When a Loss Is a Gain

These days, being an expert in estate planning, tax planning and retirement planning is expected. Yet smart brokers realize that they can't be all things to all people. So what do you do?If you're like Bob Kennedy, a rep with PaineWebber in New Orleans, you create a team. Each of his five team members has a different specialty. The plan, hatched in 1989, has worked out well.To date, Kennedy's team

These days, being an expert in estate planning, tax planning and retirement planning is expected. Yet smart brokers realize that they can't be all things to all people. So what do you do?

If you're like Bob Kennedy, a rep with PaineWebber in New Orleans, you create a team. Each of his five team members has a different specialty. The plan, hatched in 1989, has worked out well.

To date, Kennedy's team has more than 275 million of assets under management, with clients in 30 states and four countries. Together, the reps have more than 50 years of experience in areas as diverse as trusts and accounting to portfolio management and administration.

"To maintain our current clients and level of service, we have beefed up our staff," Kennedy says. The impetus for the additional staff wasn't just market conditions. Last year, Kennedy's senior partner, John Godchaux, passed away. He had been an active force behind the partnership and a long-time top producer.

"When you experience a loss like that, you really have to take a look at your business because the dynamics change," Kennedy says. He soon realized that he had to increase his staff, technology and service capabilities.

Kennedy immediately hired two associates and upgraded the group's technological support. He uses Broker's Helper to track portfolio information.

On the service front, Kennedy encouraged associates to meet with clients at their homes or other convenient locations in order to build rapport. He says he not only wanted to reinforce to clients that their investments were on track, he wanted his team to show them.

The meetings were so successful that Kennedy now mandates an annual face-to-face conversation with each client and encourages two visits a year. At those meetings, clients are reprofiled and their accounts go through a thorough diagnostic. "Our team mix is designed to fully understand the client's picture before recommending an investment strategy," Kennedy says.

He seeks business from three generations: clients, their children and clients' parents. This means Kennedy's group has to be adept at trust and estate planning as well as portfolio management. It's a challenge to get team members with such diverse knowledge.

"For me to stay focused [on the investment side], I have to have people around me who are equally focused on other client issues," Kennedy says.

The team meets formally once a week--Thursdays at 4 p.m.--to discuss client needs, service and marketing ideas.

One new idea the team has instituted is client appreciation seminars. Once a month, the team brings together a group of clients to hear from an outside financial expert such as a portfolio manager, CPA or attorney. The team is also working more closely with these outside professionals.

"We now encourage clients to get duplicate statements: one for them and the other to be sent directly to their accountant or their attorney," Kennedy says.

"These are the things that we always wanted to do that we never had time to do before," he adds. The better attention to detail gives the group the confidence to ask for referrals. "We had never asked before," Kennedy says.

Kennedy has worked without Godchaux for about a year now. Business is not the same as before, he says. "It's different, and our business is growing and expanding in new ways."

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