Steve Miller, Salomon Smith Barney, Winter Park, Fla.
Ranking in the top 5% of Salomon Smith Barney's entire population of financial consultants, you'd expect Steve Miller's numbers to be impressive--1.4 million in production for 1998, with 150 million in assets under management. But the remarkable fact about those numbers is that Miller's business is almost entirely fee-based and has been for years.
"When I started here (with Shearson Lehman) in 1985, I was fortunate enough to have a couple of mentors who were using a handful of money managers and steered me in that direction," Miller says. "So, I started doing managed money with one of my first accounts in the business."
When Shearson bought EF Hutton in 1989, Miller took advantage of Hutton's more formal managed money programs. "When I started in this business I didn't know how to pick stocks, so I had to let the professionals handle the money and I handled the relationship," he says. "And I still like it like that today."
Clients like the approach, too. Miller's original managed money customer from 1985 remains with him 14 years later. Miller does a lot to maintain clients' confidence in the managed money process. He holds regular educational seminars, presenting information about investment philosophies, asset allocation, setting goals and objectives, and measuring performance.
In fact, Miller is so far ahead of the curve in educating people about the managed money concept that he makes presentations to other SSB brokers interested in the area. He was also one of the first members of an internal group called the Association of Professional Investment Consultants, which helps brokers specialize in managed money.
Miller also pioneered another internal SSB group called the Professional Alliance Group, which pays qualified CPAs a fee for referring managed-money clients. "Years ago, I developed a relationship with the Florida Institute of CPAs and did a lot of educational programs for them," Miller says.
Now, the SSB Professional Alliance Group in New York orchestrates the program nationwide, working with CPAs in states that allow referral fees. "Most of my business comes from CPAs because I went to a school that churned out lots of CPAs," Miller says.
When he was a student at Palm Beach Community College in Florida and at the University of Northern Iowa, Miller also played some college baseball. Now a resident of Winter Haven, Fla., a hot spot for professional baseball's spring training, Miller's client list includes a number of pros who live in Florida.
His passion for baseball also translated into a business opportunity--Miller is part owner of a company that manufactures wooden baseball bats. Orlando-based Stix Baseball has risen to become the No. 3 manufacturer in the country, behind Louisville Slugger and Rawling, Miller says. Among the professional baseball players swinging Stix bats are San Francisco's Barry Bonds and Houston's Derek Bell.
Miller also serves on the board of the Florida Citrus Sports Association, which organizes the college football Citrus Bowl every year. He's also chairman of a college baseball tournament called the Olive Garden Collegiate Baseball Classic.
The fine line between business and pleasure is almost invisible in Miller's case, says supervisor Paul Chiampa, SSB branch manager in Winter Park. "Steve, probably better than most financial consultants, does not differentiate between his business and his personal life. It's all inextricably intertwined. His life is his business and vice versa," Chiampa says. "And he's active in the community for all the right reasons."--Michael Hayes
Outstanding Traits:"Steve is a great guy. I really like him both professionally and personally."--client D. Keith Eardley, M.D., Ormond Beach, Fla.
"Steve does a good job of sitting down with clients and determining wha t their investment goals are. He does a good job in selecting the proper investments for clients, versus just selling them the hot stock or mutual fund of the day."--referral source Gerald Sutton, CPA, Winter Park, Fla.