and shares just one sales assistant with another broker. That's why she has invested heavily in automating her business.
Her key database tool is a program called Sharkware. "Once you start using one program, it's important to stick with it," Angelone says.
When business is slow, usually during August, she calls clients to update their records, making sure she has their cell phone numbers, e-mail addresses and current contact information.
Angelone uses a laptop computer to access Merrill's workstation through the Web. And a Palm Pilot keeps track of her meeting schedule. "For example, today I told somebody I would call them on Aug. 28, and I won't have to worry about remembering that appointment," she says.
It's a comfort to worry only about the big stuff, like promoting her next seminar, she says. Her tip: When creating marketing materials, list all upcoming seminar dates and locations. "That way, if the client can't make it to the seminar you are promoting right now, there's another one there for them to consider."
Spoken like someone who knows how to bring in clients.--By Michael Hayes
Business Building Tip: Mine an untapped niche. Angelone conducts financial seminars for women and forms investment clubs. "You've got to find a niche that you're comfortable with. Clients will appreciate the time and energy you put into servicing them, and they'll be the first to demonstrate their gratitude with referrals."
Stress Buster: A regular exercise routine. Every weekday morning at 6:30 a.m., Angelone swims laps and uses the Stairmaster to burn off tension. "It's absolutely critical for me to have that routine," she says. "It reduces stress, allows me to exercise and makes me more productive throughout the day."
Mottos: Two-word sayings. "Be informed. Ask questions. Start today."
Worthy Cause: Breast cancer. Every October, Angelone participates in a local charity event to raise money for breast cancer research and awareness. Her mother died of the disease.
Firm: Salomon Smith Barney
Office: Pasadena, Calif.
Years in Business: 13
Production: 2 million dollars
Assets: 190 million dollars
Staff: Two assistants and two brokers
When Diane Doolin became a broker 13 years ago with Salomon Smith Barney in Pasadena, Calif., she couldn't envision becoming a million-dollar producer through cold calling. She knew she'd find success by presenting seminars.
"The one thing I know about myself is that I'm at my best in front of people, face to face, not on the phone," Doolin says.
As a rookie with just six months under her belt, she hit the seminar circuit. She recalls her first one vividly. "The ABCs of Investing," an event that drew about 20 people in the cottage of Pasadena's Ritz Carlton.
Initially, Doolin networked like crazy to get people in the seats. "When I first came into the business, I'd go out two or three times a week to network groups and collect business cards," she says. She attended meetings for the National Association of Women Business Owners and the Association of Women CPAs and many, many others.
"There's no better way to build your business than to attend these network groups and meet people," she says.
Later, Doolin expanded her seminar repertoire to cover IRA rollovers. Her switch to that topic represented a turning point. Today, IRA rollovers represent 80 percent of Doolin's business. She has a client base of 350 and manages assets of 190 million dollars.
She didn't get there overnight. In 1989, she produced a mere 44,000 dollars. But steady growth rates of about 30 percent a year landed her at 1 million dollars by 1997 and 1.7 million dollars in 1999. This year she says she expects to produce 2 million dollars.
Doolin hasn't strayed from her early seminar roots, but her presentations have gotten grander. Earlier this year, she operated her very own "Client University"--for one day. The "campus" was 10 ballrooms in the Ritz Carlton and the "students" numbered more than 300. There were 16 different sessions with such topics as "New World Economy," "Investing 101," "Realistic Expectations" and "Investment Themes for the New Millennium."
Money managers and mutual fund companies provided the topics and speakers, and paid for the entire event. "Educating clients is the most important thing we do," Doolin says.
She gets lots of help with that effort. Her four-member staff includes Laura Norris, a junior partner and financial consultant; Tony Perez, a financial consultant who specializes in estate planning; Jeanne Thompson, a senior registered associate; and Mabel Yue, a marketing assistant.
All the hands are needed, too, to provide for a book that's 85 percent fee-based. Doolin switched to fees after two years in the business "because it allowed us to be more service-oriented and develop stronger relationships with clients," she says.
Client service is Doolin's strength. She not only has "Client U" but also hosts several client appreciation seminars. These are dinners that feature a money manager speaking about a current investment topic. Doolin sends quarterly newsletters and provides clients with a filing system to organize account statements. To thank clients, she sends fruit baskets for the holidays. That alone will cost about 14,000 dollars this year.
Doolin learned the importance of service as a vice president and general manager in the women's retail clothing industry before she launched her brokerage career.
"When people walk into a shopping center or mall, the same merchants are everywhere," Doolin says. "But when people walked into our store, they discovered we had great people who were truly interested in helping them find what they were looking for." She says the store's employees got to know customers' tastes so well that they would call them if outfits came in that they might like.
