Taking Ownership

Laura Yeager is matter-of-fact about her role as a sales assistant. "I treat the business as if it were my own," she says.It's a quality that Jeffrey and Brian Werdesheim, a two-brother rep team at CIBC Oppenheimer in Los Angeles, deeply appreciate. "She is the glue that keeps us together," Jeffrey says. "We don't know what we would do without her," adds Brian.Not bad for an ex-housewife with a degree

Laura Yeager is matter-of-fact about her role as a sales assistant. "I treat the business as if it were my own," she says.

It's a quality that Jeffrey and Brian Werdesheim, a two-brother rep team at CIBC Oppenheimer in Los Angeles, deeply appreciate. "She is the glue that keeps us together," Jeffrey says. "We don't know what we would do without her," adds Brian.

Not bad for an ex-housewife with a degree in English Literature who, 10 years ago, sent out blind resumes to many investment firms, asking for a chance to learn the business.

She started her career as a receptionist in new accounts at PaineWebber in Encino in 1991. She soon earned her license and moved to Merrill Lynch as a sales assistant. Three and a half years ago, the Werdesheims asked Yeager to join them in opening the CIBC office in an area near UCLA known as Westwood.

Today, Yeager is recognized as a meticulously organized professional with steely resolve to serve. "It's my job to free up the brokers to allow them to focus on what's important," she says.

Her tough work ethic is evident in the standards she upholds. "I make myself accountable and responsible," she says. "I see things through from start to finish."

Thoroughness brings rewards. Case in point: a $3 million account transferring to CIBC. The assets were invested in a variety of stocks, and the client's instructions were to liquidate them and transfer cash. When the cash was received, Yeager noticed the amount was considerably less than it should have been. She investigated.

By speaking with the prior custodian, Yeager discovered the client was wrongly charged commissions to liquidate a managed account. She involved the client and his CPA. Working together, the charges were reimbursed to the client to the tune of $7,000.

The client was so impressed with Yeager's outstanding efforts, he sent her a large flower arrangement the next day.

"Not only do clients know that Laura is servicing their accounts, but they know she cares about them," Brian says. "And this is an intangible that is truly unique and hard to find."

Yeager subscribes to the Golden Rule. "I treat clients the way I'd want to be treated," she says. "Relationship-building is an important part of my job. When I communicate with a client, I want to know the client's account. I want them to be comfortable dealing with me."

To achieve that, Yeager continually acquires knowledge in the key areas of asset allocation, investment management, stock-option exercise programs and retirement planning. Her expertise led her to develop a proprietary spreadsheet that enables office staff to keep track of all managed accounts.

Respected for her professional manner and skills, Yeager is the yardstick against which her firm measures prospective sales assistants. Brokers in her office have asked her to interview sales assistants they are considering hiring. And as part of her job, she spreads her experience by training and mentoring student interns from UCLA.

While still dedicated to helping others, she's starting to spend a bit of time on herself. "I've set out to discover where my hobbies and interests lie." A divorced mom, she has taken some golf lessons and joined a gym. "I'm just now coming to a time where I can pursue things that interest me."

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