Knowledgeable. Dedicated. Talented. Enthusiastic.
These are just a few of the descriptions others apply to our winning brokers. For the 20th consecutive year, Registered Representative honors 10 of the industry's finest reps based on their superior performance at work and in their hometowns.
Read about their business philosophies and their personal commitment to family and community. The stories reveal that our special reps have one ability in common-they juggle well.
Kent Baker, Merrill Lynch, Leawood, Kan. Kent Baker believes in the power of investing. He remembers one year investing 180,000 dollars on marketing campaigns, computers and paychecks. "It was like buying seed for a farm," says Baker, who has spent his entire 15-year career as a financial consultant with Merrill Lynch in Leawood, Kan. "I was accelerating my growth curve."
Today, he has three full-time assistants and a fourth he shares with another producer. His business is showing impressive returns: 1.2 million dollars in production in 1999 and 175 million dollars in assets under management. About 62 percent of his production is fee business, and he oversees two dozen 401(k) plans.
Baker says his only regret is that he didn't invest earlier. "In hindsight, I should have gone out and hired everybody at once, bought four computers and borrowed the money to make it happen," he says.
Among Baker's best investments: the people who help him run his diverse business, Kristi Roberts and Mark Munsen (both registered), Juli Fox and Patty Daniels.
Although he is recognized as an authority in estate planning (he has taught courses at corporate headquarters) and retirement rollovers, his practice encompasses a broad range of services: asset management, tax minimization, mortgages and loans, and insurance products.
And Baker leans heavily on his staffers. "Yesterday, I had nine separate appointments for quarterly client reviews," Baker says. "I run my business like my doctor runs his, with multiple examination rooms. Somebody else goes in and fills out the chart, preps the client and has the initial discussion. Give me five minutes with their file, and I'm ready to go."
The professionalism of his staff also gives him the freedom to travel around the country meeting with clients, many of whom are professional football players.
How did that happen? "I saw a professional athlete walk into our office once and he was assigned to the broker of the day. I just shook my head," he remembers. But it gave him an idea.
Baker decided to send personalized letters to every player on the Kansas City Chiefs football team (addressed to the player and his wife at the stadium's street address). "I also found out if they had kids and what their ages were, and then I ran college-cost illustrations for them at the father's alma mater."
That marketing campaign brought in two or three NFL players, and the referrals have multiplied. "If we get a referral at 10 o'clock in the morning, there's a gift and a card out in the mail by noon," Bakersays.
In March 1999, Baker flew to Indianapolis to meet with a referred prospect and returned home with a briefcase full of stock certificates and a brand new client. "She has three local brokers in Indianapolis, and not one of them does financial planning," he says.
Baker's not afraid to inject himself into a client's financial life-he even makes sure they're receiving frequent-flier miles. "The harder I've worked and the more money I've put into my business, the more successful I've been," he says.
When he's not working, playing with his 5-year-old twins or enjoying his wife of 18 years, Baker volunteers with the Shawnee Community Services food pantry, the Lloyd Siebert Community Pantry and other local programs. He feels the need to give back.
"The success we've experienced is not normal, and I recognize that," he says.