Back in the day, many reps aspired to management — some to move up the ladder and climb into the executive suite. And the golden entry point was the branch office manager post. Here are four short profiles of some veteran professionals who have successfully helped their associates with their careers.
James “Jeb” Bashaw
Years as BOM/OSJ: 12 years
Branch AUM: $750 million
Guiding Principal: No Excuses.
Going independent is always a carefully plotted move. Jeb Bashaw, a former branch manager, left UBS in 2001 to establish his own company, James E. Bashaw & Co., after having an epiphany. The decision to go independent — and to run his own firm — came after reflecting on his father's death in 1970 at age 42. He says when his mother returned to her job after taking off less than a week to grieve, her boss doubled her pay. “I thought to myself, 'If I could start a firm that took care of advisors and customers that way, it would be a success,' ” he says. And it has been: Revenue at the firm has doubled each year since its launch.
Bashaw, who serves as an OSJ (office of supervisory jurisdiction) for LPL, the approximate equivalent of a branch manager in the indie world, says he has been able to achieve such growth by searching the wirehouses for overlooked advisors — the ones with talent but who are, for some reason, underperforming. Bashaw says he has the keys to unlock low-end producers' potential. There is no magic bullet: He simply offers new recruits more attention and direction than they are currently getting. Each month Bashaw meets individually with his 21 advisors to discuss their business plan. In addition, Bashaw takes his team on two trips each year — team-building and practice-management retreats, if you will.
Check out the results: Three of his recent recruits from major wirehouses had less than $500,000 in production. But since joining Bashaw's team, one of them has tripled his production over three years, while the other two have doubled production in less than two years. “Underperforming wirehouse advisors are my bread-and-butter,” he says. Yes, indeed.
Bashaw acknowledges that his firm couldn't have grown the way it has without his full-time compliance team. The team, three Series 8-holders, including himself, meets every Monday morning to discuss compliance issues. “I couldn't operate at this level nor would I have the courage to bring on new guys without them,” he says. His outlook on the increased compliance measures across the industry stems from his father's motto (who was an artillery officer in the U.S. Army): “You don't worry about the bomb over your head, it's the one that lands in your foxhole that you should worry about.”
— Halah Touryalai
Firm: RBC Dain Rauscher
Years as BOM: 16
Complex AUM: $7.25 billion
Branch AUM: $2 billion
Guiding Principal: Do the right thing.
Few people can take on the responsibilities that come with managing the largest complex a firm has to offer. But after being in the business for nearly 30 years, Mike Bristow has enough confidence and experience to do just that. He manages RBC Dain Rauscher's largest complex: The Denver Tech complex, a region with over $7 billion in assets under management, 102 financial advisors in seven offices and two satellite offices.
Bristow was a branch director (RBC's term for branch manager) when he joined RBC Dain Rauscher in 2000. He's been at the helm of the Denver area since the firm implemented a complex-type structure two years after that. (Because of its size, Bristow is a nonproducing supervisor.)
The biggest challenge, he says, is “keeping all the moving parts together.” His reps make up the basics of those moving parts, so he does his best to keep on top of their game by acting as their coach and problem-solver. “Brokers are a different breed. The business they're in is a food chain, so they are type-A aggressive individuals and that's who I'm dealing with,” he says. He spends about a third of his time with reps and six branch directors helping them develop new strategies, finding answers to their problems or just having casual chats.
Like most people in a supervisory role, Bristow does mention the importance of mastering compliance procedures. His compliance staff is made up of two assistant complex managers, an administrative complex manager and one operations manager. “I know some people feel a rage about the increased compliance, but I've been in the business for a long time and I feel I do it the right way,” he says. He also credits his team's abilities, “From advisors to [sales assistants], we've got a great crew of people in place. And my compliance officers, they're paid to worry,” he laughs.
Firm: Smith Barney
Location: New York, NY
Years as a BOM: 33
Branch AUM: $13 billion
Guiding Principle: Be consistent and check your ego at the door.
Al Kirschner — or Big Al, as he is known around Smith Barney — knew he wanted to be a branch manager when he first got started in the brokerage business. He worked as a broker for four years so he could land a branch office manager job. “I liked the idea that you can help people, and share in their success, and broaden the scope of your influence,” Kirschner says. That was 33 years ago. Today, Kirschner's New York branch office consistently ranks among Smith Barney's top-producing branches. (It was No. 3 in 2005.)
Kirschner seems to exemplify the father-figure branch manager of yore: “As far as my brokers are concerned, I try to see each one of them every day — each one of the 94,” he says. “That doesn't mean that I have to talk to them, but I do try to say hello,” he says. That constant contact, and his long years in the business, means Kirschner knows everyone by name.
And vice versa. “You know you've got a good manager when brokers in other branches know his name,” says one of Kirschner's brokers, Jeff Gerson. “He makes everyone feel good. That's important. This is a high stress job,” he says, adding, “A good manager can be a reason for you to stay at a firm.”
But Kirschner has changed with the times, too. Like most branch managers, Kirschner takes a lot more care reviewing business these days — about 15 percent of his time is spent on compliance. He also has to be knowledgeable about a much wider variety of products and stay on top of new technology. But the bulk of his job is still focused on resolving both business or client and personal problems for brokers, while recruiting is mostly done after hours, he says.
Big Al attributes his success as a branch office manager to consistency, sincerity and energy. “What I say is exactly what I believe,” he says. But he gives credit where credit is due. “I'm blessed with some great brokers,” he adds.
— Kristen French
Firm: Raymond James & Associates
Location: Farmington Hills, Mich.
Years as a BOM: 14
Branch AUM: $1.3 billion
Guiding Principle: Respect and professionalism at all times.
It is evident from the first few minutes of conversation with Al Paulikas that his branch and his brokers come first. In true managerial fashion, talking about himself and his accomplishments is not easy for Paulikas, who started out as a broker but liked the idea of mentoring and coaching better after a stint as an assistant manager.
“I enjoyed working with people so much I thought I could do a good job,” he says. So did management at Raymond James, who made him manager of the Farmington branch when the firm bought Paulikas' employer, Roney & Co., in 1999. Today, he oversees 25 advisors with a combined $1.3 billion in assets, one of the largest branches at Raymond James & Associates and among the top five in production and profitability. He says the firm does primarily investment management and financial planning. Roughly 65 percent of the branch's business is fee-based wrap accounts, and the rest is transactional, he says.
Paulikas' success as a manager is also due to his skills as a recruiter. Last year he convinced the largest producer at Edward Jones in Michigan to join his branch; he also nabbed two million dollar-plus producers from Wachovia and Morgan Stanley, he says. Whether he's dealing with a big producer or trainee, says Paulikas, the age-old philosophy we all learned as kids is still his motto: Treat everybody the way you'd like to be treated.
And despite ramped up regulatory activity, Paulikas says he still enjoys his job, even though some of his duties have changed. He says compliance has decreased the amount of time he spends coaching and training (an assistant manager handles most of that). But he still considers staying in touch with his reps as his top priority: “I try to grab a broker every time I go to lunch, to talk and find out what's going on with them,” he says. And if they want to talk, he's there to listen; all they have to do is walk to his office. “I have an open-door policy, so they're welcome to come in and talk about anything.”
— John Churchill