Looking at this year's winners, you might wonder why Registered Rep. magazine continues to call its annual best-in-the-business prize the “Outstanding Broker Awards.” The short answer: habit. This is the 26th annual award issue — so we've let the “b-word” be for now. (Oh, and for those wondering about this publication's name, we let it stand for similar reasons: We're celebrating our 30th anniversary this year, and, though we write for the financial advisor wherever he may be and whatever licenses he may hold, our magazine's name has developed some cache in the business.) Yet, the term broker truly is a misnomer, as you will see when reading the profiles of our 10 award winners. (Next year, we'll make the change; welcome, the Outstanding Advisor Awards.)
The advisors chosen for the awards over the last several years hardly fit the definition of a broker. And none of our winners would use the word to describe himself (or herself). Our award recipients offer top-quality investment advice — not products. In addition, they usually provide full-on financial plans, or have access to estate-planning specialists. Indeed, the kind of advice provided by these advisors looks a lot like that offered by an institutional consultant: they pick the best investment managers based on the needs, goals and circumstances of the individual investor. Our winners very often have industry designations, do some (or, in few cases, mostly) fee-based business and, in general, conduct themselves as objective financial-advice providers.
Of course, that's no surprise, given the continuing battle over what kinds of accounts qualify as “advisory” accounts versus “brokerage” accounts under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. “Brokers” are increasingly seen as product salesmen without the clients' best interests at heart. Certainly, our winners are focused on planning the financial futures of (usually) wealthy clients, not selling products, whether their strategies entail mutual fund wrap accounts, alternative investments, individual stocks and bonds or insurance. And they have all been highly successful at helping their clients, as evidenced by the size of their businesses.
Nevertheless, for this year, at least, we decided to keep the OBA honorific alive. For now, and for us, it still symbolizes the professional excellence of our winners, their dedication to the profession and to the communities in which they work. Not only have these individuals risen to the top at their respective firms (they must be among the best business-wise), they have won the respect of peers and colleagues. What also separates this bunch from the “average” awesome businessperson is that all of our winners spend considerable time on charity work for causes outside of the office that have special meaning for them. They are well-rounded individuals with passions for both work and outside interests. And many of them have conquered considerable odds to get where they are today.
As always, the selection process was very difficult. We received more nominations this year than ever before. But read on. The profiles should speak for themselves.
On May 19, this year's Outstanding Broker Award winners will be feted at a ceremony held at the NASDAQ MarketSite in Times Square. The event is sponsored by Pioneer Investments, which offers its congratulations to the 10 honorees.
THE PRACTICAL JOKER WITH A HEART: DON BARRY
Firm: A.G. Edwards
City: Wichita, Kan.
Years as Rep: 25
Years with Current Firm: 25
Production: $1.4 million
AUM: $260 million
Product Mix: 48% mutual funds, 25% annuities, 15% managed futures, 10% bonds, 2% stocks
Licenses: Series 7, 8, 66
In the blue-collar town of Wichita, Kan., Don Barry has been a spark plug for change. An aircraft manufacturing town, Wichita suffered a severe economic slowdown after Sept. 11. Suddenly, donations to the city's nonprofit organizations dried up, forcing some to close.
Enter Don Barry. By inspiring a grant program that tapped the advice of consultants ranging from academics to accountants, Barry enabled 15 local charities to get back on their feet. Along with a $10,000 donation, he brought two-and-a-half decades of experience as a financial advisor to a world that often thinks with its heart rather than its head, says Carol Nazar, a program officer at the Wichita Community Foundation, an independent public charity that supports the arts, education, the environment, health and social services.
Now in his 25th year as a retirement specialist at A.G. Edwards — the only firm he has ever worked for — Barry is in the top 2 percent at the firm. But it was a long way to the top. After completing two years of service in the Marines, he struggled to make ends meet, living in a dive apartment for $50 a month and driving a beat-up car with no heat. Through odd jobs and the GI bill, he put himself through college — a seven-year tour.
