Eau Claire, Wis.
“She's extremely hard-working. I'll send an e-mail at 7 o'clock at night and get one right back.”
— client Laurence Niederhofer, Scottsdale, Ariz.
“She challenges me … to make sure we are introducing the technology and services that are going to help us grow and service our clients. When Marti calls me with a concern or a suggestion, I am all ears.”
— James McFarland, regional administrative manager, Dain Rauscher, Minneapolis.
“Give me a novel to read, and I'll be asleep in under two minutes,” says Marti Nelson, a senior registered sales associate at Dain Rauscher's Eau Claire, Wis., office. “But tech manuals spur me on, wake me right up.”
Nelson, 37, has been with the Mark Orgel Investment Planning Group since 1986. “When Marti joined my practice, I was doing $350,000 in gross commissions, opening 30 new accounts per month, and had $25 million under management,” Orgel says.
Today, total assets under management exceed $800 million, and the group has revenues of more than $3 million.
“We have a very, very large practice,” Orgel says. The group has 1,400 to 1,500 households. In addition to Nelson, Orgel's group includes another broker, Bradley Waznik; a pension specialist; a desktop publishing person and two customer support people. Nelson also serves as operations manager for the seven-broker Eau Claire office.
Orgel says Nelson has been a key player in the growth of the group because of her self-taught computer skills. “Years ago, I recognized the extraordinary talent she had, and I made the determination that she would be compensated like a partner,” he says. “She makes more than many brokers, and she's worth every penny of it.”
About 15 years ago, Orgel says his business was growing so rapidly that Nelson decided to automate it. “She went out and bought our first PC and began building a database with our client information.”
In 1988, Orgel was hired by a large institution with a multimillion dollar portfolio. But servicing the account required trust-accounting and performance-reporting software. Nelson picked the software package, and also built a network so the group's growing staff could access the same data. Later on, she helped Dain design its mainframe-based performance reporting system.
Nelson started in the securities business at the age of 19, when her high school business education teacher recommended her for a typing job at EF Hutton. That was also the point when she dropped out of college after a year because she “fell in love and got married,” she says.
Ten years ago, when her daughter was 5 and her son was 3, her husband quit his job and started a gourmet coffee shop to work a more flexible schedule and be the primary caregiver for the children. “We started that out of necessity,” Nelson says. “When my kids were in day care they were always sick, and my husband was smart enough to know that Marti ain't quitting her job to stay home and raise kids. I'm a workaholic; I admit it.”
Nelson is also active in Mission Jamaica, a program co-sponsored by her church that sends people to work in the poor neighborhoods of Kingston. She has been amazed at the resourcefulness of people living in extreme poverty. For example, while working on a school building project, she was trying to mix cement (and having a hard time of it). “This guy comes wheeling up to me on a skateboard, with no legs, one arm down to the elbow, and he comes over and says, ‘Let me show you how to do this, Miss,’ and he grabs the shovel out of my hand, and I'll be darned if he couldn't mix faster than anyone I've ever seen,” she says.
Nelson believes that if there's a lesson to be learned from her example, it's that “it can be done,” without a college degree. “I'm living proof of that,” she says.