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The Lords and (Ladies) of Discipline

It is not an easy time to be a broker. Business is tough, books are deflated, the public is suspicious of Wall Street and clients want to know where Katie's college savings went. And there's that nagging suspicion planted by gloomy pundits that the equity markets won't make any substantial progress for years to come. Yet, in this wretched climate, there are many brokers brokers like the ones selected

It is not an easy time to be a broker. Business is tough, books are deflated, the public is suspicious of Wall Street and clients want to know where Katie's college savings went. And there's that nagging suspicion — planted by gloomy pundits — that the equity markets won't make any substantial progress for years to come.

Yet, in this wretched climate, there are many brokers — brokers like the ones selected for Registered Rep.'s annual Outstanding Broker Awards — who are adding new clients, showing positive returns and generating healthy fees and commissions. They're not doing this by luck or some deal with the devil. They're doing it because they've put an emphasis on the long-term goals of their clients. They avoid the temptation of the quick kill and, perhaps most important, they have developed a winning strategy for their business and have the discipline to stick with it.

There is no single model that works best. The advisors selected by Registered Rep. have all sorts of business models. Some focus on fixed income (Greg Ghodsi of Robert W. Baird, a former bond trader, has specialized in selling bonds to retirees for more than a decade), while some have found success by putting together equity portfolios and earning commissions on trades. Some have chosen their clients from a particular industry and tailored their practice to the common needs of those investors. Some have spent their lives in financial services; others wandered in to start a second career. But they all have learned how to prosper in any kind of market because they created a formula, perfected it and maintained their discipline — no matter how gloomy or euphoric the markets are at any given moment.

“You can't be into instant gratification anymore,” says Matt Oechsli, a consultant with The Oechsli Institute in Greensboro, N.C. (and also a Registered Rep. columnist). You've got to stick to your guns.” Oechsli's specialty is helping advisors succeed in selling to high-net-worth clients, and he emphasizes how important the process of continuous improvement is. Once you have a winning approach — to investing and to dealing with your clients' psychic and financial needs — you're still not home free. “If you expect to be outstanding, you have to be continually committed to improvement, and wire into the psychographics of the market, and your clients,” says Oechsli. “You've got to be better; you've got to raise your game.”

Talk about raising your game. Outstanding Broker Michael Parziale, of Merrill Lynch in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, has grown his practice to $1.04 million in annual production, a feat he attributes to his systematic, goal-oriented approach. Each year, Parziale, a former engineer, sets his plateau benchmarks, surpasses them and then sets new ones. Parziale hits his goals because he is persistent and has strong organizational skills — and, with his engineering training, he leaves nothing to chance. Parziale has developed a 30-page business plan and a 100-page operations manual for himself and his colleagues. By codifying the system, rather than being deluged with ad-hoc decision-making, he is able to maintain a rigid schedule in the office so he can spend the bulk of his time doing what he believes most important: talking with clients.

If you work for a wirehouse or even a small regional firm, no doubt you have heard the lectures about process, especially when it comes to handling well-heeled clients. The lectures are not going to go away, because brokerage management sees the results. “The advisors who are doing fine, for us anyway, are the ones following the wealth management process,” says Karl Leaverton, Northwest regional director of the private client group at RBC Dain Rauscher.

Leaverton says that while production is obviously a factor in rep evaluation — the company retains a special club to recognize producers at above a certain level — management also prizes a commitment to the processes and principles that Dain Rauscher tries to impart in its training seminars. “We've had the vast majority of our brokers attend our wealth management seminars, which we have three times a year,” he says. “We let everyone know that discipline and consistency are the name of the game.”

Over at Edward Jones, Dan Tim, a general principal of sales training in St. Louis, boils it down to something a bit more succinct: How does he counsel advisors to deliver standout service to their clients in this environment? “Work harder,” he says.

Of course, working harder is not very productive unless advisors are working smarter. “A lot of brokers were using magic to be successful five years ago. It wasn't real,” says William McGovern, senior vice president at Raymond James. Now, it's easy to tell the difference between the real brokers and those who were riding the bubble. “If you were doing your job right then, like ideally an outstanding broker would, you might not be in the mess you are now,” says McGovern. “It's great to get to the top, but it's hard to stay on top. Some of those who were at the top weren't that great to begin with.”