"The financial business isn't any different," Doolin says. "Product is everywhere, but good, quality investment advice and service beyond expectations are not."--Rick Weinberg
Business Building Tip: Offer truly informative seminars--not sales pitches. "There's nothing better you can do for your clients and future clients than to educate them. It's imperative," Doolin says. "Seminars are also where we remind our clients what we do for them and the value of our services."
Spare Time: Yoga, her pet and her home. "I do yoga to relax," Doolin says. "I also have a sheepdog named Max, who I love. I'm getting his full brother soon. They're just the most beautiful animals. And I love working around my house and garden. My home is my sanctuary."
Motto: On service. "We can't promise investment performance, but we can promise service beyond expectation."
Mission Critical: Organization. "I always say, 'You'll do as much business as you're organized to do,'" Doolin says. "There are many reps who are very knowledgeable about investing, but they're not organized enough to grow their business."
Role Model: Joe Moure. "When I first came to Smith Barney 13 years ago, he was the branch manager, and I could see he had a lot of integrity," Doolin says. "Virtually everything I learned was through Joe."
Firm: Raymond James Financial Services
Office: Portland, Ore.
Years in Business: 21
Production: 2.8 million dollars
Assets: 350 million dollars
Staff: 15 people with varied skills
Judith McGee and financial planning go way back. In the mid-1970s, McGee joined a six-man firm that needed some office help. What she found was a career.
One of the partners served as her mentor. "He helped me understand the business, and he believed in me," she says. She got her CFP and Series 7 in 1979.
Now, McGee has her own 15-person planning business that will generate 2.8 million dollars this year--McGee Financial Strategies, affiliated with Raymond James Financial Services. And she is mentor to six people, including her daughter, D. Linette Baldwin, who has earned her CFP. The other five will become CFPs over the next two years, McGee says. Assets under management at the Portland, Ore.-based firm are 350 million dollars.
A measure of her success came by being in the right place at the right time. In the mid-1980s, she was the founding president of the Denver-based Institute of Certified Financial Planners Educational Foundation when an agent from Simon & Schuster came scouting for an author for a financial planning reference book. "J.K. Lasser's Personal Investment Planner" by Judith McGee--all 600 pages of it--was reprinted several times in the early 1990s.
"I was an unknown," but the byline on the book "really lifted my visibility," McGee says.
Since then, she's maintained a high profile in the financial planning field in a number of ways--some of them unusual. For instance, she's worked as an expert witness on financial matters in divorce and estate cases.
"It's very tough," McGee says. "You really have to be schooled and have a lot of practice on how to present and how to respond to cross-examination in court."
Authorships and giving testimony are part and parcel of McGee's commitment to positioning. "Do anything you can to be known as an expert in your niche."
McGee's niche is: "Very consultative and holistic" financial planning, she says. When people seek the help of a planner, "they always have a reason, and some of them aren't quite so pretty," McGee says.
For example, she's drafted estate plans for people diagnosed with terminal illnesses. She says she tries to make all clients feel "listened to and safe."
This softer side of client service coexists with the office's advanced technology capabilities. For example, an associate with a degree in finance creates customized spreadsheets and reports. Daily account information from the Raymond James home office is processed through dbCAMS+ software. It analyzes accounts for such things as internal rate of return and volatility compared with the major indexes, as well as cash flow and tax information.
McGee has another staff person who schedules client meetings. Her goal is an in-person quarterly review with everyone. If they can't come to the office, she'll keep in touch via e-mail or cell phone, she says.
In her part of the country, lots of newly retired people buy RVs and travel around, so the widespread adoption of electronic and wireless communication has been a real boon.
McGee has the good fortune now to be able to choose her clients. "When you're growing, the hardest thing is to know when to say no and not take a client," she says.
She stays away from people attracted to investing by the Internet. "It brings some people who really shouldn't work with an adviser," she says. "They know they don't know things, but they're really do-it-yourselfers."
She also turns down clients she feels are too oriented toward the bottom line. "They have to be able to see both the bottom line and the human value of financial planning," she says. "A lot of what we provide is intangible."--Rosalyn Retkwa
Business Building Tip: Spend ample time with clients. "How you counsel a client is really what attracts clients," McGee says. "You can spend 20 hours with a client solving a problem or doing a full financial plan." Then, even if nothing extraordinary has come up, she still schedules in-person quarterly reviews. Her goal is to talk with each client at least 10 hours a year.
Spare Time: Rural retreats. "My husband is an outdoorsman, and he's building me a 'funhut,'" McGee says. They'll use the small cabin on a lake for snowmobiling in the winter.
