Young Leader

Rob Bickham, PaineWebber, New OrleansPaineWebber Senior Vice President Rob Bickham, 39, was focused on managed money and investment consulting 13 years ago, well before the current rush to that style of business. And 11 years ago, he earned his CIMA designation from the Investment Management Consultants Association as part of its second graduating class.Bickham's early interest and success in consulting

Rob Bickham, PaineWebber, New Orleans

PaineWebber Senior Vice President Rob Bickham, 39, was focused on managed money and investment consulting 13 years ago, well before the current rush to that style of business. And 11 years ago, he earned his CIMA designation from the Investment Management Consultants Association as part of its second graduating class.

Bickham's early interest and success in consulting is likely the reason he is now a leader at PaineWebber. From his New Orleans office, he serves as chairman of PaineWebber's senior consultant group, PRIME Asset Consultants, a job he's had for more than five years.

A registered rep for 15 years, Bickham started off focused on IRA rollover business, but after a few years he sensed there was opportunity to serve larger institutions. At the time, most investment consulting firms were in New York or San Francisco, far from potential customers in the bayou. "I thought there was a need for someone in this market who really understood the market," he says. He was right.

Bickham now has sizable institutional consulting and retail businesses. Assets under management on the institutional side top 1.2 billion and assets on the retail side are 450 million. Bickham has amassed a nine-person team to operate both books. Although he sets team goals overall, Bickham spends most of his time dealing with mammoth institutional accounts. For the past seven years, his personal production has landed him in the Chairman's Club--the top 2% of PaineWebber brokers.

What makes the team successful? Bickham says it is team members' "shared values, shared ambition and shared vision." Their vision relates to client service. "The fundamental practice that I've tried to employ is always keeping clients' interests first," he says. "It's a principle that someone building a long-term business must follow."

The primary way Bickham accomplishes client-first service is through "listening, really listening, to the customers," he says. "We don't spit out a model that is a catch-all for everyone." He serves a variety of groups, from corporate and union pension plans to foundations and endowments.

Bickham describes himself as competitive yet that trait is tempered by his interest in doing right by others. "We have a lot of integrity in what we are doing," he says. "To get there the right way, that's what counts."

A broker knows he's doing a good job when a client asks for a fee increase. Case in point: Ten years ago, Bickham contracted to manage a retirement plan with about 20 million in assets for a flat fee. Fast-forward. The account now has 220 million and Bickham still gets the same fee.

However, a few months ago, the client asked Bickham what the market would command for his services. "They decided they were going to pay me market value," he says. "That was three or four times the fee they were paying in the past. I told my wife, I think that's the nicest thing that's ever happened to me in the business."

Outside of work, Bickham is busy raising his young children, ages 3 and 1. Prior to having kids, he was busy in the community. He is most proud of founding the Young Leadership Council of New Orleans, a group he formed with six friends when he was 27. "The motivation was to create a better city," Bickham says. "We were all from New Orleans and we wanted to raise our kids here. We thought it was important for New Orleans to thrive."

Today, the council has more than 1,000 members and "a name in New Orleans that's very respected," he says. Much like Bickham's own name.--Janis Samaripa

Outstanding Traits:"He is fair, open-minded, positive and pragmatic. People respect the fact that he is that way."--former PaineWebber colleague Jim Chandler, senior vice president, Evaluation Associates, Norwalk, Conn.

"He's rather innovative in the things that he's done with the consulting business. He will bring an idea to me, and we'll see how to get it done, even if the firm hasn't done it before."--Mike Busler, branch manager, PaineWebber, New Orleans

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