Indeed, the three-year bear market has flushed thousands of marginal brokers out of the business. In many cases, these were neophytes who did not adequately prepare their clients for the grim reality of equity markets and failed to provide a cushion of non-equity investments. Registered Rep.'s outstanding brokers took pains to warn their clients about the downside, and many saw customers leave, in search of the hot dot-com. Tom Buck, a Merrill Lynch rep out of Carmel, Ind., always leveled with clients about risk and made sure they understood how markets could turn. “I told clients, ‘Let's position ourselves so we're comfortable if the worst-case happens,” Buck says. “If we position ourselves to capture 21 to 22 percent of an up market, could we stand to be down 12 to 13 percent in a down market?”

Market savvy and a great bedside manner won't make you an outstanding broker if you don't back it up with some good old-fashioned salesmanship. If you can't pick up the phone, run the seminar or network like a fiend, you'll never make it to the top ranks. Bill Griffin, an outstanding broker who works for Bank of America in Dallas, loves this part of the business. He broke into investment advisory eight years ago, and he already has more than $850 million in assets under management. His specialty is serving executives in the energy business — and investing in the sector as well. The core of his practice is 20 extremely high net worth accounts. How did he get them? “Just getting on the phone and pounding,” he says. “That's the way it has to be done. It's hard work, but it has helped set up the success I've had.”

Connecting With Clients

Connecting with a certain kind of client is a common way for brokers to build an outstanding practice. That's what changed Candace Bahr, an independent affiliated with LPL Financial Services, from an ordinary broker to a winner of Registered Rep.'s Outstanding Broker Award. In 1988, Bahr had an epiphany when she was called on to advise a group of widows: These investors (and divorcees and other suddenly single women, too) shared some common financial problems. She did her homework, developed an approach for her target clientele and soon became a go-to expert for single women. “Once people realized this was what I did, the referral business was staggering,” Bahr says.

And you have to be disciplined enough to stick with what you know works, even if it means risking the loss of a client. “If I'm convinced the best route is X, and my clients are convinced it's Y, a large part of the job is explaining to them how to be prudent. Because that's what's needed now,” says McGovern.

Outstanding broker Dennis Smith of J.J.B. Hilliard, W.L. Lyons in Bloomington, Ind., knows this drill well. He says that he discourages clients who seek a quick fix or a sudden change in strategy to jump on a momentary opportunity. If he can't convince them, Smith simply suggests that they might try a different advisor. It's a brave approach — no one wants to lose assets — but a top broker knows that a client that isn't comfortable with his or her discipline is going to leave eventually.

Clearly, brokers who have already built an outstanding practice are in a better position to take this sort of risk. But here's what the experts say: If you want to become an outstanding broker, you need to start behaving like one. “Patience comes from knowing you'll survive, from seeing the future and knowing good things are down the road,” says McGovern. “Some will succumb to the immediate pressures and temptations. The great brokers are the ones who don't.”

The Chosen

If production numbers were the only measure of a financial advisor's performance, awarding Outstanding Broker designations would be a cinch.

But because Rep.'s annual contest takes less tangible factors into account — community involvement, peer respect and coolness under fire, for example — choosing the winners is an arduous undertaking.

This year's crop of winners is diverse and interesting. To be sure, none is a slouch when it comes to production. As you will see in the profiles that follow, each has talents and interests that extend well beyond rainmaking.

Firm: Morgan Stanley
City: New York
Age: “Over 50”
Years as a Rep: 23
Years With Current Firm: 23
Production: $1 million
AUM: $150 million
Mix: 67% asset based, 22% transactional
Specialty: Intergenerational finance
A Family Thing: Glazer's father was an economist and broker. Her husband is a research analyst.
Life Before Entering the Business: Glazer was a professor of early childhood education and psychology.

Outstanding Broker Awards 2003

Carol Glazer: Not the Retiring Type

Imagine, after 22 years, going to a new office with just a pencil, and that's it. This was what Carol Glazer faced after Morgan Stanley's offices in the south tower of the World Trade Center were destroyed in the September 11 attacks.

Complicating matters, Glazer is a resident of Battery Park City, a downtown New York neighborhood near the Twin Towers. As rescue and recovery efforts began, police and emergency personnel rapidly overtook the neighborhood. Residents were prohibited from entering their homes, and Glazer spent several weeks living with her daughter. “My spaces — one was destroyed and one was devastated,” she says. “Emotionally, it was difficult.”

Glazer and her six-person team spent the days following the attacks contacting over 350 clients. She then spent the next several months setting up meetings to start the process of rebuilding and updating client records. It took an entire year before settling into her current office in midtown Manhattan.