Barry, a self-described practical joker, says he keeps himself grounded by putting one over on people. His most recent mark: Barry recommended a couple to an elegant restaurant — but the upscale eatery was, in fact, a greasy burger joint in the wrong part of town. Under the guise of the editor of Gourmet magazine, he later sent them a map with directions to all the burger joints in Wichita.
His crowning achievement, however, does not involve retirement advice or clever pranks but rather convincing a local businessman to donate a 20,000 square-foot building to InterFaith Ministries, a faith-based nonprofit devoted to helping the poor and the homeless. “The ability to make a difference in people's lives is important to me,” Barry says. And that's no joke. — Kevin Burke
THE FINANCIAL CONCIERGE: JEFF FISHMAN
Firm: JSF Financial (affiliated with broker/dealer Cantella & Co.)
City: Los Angeles
Years as Rep: 12
Years with Current Firm: 10
AUM: $140 million
Product Mix: Mostly funds, but 25% wrap and separately managed accounts. Also runs a separate financial-planning business and, via a separate entity, a distressed debt hedge fund, ALJ Capital.
Specialty: Financial planning, investments
Designations: Personal Financial Planning designation from UCLA
Licenses: Series 6, 7, 24, 63, 66; admitted to the California Bar
Jeff Fishman has come a long way since launching his career as a rep with Sun Life Financial 12 years ago. Actually, Fishman was set to be a lawyer. After law school, he worked for a small litigation firm (“I did the grunt work,” Jeff says). But just one year later, Jeff decided to heed the call of financial planning. (His dad worked in the insurance business for decades, offering the young Jeff an up-close look at the financial-services business.) Today, his firm is indeed a sophisticated one. Fishman describes his business as an all-around, high-touch concierge financial-services firm, offering straight-up investment advice and complete financial planning, from laying out budgets to tax and estate issues. For qualified investors, Jeff and a partner also run a hedge fund (with $60 million in assets).
Given his location — Los Angeles — it's no surprise that his business is long on Hollywood types — actors, executive producers, writers and directors. Does this type of client pose a unique challenge? “Completely,” he says. Their financial lives are analogous to those of athletes, he says. “They are going to earn a large amount of money — for a finite amount of time. That's a challenge.”
Like other financial advisors who do volunteer work, Fishman brings his financial acumen to bear on the project. As an associate director for the West Coast Friends of Bar-Ilan University, a major college in Israel, Jeff has acted as chairman of the Planned Giving Division. He also helped raise money for the Jewish Hospice Project-Los Angeles “at its inception,” says Rabbi Sheldon Pennes, director of patient care at the hospice. “He supported our mission, both with his time and resources.”
“I try to help where I can,” Jeff says. “You can't make people who aren't charitably inclined give money, but you can help the charitably-inclined give larger gifts if you can do it in a tax-efficient way.”
Says another client, U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Ruggero Aldisert, “I'm sure he has lots of clients with multimillion-dollar portfolios. But he treats my wife and I as if we were his biggest clients.” — David A. Geracioti
THE PIONEER: RICK FRAYARD
Firm: UBS Financial Services
City: Lafayette, LA
Years as a Rep: 23
Years with Current Firm: 21
Production: $1.7 million
AUM: $737 million
Product Mix: 3% stocks, 10% bonds, 10% funds, 2% insurance, 75% managed accounts
Specialty: Professionally managed accounts for individuals and pensions
Licenses: Series 3, 6, 7, 63, 65
It's probably appropriate that Rick Frayard failed the first Series 7 exam he ever took. The former Army chopper-pilot-turned-entrepreneur joined the financial-advice business in 1982 because he was attracted to the actual portfolio-management part of the job — and not the sales part.
After he passed his Series 7, Frayard hosted an investing seminar for potential clients and learned quite quickly that there was a big market for financial advice. As a result, he built his book by doing several general investing seminars a month aimed at the exploding oil wealth of Lafayette. “Back then, a pump hand with barely a high-school education had $500,000 in savings,” he says. In his first month at Shearson he grossed $30,000 in commissions. Ironically, the Merrill and E.F. Hutton managers that turned him down for a job are now business partners of his at UBS. One of those men, Grover Miller, doesn't remember “not hiring” Frayard, but fondly calls Rick a pioneer.
