Lyn Hennion, Strand Atkinson Williams & York, Medford, Ore. After 10 years on the road as a wholesaler for Franklin Templeton funds, Lyn Hennion, CFP, decided that "a grandma shouldn't be a traveling salesperson."
So in 1994, she took a job as a broker with one of her former clients, local firm Strand Atkinson Williams & York in Medford, Ore.
Oregon is near and dear to her. In 1990, Hennion and her husband purchased 110 acres of land in Little Applegate Valley, about 20 miles southwest of Medford. On their land sits Buncom, the "last standing ghost town in southern Oregon," she says. Hennion formed a historical society to preserve the town.
Being known around town helped Hennion jump-start her business. "Talk about branding," she says. "We're a small town. Medford has about 50,000 people. One of the radio stations keeps teasing about Buncom, and I'm known as the baroness."
Along with her wholesaler background, Hennion's fund-raising experience helped build her book. She served as development director (translation: fund-raiser) for Crystal Springs Uplands School in Hillsborough, Calif. "A lot of my clients now are charitable organizations," she says. "I know what they need."
In this fee-crazed age, Hennion is commission-based. "I think it's less expensive if they pay once," she says. "I like to do it this way."
In five years, she has grown her assets under management from zero to 120 million dollars. Her 1999 production was 440,000 dollars with a mix of 30 percent stocks, 30 percent bonds, 35 percent mutual funds and 5 percent insurance.
A mentor helped form Hennion's business philosophy. Former Franklin Chairman Lou Jamieson, now deceased, once advised her: "The secret is that you never sell something to a client-you buy it for them." And she does just that.
Another trade secret: Hennion babies her clients. "I probably spend a lot more time than I have to," she says. "I make house calls when appropriate. I do a lot of spreadsheet stuff-cash-flow analysis. In spring, I'm figuring out cost basis for accountants."
Hennion enjoys the relationships. "In a small town, you get to know people personally and professionally," she says. "I've gone to a lot of funerals and weddings. I set up education IRAs for the grandchildren. I make cute certificates for gifts of securities." She also runs six investment clubs.
Hennion and the two other brokers in her office, Fitzhugh Brewer Jr. and Richard Entinger, share some accounts and cover for each other. Amazingly, she has no sales assistant. The branch receptionist answers the phones and files, and Hennion does the rest.
How does she do it? "I don't sleep," she says, with a laugh. Arriving at the office at 7:30 a.m., she talks to clients all day, handles appointments after market hours, and does research on evenings and weekends.
Hennion is involved in a multitude of community service activities. She serves as president of two boards: the Endowment Fund of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the Southern Oregon Historical Society Foundation. She's also vice chair of the Jackson County International Airport advisory committee. And of course, the Baroness of Buncom is the founding board member of the Buncom Historical Society.
It's an interesting twist. Hennion works to preserve history in her spare time while her work focuses on ensuring her clients' financial futures.