Meeting challenges head-on was nothing new to Glazer; she's done it throughout her career, she says. In 1980, when she joined Dean Witter, she says, “Women weren't as easily accepted in this industry.”

Seeing early on that Morgan did not have a fully developed retirement planning department, Glazer seized the opportunity to stand out. She began giving retirement planning lectures at places like Chase Manhattan Bank, Bloomingdales and Allstate, and she created her own retirement-planning database to help support her efforts.

Retirement planning continues to hold her interest. “With affluent people you have a lot of wealth transfer issues,” she says. “It's a little more sophisticated, and it's a lot of fun.”
Ross Tucker

Firm: J.J.B. Hilliard, W.L. Lyons
City: Bloomington, Ind.
Age: 56
Years as a Rep: 18
Years with Current Firm: 18 years
Production: $1,599,456
AUM: $230,000,000
Mix: 40% mutual funds; 20% bonds; 20% insurance and annuities; 15% stocks; 5% managed accounts
Specialty: IRA Rollovers
Spreading the Gospel: Smith says his is a “faith-based practice.” His work in Bloomington ministries and his contributions to missionary programs are the primary focus of his life — including his work. “Every talent and ability I have is a gift from God,” he says. “I don't deserve credit for it.”

Dennis Smith: Faith in the Slow and Steady

Four years ago, when most financial advisors were adding clients faster than they could manage, Dennis Smith, of Hilliard Lyons in Bloomington, Ind., was losing them. In the midst of that booming market, many felt Smith's slow-and-steady approach was outmoded, and they let him know it.

“They were after those more ‘exceptional’ investments,” Smith says. “If people want to be really aggressive, we try to discourage them and, failing that, let them know they might want a different advisor.”

This conservative approach is an extension of the small-town principles on which Smith bases his personal life. And it is paying dividends in the current market. The clients who have stuck with Smith — helping him to production of over $1.5 million — are seeing much the same unspectacular but steady progression in their investments as they did a few years back. In this market, that's not bad.

Smith says one key to his business is knowing not just a client's account, but also what his client's life is really like and what his long-term needs are. “Our clients recognize that we care very deeply,” he says. Further, he seeks clients who share his view that avoiding missteps is a far more important aspiration than finding the flavor-of-the-month investment.

Smith's emphasis on client interaction has paid dividends: His business is almost entirely referral-based, though he claims he's never once asked a client for a referral. “We don't have a business plan. We have a plan for our business to make money,” he says. “We figure that if we just do what's best for our clients, the people we know in our daily lives, it'll all work out.”

So far, so good.

Firm: Merrill Lynch
City: Carmel, Ind.
Age: 49
Years as a Rep: 21 years
Years with Current Firm: 21 years
Production: $4.1 million
AUM: $800 million
Mix: 33% stocks; 25% bonds; 10% funds; 30% managed accounts; 2% insurance
Clients: About 400
Free Time: A former high school football player, Buck has taken a 180-degree turn with his involvement in the Ballet Internationale Board of Indianapolis and the Central Indiana Dance Ensemble. He's even appeared in productions of The Nutcracker.

Tom Buck: Can-Do Teacher

Tom Buck disproves the old adage that those who can't do teach. In two decades with Merrill, his production has grown to over $4 million, and for 11 years he has faithfully passed on his expertise to young brokers through Merrill's training program.

One of his most important lessons involves finding a mode of selling to suit the personality of the rep. “I was horrible at these civic club luncheons, so I quit doing it,” he says. “I found that one-on-one, face-to-face, was when I was at my strongest.”

It's hard to argue with his approach, given his $800 million in assets under management, the core of which he built advising clients on individual retirement accounts in the 1980s.

Indeed, Merrill brokers recognize Buck's gift for the business as well as his ability to make his experience relevant to initiates. “I have 155 financial advisors in my complex,” says Mike Madigan, director of Merrill's advisory division in Indiana. “The best-attended meetings are the ones that feature him.”

In speaking with less experienced advisors, Buck says he stresses the effort necessary to find the best technique. “Let's set out a program — you need to make X number of calls each week, do one seminar every two weeks,” he says. “When I started in the early 80s, I called, and called, and called, and stuck with the discipline.”