Besides writing one of the first wrap-fee contracts for Paine Webber in 1985, Frayard pioneered the use of technology to leverage his business, investing $10,000 of his own money in AXYS portfolio management software and Advent performance reporting software for his first generation IBM — and his colleagues thought he was nuts. To him, it was absolutely necessary. “I wanted to be able to show people exactly how they were doing and what they were making,” he says.
Today, Frayard only runs a small amount of his clients' assets himself — he devotes most of his energy to researching managers and serving clients. Most of Frayard's 270 clients, mainly oil company employees and doctors, are invested in diversified portfolios of separately managed accounts (for smaller clients he prefers UBS' wrap fee mutual fund program).
Frayard contributes time and money to various philanthropies, including the Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Acadiana. But, Frayard is also something of a thespian. He and his wife Kiki, a former professional jazz singer, not only raise money for BBBS, they act in its annual play. In the realm of sport, Frayard organizes a yearly golf tournament, which raises thousands of dollars for Prevent Child Abuse Louisiana every year. — John Churchill
RUNNING DOWN A DREAM: BARRY GLASSMAN
Firm: Cassaday & Co. (Royal Alliance)
City: McLean, Va.
Years as a Rep: 12
Years with Current Firm: 12
AUM: $200 million
Product Mix: 90% wrap, 7% funds, 3% insurance
Specialty: Fee-based financial planning and investment management.
Designations: CFP, CFS, RFC
Licenses: Series 7, 63, 65
Barry Glassman left a fledgling career in the nonprofit world to become a financial advisor — not just because it was a more lucrative path, but because he felt he could make a bigger charitable impact on his own.
Most people would have a hard time making that proposition come true. Not Glassman. After 12 years in the business, the 36-year old from Dartmouth, Mass., has indeed made a big impact. Not only is he in the top 1 percent of Royal's advisors; he has a $200 million book of business and 84 clients, mostly lawyers and doctors in the Washington, D.C., area. He is also co-founder of the country's largest brain tumor research fundraising event: “Race for Hope,” a five-kilometer run held every May in D.C. (also in Philly this year) to benefit the Brain Tumor Society, a group started by the mother of his best friend, whose life was cut short by a brain tumor.
In it's ninth year now, the run raised $1.2 million in 2005 with an all-volunteer staff of 100, and more than 5,000 participants. Says Glassman, who does not run: “When you see 5,000 people lining up to run for a cause like this, in a race you helped start, you learn what it is to really get goose bumps.” But whether he's moonlighting as a chef at a famous Italian eatery or honoring his second son's birth by collecting donations for the Children's Hospital of New Orleans, fundraising is just an outlet for his desire to help others.
Glassman offers mostly straight-up financial planning and investment management, but superior service is the goal and his clients are urged to call him with “any issue regarding a dollar sign.” He says, “I like to think of my competition as Nordstrom and the Ritz.” For one of his clients, he's a concierge, balancing her checkbook, renegotiating a cell-phone contract and even finding an appraiser for her mother's artwork. Jim McNair, a trusts and estates attorney in the D.C. area, used to find Glassman aggravating for the time he took mulling over McNair's advice. “But it's to his credit, however long it takes to determine what's right for the client, Barry's going to take it.” — JC
CROSS-CULTURAL LIAISON: OZGUR KARAOSMANOGLU
Firm: Raymond James & Associates
City: Bethesda, Md.
Years as Rep: 19
Years with Current Firm: 13
Production: $1.244 million
AUM: $145 million
Product Mix: 25% funds, 5% insurance, 30% managed accounts, 40% stocks
Specialty: Foreign nationals living in the U.S.
