This month, Registered Representative celebrates its 25th anniversary. Together with the industry, we've come a long way since our first issue in the summer of 1976.
Although I joined the magazine in 1985, I know the first years were rough. During 1976, NYSE trading volume totaled just five billion shares (compared with 262 billion last year). At the end of 1976, fund assets stood at around $50 million (today the figure is $7 trillion). As one rep put it in 1979, the market had been “a roller coaster ride to nowhere” for the previous 20 years. Maybe it was our own brand of boosterism, but many reps and analysts we quoted at the time presciently predicted much better days ahead. We published every other month until the business grew, going monthly with the May 1980 issue.
An early reader advised us, “We need a journal on selling securities, not research.” We've kept to that basic formula, staying away from stock recommendations and market forecasts to focus on business-building ideas. How about sending research reports to barber shops? Or serving as a church usher in order to meet people? You read it here. And like any trade rag, profiles of readers and industry leaders have always been a staple. But our unfiltered coverage of news, controversies and trends has often set us apart. Our advocacy role makes me especially proud.
Over the years our mix of sponsors has shifted with the market. We started out with public companies advertising their stock. But as reps moved toward managed products, our largest ad category became fund and annuity providers. We used to get wirehouse recruitment ads, too, but as the independent option became viable for general securities producers, the independent shops took over.
It's amazing how long some ideas linger before seeing the light of day. One roundtable interview with reps back in the 1970s raised the then-new issue of discount brokers. The concern was that if a discounter opened in your area, it might hurt business. How quaint. One interviewee wondered if any of the other reps' firms had started a discount service. They hadn't. The idea wasn't implemented until Dean Witter acquired Lombard Brokerage in December 1996, followed three years later by Merrill Lynch's launch of Merrill Direct.
In 1980, a rep told us that in another five years, there would be no more stockbrokers. “We're going into total management of people's money,” he predicted. Yes, we are, but it's taking longer than he thought.
In walking through our history, I was reminded that consolidation in the industry has always been occurring, and brokers have always worried about it. They've also worried about what firms will do to their paychecks. In 1986, in covering compensation cuts, we speculated that continued paring could result in salaried brokers. And in an article just two months ago, we note salaries are still a concern, but hardly a reality. The lesson: Why worry about something you can't control?
To all the readers, sponsors and staffers who have supported us in covering this fascinating industry, my sincerest thanks. And here's to the exciting years to come!
Best of luck,
Speak Out For Your Customers!
By the time you read this, I will have sent yet another comment letter on yet another NASDR proposal regarding the use of temporary restraining orders (see www.rrmag.com, click on RR Commentary). Help me out in supporting the right of customers to move their accounts. Go to www.nasdr.com/2610_2001.asp, see Notice to Members 01-36, and follow the instructions for commenting.