Reps have all kinds of ways to stay active and relax when they're off the clock. Some play golf. Some coach Little League. Some travel.
Marc Frederic, a 65-year-old advisor in Smith Barney's Torrance, Calif., office, does something completely different. Donning a metallic silver suit with rainbow sequins, green lamé cuffs and a rainbow furry fabric tie, Fredric transforms himself into Mr. Whimsy, spoken-word hipster for the under-7 set. Fredric's colorful alter ego has self-published one book, Benny's Pets, with another two on the way via his World of Whimsy publishing company.
If you think the silly persona is simply an escape from his day job, think again. In the few years since the publication of Benny's Pets, Fredric says his other book — you know, the one with all the financial advisory clients in it — has thrived. Last year was his best, he says, though he declines to say how much he made.
The Mr. Whimsy side job “has really balanced my life,” Frederic says. “It allows me to relate to a client who has needs that aren't financial. It allows clients to see me as a human being, and they just adore it.”
Frederic started as a rep for E.F. Hutton in 1968 and has stayed put “while the firm's name has changed around me.” Today his card reads Smith Barney. He says he was a “financial planner from the beginning,” working mostly with widows and soon-to-be retirees.
By 1973 — five years into his professional life — he had built his gross to $250,000. A management position was proffered, but Fredric turned it down because he wanted to ensure he had time to stimulate his right brain.
“I wanted to explore my creative side, and I didn't know if I'd have time to do that in management,” he says.
Around this same time, he began experimenting with “light verse” — Fredric's term for poems written for kids. A couple of years later, Benny's Pets was born. Its narrative involves a boy named Billionaire Benny who has hundreds of pets, including giraffes, ostriches and rhinoceroses. A sample verse:
My rhino companion would bungee Grand Canyon
His jump plans are faulty, I've told him …
I'd build him a bridge, but he's big as a fridge
And we can't find a cord that'll hold him.
Success on the child-author front was not quick in coming. In fact, it wasn't until a few years ago that Fredric pulled his manuscript off the shelf (where it was “collecting pixie dust and beams of blue moons,” he says, shifting seamlessly into Whimsy-speak). Mariah York, production manager of World of Whimsy who goes by “Princess Mariah,” was the one who convinced Fredric to make the move, meeting with him one day after the markets closed and getting him to pony up enough money to fund a 5,000-book run. To date, most of these have been sold, Fredric says.
Fredric, who says his Smith Barney business has grown to the point where he has decided to assemble an advisory team, has no plans to exit either the securities or publishing business. In fact, he says, he would like to find a way to combine the two, perhaps by writing a financial book for kids or by using his readings to promote his advisory services to the parents of his diminutive fans.
True, Mr. Whimsy's suit could undermine Fredric's efforts to be taken seriously as an advisor, but parents who can get past it can rest assured that Fredric's got their kids' best interests at heart.
Still there's one ultra-high-net-worth client who will always remain out of reach: Billionaire Benny.
“I'm prospecting him,” Fredric says, “but he's pretty wrapped up in his animals.”