Designations: Raymond James' Chairman's Council Member, Financial Advisors Council, Investment Management Consultant, Trust Specialist
Licenses: Series 6, 7, 31, 63, 65
It's not surprising that Ozgur Karaosmanoglu built his practice around helping foreigners understand American financial customs. Karaosmanoglu — pronounced Karas-mah-no-loo (the "g" is silent), but you can call him “Oz” — moved to the U.S. from Turkey at the age of four with his father, who worked for the World Bank. “I grew up in Washington, D.C., with a very international community,” he says. That experience has helped him accommodate the needs of his clients that are without U.S. citizenship and others with citizenship based outside of the U.S. for the State Department — such individuals account for nearly half of his clients.
“I realized that internationals have different tax issues, different investment issues and [need] different levels of assistance. There was hardly anyone who catered to those needs,” he says.
Karaosmanoglu describes some minor, yet telling, instances of culture clash, like when he had to explain to a Turkish woman why cash was not necessary for financial transactions in the U.S after she came to his office and pulled out thousands of dollars. On another occasion, Karaosmanoglu spent an entire day traveling to different car dealerships with a Japanese client who was not familiar with the concept of negotiating the price of a car. “I can understand different cultural [practices] people are accustomed to,” he says.
His desire for intercultural understanding inspired him to work as the treasurer of HasNa, a nonprofit group in Washington that promotes peace and conflict resolution among different ethnic groups. The group has organized conflict-resolution training for working-class communities in Cyprus and Southeastern Turkey, where different ethnic groups often collide. Karaosmanoglu is also the vice chairman of Tulane University's Associated Board, treasurer of the Assembly of Turkish American Association and member of the Hellenic American Women's Council. — Halah Touryalai
THE TIRELESS SOLDIER: FREDERICK MORGAN
Firm: Smith Barney
City: St. Michaels, Md.
Years as Rep: 35
Years with Current Firm: 30
AUM: $180 million
Product Mix: 50% managed money, 25% mutual funds and 25% nondiscretionary stocks and bonds investment advice
Specialty: Common stocks and bonds; caters to high-net-worth clients
Designations: Managed money designation
Licenses: Series 6, 7
For the past 35 years, Frederick Morgan has been virtually unstoppable. The Vietnam war veteran lost his left leg at the hip and his left hand at the wrist trying to rescue a wounded soldier from a minefield during the Tet Offensive in 1968. But that setback didn't slow him down one bit. He left the hospital after just one month in recovery, and though he was barely able to walk, he immediately went to work for Harris Upham in his hometown of Charleston, W.Va. “It's the best decision I ever made,” he says. (The firm was bought by Smith Barney in 1975.)
Morgan quickly rose to the top and has been a a top 5 percent producer at Smith Barney for the past 25 years. He's also a tireless supporter of the disabled and numerous other charitable causes, including the YMCA and Boy Scouts. Until recently, Morgan was attending five charity board meetings a week. He's also swims three miles a week, rides a bike and sails a 40-foot sailboat with his wife. In 2004, he carried the Olympic Torch through Charleston. “I've always tried to set an example for the handicapped,” he says.
People who have worked with Morgan say he's a natural leader. Charles Capito, his former branch manager and a colleague since 1976, describes him as loyal, but willing to speak his mind. “He was not beyond being the drill sergeant, but in a productive way,” Capito says. Adds Majorie Cook, development director for the Charleston YMCA: “He's both disciplined and delightful, an unusual combination.”
Today, Morgan works remotely through the Charleston branch from his new home in St. Michaels, Md. (about 430 miles away). He's begun thinking about a succession plan, but he's still increasing his business. “I have relationships with clients that extend 30 to 35 years. And they trust me. That's what I enjoy most — that people still look to me for advice,” he says. — Kristen French
THE RENAISSANCE MAN: JOSEPH NOLAN
Firm: Robert W. Baird & Co.
City: Oconomowoc, Wis.
Years as Rep: 21
Years with Current Firm: 21
AUM: $130 million
Product Mix: 56% funds, 19% insurance, 16% managed accounts, 5% bonds, 4% stocks
Specialty: Retirement planning
Licenses: Series 6, 7, 8, 63, 65
If he is not in his office catering to his client's needs, Joseph Nolan is probably running a marathon, performing on stage as the lead role at the theater or managing his new health food store.