At one point in his career Buck took on a management role. But he found the post distracted him from his book and from his personal pursuits, which include ballet. He's on the board of two dance companies and is an avid supporter of his children's dance activities. He has, on occasion, performed, too. “I love dance,” he says. “It's the most athletic thing you could ever imagine.”
David A. Gaffen

Firm: Prudential Financial
City: Lemoyne, Pa.
Age: 54
Years as a Rep: 31 years
Years with Current Firm: 26 years
Production: $2.5 million
AUM: $900 million
Mix: 7% stocks; 75% funds; 1% bonds; 17% managed accounts
What Could Have Been: After graduating from Bucknell, Rohrbaugh was invited to try out with the Baltimore Colts. “I was in training camp for two weeks,” says Rohrbaugh. “Long enough to steal a few T-shirts.”

R. Luke Rohrbaugh: Survival Story

Luke Rohrbaugh knows firsthand that down markets spell opportunity for brokers. He entered the industry in 1973, just before the Dow Jones Industrial Average broke 1,000 — a benchmark it would not see again for 3 years. Over the next 23 months, the Dow lost nearly half its value. Mere survival became the goal of the game.

The inevitable broker shakeout that followed taught Rohrbaugh a couple of valuable, if unpleasant, lessons. For starters, those who can endure the suffering stand to gain the accounts of brokers who can't. Secondly, working hard in a down market is important, but working smarter is even more so.

Three decades later, Rohrbaugh has built a six-person team to cater to the needs of as conservative a client base as you're likely to find: the Pennsylvania Dutch. In responding to the needs of those clients, he has evolved into a specialist of sorts: “We're long term buy and hold,” says Rohrbaugh. “It's just the mindset here.”

However, conservative does not mean sleepy. Christopher Maillie, a former branch manager of Rohrbaugh's, says he has “usually been ahead of the trends — he developed a 401(k) business way before it became fashionable and he was involved with the fee-based business in its infancy.”

Over the years, Rohrbaugh has brought in specialists to help him in these areas. “He does business exactly the right way,” says Maillie. “He's built a great team with a high level of professionalism.”

He relies heavily upon this team to help him keep his clients happy while the boss is out finding new ones. “I don't have the feeling that if I don't do something that it won't get done,” says Rohrbaugh. “It frees me up to be more of a rainmaker.”

Firm: Robert W. Baird
City: Tampa, Fla.
Age: 39
Years as a Rep: 16 years
Years with Current Firm: 6 years
Production: $650,000
AUM: $170 million
Mix: 10% stocks; 2% funds; 60% bonds; 20% managed accounts, 8% insurance
Feedback: “I've been through seven or eight brokers and wasn't satisfied with any of them,” says Ken Ringdahl, one of Ghodsi's clients. “He's been careful to guide me to safer investments, and this has kept me out of some disastrous situations.”

Greg Ghodsi: A Steady Hand

The true measure of Greg Ghodsi's mastery of his clients' financial affairs comes when they die.

“When the inevitable occurs, kids go into a panic,” Ghodsi says. “Then they remember they talked to me and I can tell them what they need to do, which is basically nothing.” That's because Ghodsi and the dear, departed client have worked everything out.

To some, such a discussion sounds morbid. However, for Ghodsi, it's a natural part of a practice with a decidedly gray demographic. Thanks to his days in the bond business, Ghosi's financial-advisory business has skewed heavily toward retirees. The migration from straight bond sales to financial planning was “a natural evolution,” he says. “I had to come up with other services, or I would lose that business.” His business remains bond-heavy, but he sees no problem with that.

According to Ghodsi's clients and his branch manager, Rudy Fernandez, a no-nonsense approach to investment advisory is the earmark of his success. He currently has $170 million in assets under management, a 70 percent improvement from his 2001 number and more than four times his 1996 AUM. In 2002, Ghodsi was one of the firm's top asset gatherers, and he is currently in the top 12 percent of the firm's producers.

“He's a guy I don't have to worry about,” says Fernandez. “He's honest, disciplined and creative in his approach.”

Firm: RBC Dain Rauscher
City: Washington
Age: 45
Years as a Rep: 22
Years with Current Firm: 19
Production: $1,260,000
AUM: $250,000,000
Mix: 40% managed accounts; 20% stocks; 20% bonds; 10% funds; 10% insurance
Specialty: Nonprofit Organizations
Loving the Cause. Nonprofits are often living hand-to-mouth and a financial advisor has to be creative to keep them going. But the rewards are great, says Etergino, especially when you believe in the cause. “It's always a lot easier when you aren't offended by their beliefs,” she says.

