Nevland, Stoddart & Cummings
St. Paul, Minnesota
When the branch manager, operations manager, administrator and one of the sales assistants left a Bloomington, Minn., Smith Barney branch at the same time, Donna Klicka stepped up to the plate. Klicka was a receptionist at the branch for less than a year when she says she pushed her way into the vacant sales assistant position in 1993. “I taught myself,” Klicka says. “I wasn't afraid to ask questions or find out what I needed to.”
In 1997, Klicka got her Series 7 and Series 63 licenses before she became the solo sales assistant on Bruce Nerland's team, which includes two other financial advisors managing $400 million in client assets. Klicka says the team relies on her to keep the business afloat when the advisors are away. Nerland says he is often out of the office, visiting clients almost daily — but he is assured that his other clients will be taken care of because Klicka is there.
Nerland says Klicka goes above and beyond the call of duty to help out clients, and has been especially attentive when a client experiences a family death. “To get someone's financial affairs passed to the next person involves quite a bit of paper work, and for a lot of people it is really daunting and scary,” says Nerland. “Donna has many times helped out people — and this is stuff we don't get paid for — and she's offered to help them with assets that aren't even held at Smith Barney. I know it has been a terrific service for a lot of our clients.”
In addition to keeping clients well served, Klicka has also helped garner new business. For example, last year a 401(k) service provider called the office and was so pleased with the way Klicka handled his call and his questions that he referred a $500,000 401(k) to her team.
Over Klicka's 15 years in the brokerage industry, she says her role as a sales assistant has changed. “I think we have to be more sophisticated and you have to know the business — how things work operationally; there is so much compliance now and every day things change,” Klicka says. “Fifteen years ago, you didn't necessarily need to know everything. I didn't, but they took me in and let me do my thing and it was definitely an opportunity that worked out very well for me.”
Klicka says one of the secrets to her success is making sure she completes every project assigned to her and leaves her desk every day with no unfinished business before she goes home to her husband and two children. When she's not focusing on the details of the business, Klicka says she puts her meticulous focus on scrapbooking.