Our Own Murderers Row

There is a hall of fame for just about every industry: The insurance, advertising, and accounting professions all have one. But not financial advisors

Everybody talks about Barry Bonds while guys like Dennis Beresford, Zachariah Allen and Wayland Ayer are ignored. Yet, these three men are special in a way that Bonds may never be: They're Hall of Famers.

To be sure, they're not with the Babe in Cooperstown, or anywhere else there's a sports-legends gallery. Allen, Ayer and Beresford are in, respectively, the insurance, advertising and accounting halls of fame.

Wait, an insurance hall of fame? True enough. And why not? Just about everyone loves having a hall of fame. Lawyers, real estate agents, inventors, strippers (I am not making this up) and even the Pennsylvania Association of Community Bankers have them, which leads us to a shocking realization: About the only professionals without a place to honor their greatest are the ones we cover in this magazine. That's right. Call them what you will — registered representative, financial advisor, wealth manager or stock broker — but there isn't a hall of fame dedicated to them anywhere in this country.

It's time we put an end to this glaring failing. No one has to be told that if there was ever an industry that could keep a whole school of artists and sculptors busy, it's this one. Just think of the names that have worked their way into the fabric of our culture: There's Charles Merrill, E. F. Hutton, Dean Witter and Charles Barney, to name just a few. Can fans of Dan Brouthers, Stan Coveleski and Kiki Cuyler — all under the same Cooperstown roof as the Georgia Peach — make the same claim for their heroes? Of course not.

A Museum at Wall and Broad

What's really exciting is that there has perhaps never been a better time to start planning. As we can see from today's headlines, the NYSE will soon be going electronic and will then have no need for its massive trading floor in lower Manhattan. It begs to be turned into a museum. Just think of it. Room enough for a real buttonwood tree growing indoors. A supersized bronze bull, like the one down the street, perhaps stampeding over a bear of similar heft. And so much space for portraits and busts that no one would feel crowded if the Wall Street retail murderer's row of Lynch, Fenner, Pierce, Beane and Smith, as well as Merrill, were memorialized in a bronzed line-up on the floor.

Sure, it will take a while to get the specialists on the floor of the NYSE to go for it. But, once that's done, it should not take long to call the NYSE a museum. And time is paramount: 2007 is, after all, the 100th anniversary of the Panic of 1907 and the 150th anniversary of the Panic of 1857, not to mention the 370th anniversary of the collapse of tulip bulb mania. Another reason to make haste: A whole generation is coming along that doesn't know what to do when E.F. Hutton talks or how Smith Barney makes money.*

So let's get started. As with any great hall of fame, there'll be annual inductions. It's all well and good to start with a bunch of dead old white guys on the wall, but they're not worth a Montgomery Ward stock certificate when it comes to referrals. For that, there has to be real live people to honor.

Fortunately, there's no shortage of the kind of elder statesmen that are the staples of halls of fame. They can be counted on to show up, because they generally have a lot of time on their hands, and they'll draw a good high-net-worth crowd of family, friends and colleagues. They, in turn, will attract advisors who'll consider it well worth a seat at the table (or even the whole $10,000 table) for the opportunity to produce some serious rain.

To make this work, you have to give inductees something at their gala like, say, a golden replica of Edison's 19th century stock ticker with the glass dome. Nickname the statuettes the “Thomas” and actress Dina Merrill, Hutton's daughter, should be enlisted to present the award.

One caution. All the worthies shouldn't be elected at once. Rich as the industry is in heavy hitters, you want to spread the wealth lest you soon find yourself forced to honor the small-fry reps, the kind who vie with wirehouse call centers for clients.

Let the nominations begin.

* “Listen” and “We earn it!”

Barry Rehfeld is the executive editor of Registered Rep.

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