Ann Marie Etergino: Profiting from Non-Profits

Ann Marie Etergino actually likes it when her clients are not obsessed with money.

Etergino, who has logged 19 years with Tucker Anthony Sutro (now RBC Dain Rauscher), says nonprofit organizations — typically Washington-based charitable and professional trade organizations — account for more than a third of her business.

Etergino says these organizations rank among her favorite clients because they give her work a purpose that extends beyond mere dollars and cents. “You're dealing with people who are typically passionate about their work,” she says. “It makes you feel good about what you're doing.”

Etergino became the go-to specialist in her office for nonprofit clients, thanks to her ability to connect with such people. “Nonprofits are just benignly looking for guidance,” she says. “Individuals are always second-guessing.”

That said, Etergino is beloved by her more conventional clients. “She's my financial soul mate,” says one. For individuals, her primary focus is on retirement accounts, and she says the experience with nonprofit, institutional clients, which rarely have permanent financial resources, come in handy when dealing with individuals. “You have to use the same prudent procedures,” she says.

But nonprofits are where her heart — and stomach — is: She is renowned for her fretting over her clients' financial well being. “It keeps me up nights,” she says. The worry might not be misplaced, since some of her clients need Etergino's skills just to stay afloat. “When it's that important, I have to do everything I can,” she says.

Firm: LPL Financial Services
City: Carlsbad, Calif.
Age: 50
Years as a Rep: 23 years
Years with Current Firm: 4 1/2 years
Production: $540,000
AUM: $50 million
Mix: 20% mutual funds; 40% annuities/insurance; 40% managed accounts
Client Specialty: Single, divorced and widowed women
Surf's Up at the Office: For Bahr and her employees, work is a day at the beach. Instead of renting space in some office park, Bahr and her husband (and partner) purchased a waterfront home/office in Carlsbad, Calif. where their staff of four can decompress with an occasional walk on the sand. The beach locale is also good for business. “It's a soothing environment, which is important to our clients,” Bahr says.

Candace Bahr: Womanly Advice

In 1988, Candace Bahr had a mini-epiphany when five recently widowed women separately approached her for financial advice. Up to that point, her clients had been mainly men, and Bahr was a bit fearful about being able to meet the particular needs of these new accounts.

The work she put into understanding the needs of those women helped Bahr find her calling: Today, 70 percent of Bahr's clients are single, divorced or widowed women. And she has established the Women's Institute for Financial Education, a non-profit organization dedicated to “helping women in their quest for financial independence.”

“The responsibility you have to these women is incredible,” Bahr says. Many of the women she serves have inherited money or won it via a divorce settlement — but usually come to her with no concrete plans for caring for it.

Over the years, Bahr has structured her practice around the emotional needs of her clients. “Divorce is the number one transition many women will ever make,” says Bahr. “We just want to make it as easy for them as possible.”

From the soothing office environment to the Oprah-like approach of her marketing material (“A Man Is Not a Plan,” is the title of one of her pamphlets), Bahr pays careful attention to the special needs of her women clients.

Lately, Bahr has begun work on a book, tentatively titled, The Truth About Women and Money, to help such women get started. But her focus remains on her practice, she says. After all, that's where it all began.

Firm: Smith Barney
City: Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
Age: 40
Years as a rep: 26
Years with current firm: 25
Production: $2 million
AUM: $300 million
Mix: about half in managed accounts; with the rest split between municipal bonds and energy-related Master Limited Partnerships
Specialty: Managed accounts and fixed income, master limited partnerships
That 70s Show: “Looking back, I'd like to do that period all over again,” Jacobs says. “We were working for Dennis Mooradian [now head of Wells Fargo's financial consultant advisory group]. It went from being one of the lowest-rated E.F. Hutton offices in the system to one of the top offices when we left.”

Tom Jacobs: Steady as He Goes

Tom Jacobs' clients and associates describe his style as leaning towards the conservative. Nearly 30 percent of his business is in municipal bonds — and he says his clients tend to prefer the slow-and-steady approach. That saved his clients the excitement — and devastation — of the Internet stock craze.

But his start in the brokerage business was anything but conservative. In the midst of the late 1970s recession, Jacobs decided to move into the brokerage industry — simply on a lark, he says, after seeing a want ad for new brokers in the classifieds.

