Roger Christlieb, a planner in Bothell, Washington, is new at NEXT Financial, broker/Dealer of the Year in Division II, having joined the company in May 2002. His defection from First Union Securities (now Wachovia Securities) came as a result of his own beliefs on investing. "I didn't agree with some of the ideas they put forth," he says, explaining that what Wachovia touted as good investment ideas based on their research he considered more like opportunities to generate commissions. "They could be viewed either way," he concedes, but his discomfort increased when Wachovia "cut my payout." NEXT, he points out, "offers quite a bit more based on production."
Now that he's there, he likes the diversity of information he can use to track companies, and the fact that NEXT does not, as a company, render investment advice. "They won't be in situations like the Merrills and the Smith Barneys that are getting their lunches handed to them right now," he says.
For Thomas McLean, a planner in Pittsford, New York, it was the bear market that brought him to NEXT. "I do comprehensive financial and estate planning, and one of the things that kept my clients with me was technology. I offer my clients consolidated reports over and above the printed generic brokerage statements." He does this, he says, so that they won't look at one particular investment rather than the whole picture. Other B/Ds, he says, could not provide him with the tools to do this, because in this market "the last thing they'll do is spend money." He'd left one B/D he'd outgrown to go with another three years ago that had promised him the ability to offer those consolidated statements. It was a wirehouse, he says, that offered him the opportunity to come in and create a prototype for financial planning that would then be implemented at the wirehouse's other branches. "I was there almost three years," says McLean, "and they didn't even have a client data system. Something they promised me was [already] in place when I went there [still] wasn't in place three years later."
At NEXT, however, rather than being caught up in the bureaucracy of a large firm, the people on the NEXT committees that evaluate and recommend products and technology "are actually users." So they understand McLean's needs and give him what he feels he must have to service his clients properly.
Caroline Egbelu of GreatStates Financial Group Inc. in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is also happy to have joined NEXT. "In the world today," she says, "you have to have a balanced life and a caring organization. You need to be in a group where you can feel supported and share information." NEXT gives her that, she says, as well as offering her easy access to its president and other executives at the top of the organization.