Nolan, who has been ranked in the top 10 percent of financial advisors at Robert W. Baird & Co. for over a decade, finds himself playing the lead role in all his endeavors, but meeting the financial needs of his clients is his top priority.
He knew he wanted to be part of the investing world when the money he invested while working at a foundry doubled and got him his first car. “I was 25 when I started this career. I came into it thinking like anyone, ‘I'm going to buy, sell and make my clients money,” he recalls.
But after years of picking the latest hot stocks, Nolan decided to change his approach and became a certified financial planner in 1994. “I realized there was more to this profession,” he says. He diversified client portfolios and started focusing on his clients' total financial-planning needs rather than just trying to make some money trading.
Nolan's top-notch portfolio performance is not the only thing he is known for around town, though. He is an opera singer who has taken on the lead roles in both local and professional theaters. Some of his most loyal fans include clients who never miss a performance.
If he's not rehearsing, then he's probably training. The health enthusiast, who participated in an Ironman competition in 2004, also recently opened Good Harvest Market, a health-food store with 35 employees.
Although Nolan credits his assistant, Kim Tarmann, with helping manage his business, it's hard to imagine how Nolan has any time to concentrate on his original passion for investing and helping clients. However, one of his retiree clients of 20 years promises, “He's a wonderful opera singer and he's a very dedicated athlete, but none of that has ever come in the way of our business with him.” — HT
THE TRAILBLAZER: SHARON OBERLANDER
Firm: The Oberlander Group, Merrill Lynch
Years as Rep: 28
Years with Current Firm: 28
Production: $2.2 million
AUM: $615 million
Product Mix: 45% SMAS, 30% fixed income; 10% equities, 10% mutual funds; 5% insurance, liability management
Specialty: Wealth management
Designations: Certified Financial Manager (internal designation) and Wealth Management Advisor; CFP on staff
Licenses: Series 3, 7, 8, 63, 65
Like all young people embarking on a career path, Sharon Oberlander had to make a choice. But Oberlander's was something of a doozy: Finance or social work. In the 1970s, she worked at the First National Bank of Skokie (Illinois), but, having a psychology degree from the University of Manitoba, she was studying to become a social worker at night. While working in the bank's trust department, she interacted with investment advisors and developed an interest in finance. “Something had to give,” she says — and it was the social work.
In 1978, after seven years at the bank, Oberlander joined Merrill Lynch, where she's been ever since. It was a very different time in the business: “Women existed only in support roles or as potential clients,” she says. “Generally speaking, you were the only woman in the room at meetings. The lunches, the golf, the Final Four. Nobody talked to me about stuff like that.” She adds that her colleagues, who didn't wish her ill, “didn't expect me to do well” either. But Oberlander never was one to shrink from a challenge, and she found that “the key was to be extremely self sufficient and resourceful.”
Merrill, she says, had, and still has, a strong training program, which helped her get off the ground. She also found that her background in social work was a plus. “I like helping people. I really talk about everything, what their needs are, what keeps them up at night,” she says. She is active in the Chicago community, serving on the University of Chicago's Gastro-Intestinal Research Foundation, which raises money for medical research. And she supports the Lyric Opera, the Chicago Symphony and the Goodman Theatre.
As a result of her lonely start in the industry, Oberlander enjoys helping mentor new advisors. “She is very kindhearted but very professional,” says her manager Bob Graham, who also serves as Merrill's regional managing director for the Midwest. “And she never asks for anything in return.” — DAG
THE DEDICATED SLUGGER: JOSE RIVERA
Firm: The Rivera Group, Morgan Stanley
City: Warren, N.J.
Years as Rep: 21
Years with Current Firm: 20
Production: $3 million
AUM: $487 million
Product Mix: managed accounts and municipal bonds.