“My previous boss must have been prepared when I said I was going to have a career change, because he got a Wall Street Journal out that talked about brokers leaving the business,” Jacobs says. “I took a big gulp, and said, ‘Alright,’ and still went ahead.”

Now, after 25 years, he has a $300 million business, producing $2 million last year. In addition to munis and managed accounts, he puts some of his high-net-worth clients into limited partnerships of pipeline companies, which typically return between seven and nine percent, he says, no matter which direction the capital markets are heading.

“He's a tremendous influence in the office,” says branch manager Lewis Nedelcoff. On days when Nedelcoff is running around putting out fires, he knows there is one place from which he will get no trouble: “There's never a problem with him.”

Jacobs' clients like him for a different reason: “He's not one of these guys always talking about brokerage,” says Dr. Allen Chernick, a cardiologist and client. “He's one of these people who helps people instead of seeing how much money he can gouge out of them.”

Firm: Merrill Lynch
City: Chagrin Falls, Ohio
Age: 40
Years as a Rep: 12 years
Years with Current Firm: 6
Production: $1.04 million
AUM: about $125 million
Mix: 10% stocks; 35% bonds; 30% managed accounts; 20% funds; 5% insurance/annuities
Specialty: Estate planning, trusts, financial planning, mortgages.
Keeping Fit: Some people spend their lunches gorging on burgers. Parziale goes running. Since 1997, Parziale says he's missed his run no more than a handful of times. “I've got to have that hour to do something different,” he says.

Michael Parziale: Partial to Process

Leave it to an engineering guy to turn million-dollar producing into a process.

Merrill Lynch's Michael Parziale has a detailed 30-page business plan and a 100-page operations manual. If aliens kidnapped his entire team, the business would continue to run. “Wanting to build that [business] plan is borne out of being technical,” says Parziale, who has an engineering background.

Parziale's goal since moving his business to Merrill from UBS PaineWebber in 1997, he says, was to move steadily up the ladder of production. Quite: He's now working past the $1.04 million mark. Not content with that, he's tweaking his business plan with the goal of reaching $2 million. The basic gist: Focus on bigger fish while farming out the smaller ones to a junior partner.

The key is in finding out what adds value for each individual client.

“Everybody talks about adding value, but it's a very subtle thing,” he says. “We pretty much all have the same services, the same products. We can all get the same education.”

For Parziale, value means paying extra attention to portfolio reviews with clients and doing constant reassessment of their objectives. “Quarterly calls for some other people can revolve around asking how the dog who had to get his paw fixed is doing,” he says. His clients, meanwhile, receive a full portfolio review prior to those phone calls.

“We go through and reassess — ‘Do you feel comfortable? What can we do to make it more conservative?’”

“He will talk to you until you understand, even if you don't want to understand it,” says client Marti Katz of Cleveland. “He's the most amazing person — he's like a husband, without having to live with each other and aggravate each other.”

Firm: Bank of America
City: Dallas
Age: 35
Years as a Rep: 8 years
Years with firm: 5 years
Production: $3,955,243
AUM: $850 million
Mix: 67% stocks; 20% managed accounts; 10% bonds; 3% funds
Specialty: Energy industry clients
Take It to the Bank: Bill Griffin will have none of this “bank brokers aren't real brokers” talk. “I definitely benefit from the larger organization behind me,” he says. “Every broker needs a platform to support them. They provide as good a one as I can imagine.”

Bill Griffin: Young Gun

Bill Griffin has a lot of energy. Literally.

His business — currently $4 million in production — is based almost entirely in the energy industry. His major clients all work for energy companies, and their portfolios are heavily weighted with stocks and bonds from the industry (with a “liberal” helping of hedge funds mixed in as a diversification measure).

He says this sector focus has been the key to his success. “The interest in my services has increased as I've focused on this market,” Griffin says. “The best way to maintain relationships is to gain the trust of your clients.”

Four years ago when he was just 31, Griffin was just like any other young broker: clawing for new clients while straining to hold onto the old ones he brought with him from J.P. Morgan.

“I had a core group of people, but the majority of my clients just came from getting on the phone and dialing,” he says. “That's the way it has to be done.”

Then he acquired the energy sector focus, and his book started to swell.

The steady stream of high-net-worth prospects the banks send his way has helped as well. A large percentage of his business now comes from 20 specific clients, whom he garnered through referrals from each other.

Part of the secret to keeping these clients is maintaining objectivity. “You have to be diligent in making sure that you're being smart and fair for your client, and not just jumping into the new thing.”

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