Staff Outing: Friday mornings to the golf course. McGee and her staff take group lessons. The lessons promote "bonding" among her staff, she says, "but also get me out of the office and into the air."
Allies: CPAs. "We've built relationships that really support CPAs," McGee says. "We get them the information they need when they need it. And before a tax decision is made, we double check with them. We offer them the respect of being a full team member."
Hobby: Writing. McGee contributes "It's Your Money," a bimonthly column, to The Daily Journal of Commerce in Portland, Ore. "My vocation is money management and my avocation is writing," she says.
Firm: Morgan Stanley Dean Witter
Office: Ontario, Calif.
Years in Business: 17
Production: 1.4 million dollars
Assets: 380 million dollars
Staff: Two assistants and a junior broker
Awesome service" is what Kathy Tully promises to provide her 1,000-plus clients. Obviously, her clients appreciate her efforts. Tully is a 1.4 million dollars producer at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter in Ontario, Calif.
"We meet the clients' needs and then go one step beyond. We want clients to be relieved of stress and say, 'That's awesome,'" Tully says. "We don't work within the box. We go well outside it."
For example, Tully's take-it-past-the-limit service meant unraveling estate issues when a client's husband passed away. The husband had investments scattered everywhere and very few records.
"We spent at least 60 hours dealing with his estate, arranging transfers, changing ownership, getting notarization, getting the appropriate signatures, calling the attorneys and accountants," she says. "We did whatever we had to do."
The "we" is Tully and her team of a junior broker and two assistants. She credits the efficiency of her staff in helping fulfill her service goal. By the end of this year, she plans to expand the ranks and hire another broker and another assistant.
One of Tully's team rules is: "Tell them when." Those three words are posted on telephones in the office. "Respond promptly and tell them when you will get back to them with research or records," she says. "It's a little phrase but it means a lot. Telling them when is much better than saying, 'I'll get back to you.'"
Doing right by the client requires such careful and regular communication, Tully says.
"Sometimes when the market is down, brokers become frigid," she says. "But when the market is down, your clients need you the most. Get on the phone. Tell your clients, 'We're going through this together.'"
It's a message that reflects what Tully says is her best trait--"effervescent optimism."
In conversation, it is impossible not to notice that she loves her job. She acknowledges that her disarming personality is an asset her clients appreciate. Her client base is 70 percent retirees and pre-retirees, and 30 percent working professionals. Her business mix is 60 percent blue-chip stocks and mutual funds, 20 percent growth and moderate growth funds, and 20 percent bonds.
She built her business first by cold calling and later through networking in the community. In 1988, she was elected and served two consecutive terms as president of the Upland (Calif.) Chamber of Commerce. Currently she serves on the San Antonio Community Hospital Foundation Board in Upland, the Leadership Council for the business school at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona and the Estate Planning Council of Pomona Valley.
She's an inveterate networker. She frequently asks high-net-worth clients for the names of their CPAs and attorneys. She then invites the lawyers and accountants to lunch to build business. "Sometimes it takes three or four lunches," she says. "CPAs and attorneys are rather guarded about their finances. But I knew I had arrived in this business when CPAs started sending me their mothers."
Tully's advice to brokers hoping to break the million-dollar production barrier is simple. "Show the client, with a high degree of integrity and honesty, what you believe is the best way to grow their investments," she says. "Show them that you want to take care of their needs, and that you want to be able to sit down in front of them 20 years from now."
Having clients that understand her commitment brings rewards, she says. "They can pay you back with referrals and build your business."
But Tully is pleased about how she can help them. "The greatest gift you can give someone is a sense of peace with their finances."--Tom Nelson
Business Building Tip: Honesty and integrity pay. "My staff and I are sincere and truthful about what is best for the client. Sometimes this is talking them out of a trade," Tully says. "But I get paid tenfold with the client trusting me more and bringing in more money or referring more people."
Schedule: Half days. "That's 12-hour days," Tully jokes. "The market out here closes at 1 p.m. so I can't operate on market time, I have to operate on my clients' time."
Role Models: Male friends in Morgan Stanley Dean Witter's Chairman's Club with her. "It's tough being a woman in this business," Tully says. "There are very few women up at this level."
Reading: Self-help books. Tully's favorite is "The Power of Positive Thinking" by Norman Vincent Peale.
Hobby: Golf. Tully and her husband make it their weekly "date" every Sunday morning. She also tries to "mix it up with the ladies" on an occasional Saturday afternoon.
Communication: Face-to-face or telephone conversations, little e-mail. "I close my eyes when I talk on the phone. I like to hear clients' emotions."