Specialty: Estate planning
Designations: CIMA from Wharton School of Business for Morgan Stanley's Advanced Senior Consultant program, estate-planning designation through American College, Morgan Stanley Wealth Advisor
Licenses: Series 3, 6, 7, 8, 63, 65
Jose Rivera, who ranked the 15th largest producer at Morgan Stanley last year, had humble beginnings. His mother left Puerto Rico with her children in tow when Jose was two, settling the family in Greenpoint, N.Y., a poor blue-collar neighborhood in Brooklyn.
Rivera never imagined himself a financial advisor. A top-notch baseball player, he wanted to play professionally, and he came close. In 1980, he was invited to try out for the Mets at Shea Stadium, but never got called back. Then his life took an unexpected turn. A friend working at Thomson McKinnon urged him to get into the business, telling him to request minimum wage — $2.50 an hour at the time. “That started me out on Wall Street,” Rivera says with a chuckle.
After several jobs in the securities industry over the next five years, Rivera took a job as a stockbroker at Dean Witter, which later became Morgan Stanley; he's been there ever since. Today, he and two other financial advisors manage $630 million in assets for high-net-worth clients, primarily in managed accounts and municipal bonds. John Campbell, Rivera's manager for the past two years, attributes his rapid ascent to his ability to make clients feel comfortable and inspire confidence. “He's an excellent advisor and puts people at ease right away. He's got a great personality,” Campbell says.
Rivera hasn't forgotten his roots. He devotes outside time and energy to the Hispanic Federation, which is made up of 90 nonprofit agencies in the New York metropolitan area and aims to increase grant dollars to Latino charities. “I want to give back to the communities where I was raised,” Rivera says. He also founded the Carl Riccio Special Needs Trust annual golf outing to help support basic care and tuition costs for Carl's family. An outstanding local athlete, Riccio was left quadriplegic by a spine injury.
Rivera says that coming from so little, and developing a highly competitive edge in his baseball days, helped propel him to success as a financial advisor. “I want to be at the top,” he says. He also gives credit to his wife Laura, who was “always pushing me to work harder and work smarter.” — KF
A MAN FOR OTHERS: BOB SOLIS
Firm: Piper Jaffray
City: Surprise, Ariz.
Years as Rep: 13
Years with Current Firm: 8
AUM: $150 million
Product Mix: 33.3% mutual funds, 33.3% managed money, 33.3% stocks and bonds
Licenses: Series 7, 8, 63, 65
Talk about a man for others: Bob Solis, winner of Piper Jaffray's 2005 Bobby Piper Award for community service, has made a tremendous contribution to society by helping abused, disabled and sick children across the globe. And in his own home: He is personally raising two African-American children orphaned by a crack addict who was sent to prison.
Solis also started a one-room schoolhouse in a barrio in Phoenix for latchkey kids. In addition, he spent two years volunteering at a domestic-violence shelter and working at a rehabilitation facility for the disabled. It was during this time that he met his wife Sallie. Born Robert Hickey, he took Sallie's surname of Solis to honor her Mexican heritage.
But at 43, perhaps his greatest achievement is just getting off the ground. Open Arms for Children, an orphanage he and Sallie just opened in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, aims to help impoverished children whose parents died of AIDS. They used their $200,000 life savings to purchase a 75-acre hilltop property that will eventually house 25 orphans.
Solis also hosts a golf tournament in St. Croix every year to raise money for Lutheran Social Services of the Virgin Islands, a foundation where he once worked, to help find new homes for abused children. The outing receives support from 32 pro baseball players, past and present, including Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson and Steve Carlton. Solis himself was a standout pitcher at Notre Dame. The southpaw hurler would have likely taken his pinpoint control to the bigs had he not blown out his arm.
“He really puts his money where his mouth is,” says Bill Allds, a Solis client of seven years. “He has a depth of spirit that is unmatched.” At Christmas, Solis comes to his home with a bottle of champagne and a poinsettia plant. “He's always given us sound advice.” Allds adds.
Mark Peterson, a Piper Jaffray branch manager in Scottsdale, Ariz., says Solis has provided “strong leadership and has been vital to our growth, both in terms of our position in the marketplace and the number of high-quality people recruited here.” When you hear about Solis' commitment to helping others, it's hard not to feel inadequate. — KB