David Harris, Salomon Smith Barney, Houston David Harris got his business off to a fast start, which is remarkable considering the two strikes against him-the time and the place. His first full year as a broker was 1987, the year of the crash. And he knew almost no one in Texas, after having moved from a small town in Michigan. "I came to Houston for the weather, the major league sports and major league arts," he says.
Harris picked Drexel Burnham Lambert because of the independence the firm gave its reps. He chose to build his book by cold calling. "Door to door wasn't practical," he remembers. "I couldn't network because I didn't know people, and at that time, I wasn't comfortable with public speaking, so I got on the phone and introduced myself." It helped that he wasn't offended when people said "no."
Opening more than 200 accounts his first year, Harris was Drexel's top rookie nationwide. Going for the quick commission wasn't his style, however. He saw the poor market as an opportunity to build relationships.
"I didn't run and hide as some brokers did. All that clients wanted was for brokers to continue to do their job," Harris says. "Many of the people I met on cold calls are my clients and my good friends today."
He also discovered that many of his first clients had investments elsewhere. They began consolidating their accounts with him, and his assets under management doubled in 1988.
Harris believes getting to know the client is paramount. "No one size fits all," he says. "You have to get a handle on what the client wants and needs, then educate the client so that the two meet in the client's mind."
His investment approach is conservative. "Many of my clients already have wealth. Although they take risks in their business, they understand that it's not prudent to take investment risks," he says. "And they know that I don't enjoy gambling."
With 1.2 million dollars in production in 1999, about a third of Harris' business is in managed accounts. He is a member of Salomon Smith Barney's Chairman's Council. Harris doesn't work alone. Seven years ago, he and Lewis Metzger formed a 50-50 partnership. They manage about 700 million dollars together.
Harris now has deep roots in the community. Past president of his synagogue, he is on the boards of the Anti-Defamation League and the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America, where he also serves as patient liaison officer.
He gets involved in his clients' charities, and once arranged for Wolfgang Puck to be celebrity chef for a client's fund-raiser. Clients from several states joined him just this past month for the MS 150, a 180-mile bike ride to Austin, Texas, to raise money for multiple sclerosis.
A professional jazz pianist before becoming a rep, he has kept music as part of his life. He recorded a CD of his original compositions, "The View from Morning," and he sits on the board of JazzHouston, which sponsors an annual jazz festival.
An admitted Francophile, he helps clients plan trips to France. On one occasion, Harris, Metzger, a client and their respective wives traveled to France together. He's been married 18 years and has a 5-year-old daughter.
How does he find time for everything? Working with a partner helps, he says. "And I don't sleep much. I don't like to waste time."