From the April 2006 issue of Boomer Market Advisor • Subscribe!

Advisor of the Year Finalists

We knew starting out that deciding on the Boomer Market Advisor of the Year was going to be tough, but no one on the selection committee realized just how tough. We argued for hours over the likes of Don Patrick, managing director of the Integrated Financial Group, who flew supplies to devastated regions of the Gulf Coast, or Peter Burton, principal with Burton/Enright Group, who rebuilds churches in the former Soviet Bloc. Almost every entry we considered had the same overriding characteristic - helping people - through the advisory practices they've built and charitable endeavors they undertake.

After far too much pizza and black coffee, the decision has been narrowed. Finalists Greg Carlson, Erin Botsford and John Schneider were all chosen for their creativity, enthusiasm and forward thinking in preparing clients for the largest wealth transfer in American history - one that began at midnight last December 31st.

We'll announce our winner in the upcoming May issue. In the meantime we spoke with all three about what makes them unique and what it takes to succeed in the boomer demographic. They're at the top of their game and ready to share what they know.

Greg Carlson


Greg Carlson hasn't forgotten the value of hard work and discipline he learned growing up on the plains of western Minnesota, and it's reflected in his management style. A strong belief in the purely passive approach led Carlson to acquire $600 million in assets under management and three offices in the Minneapolis area. Even more impressive, Carlson's practice is one of the top performing partners with Dimensional Fund Advisors, the Chicago-based firm famous for its academically sound approach to investing and its Nobel Prize-winning fund directors. As we noted in Carlson's September cover story, just getting in with the firm is tough; being one of the top performing advisory practices they work with - even tougher.

"Our boomer clients are playing it fast and loose, and this is what we're thinking about as we plan ahead," Carlson says. "We're putting a new Customer Relationship Management system in place to make sure we're reaching out to our clients in the most effective way possible. We want to continue to expand, but our client retention rate is just as important to us, and making use of leading edge technology certainly helps."

In addition to managing millions of dollars of other people's money, Carlson has taken leadership roles in a number of organizations, including Minnesota Center for Philanthropy, St. Olaf College and the TIAA-CREF Institute.

Erin Botsford


To say Erin Botsford had it rough is an understatement; Oliver Twist is more like it. After the unexpected death of her father when she was 11 years old, Botsford faced economic hardship and outright destitution more than once during her formative years. Anything she's set out to do she's had to do herself, which explains her drive and overwhelming success in what is still very much a male-dominated industry. By overwhelming success we mean $425 million in assets under management, offices in Atlanta and Dallas, and an average client net worth of between $5 million and $8 million. Licensed since 1989, Botsford began preparing for the boomer retirement wave as far back as 1995.

"I initially started out by trying to sell 'me' to my clients, meaning my personality and my style," she says. "When I stopped trying to sell me and started selling our comprehensive and methodical process, that's when our business exploded."

"We serve as a reality check for our boomer clients," she adds. "We believe in a properly allocated mix from a product and strategy standpoint so our clients have lots of legs under them."

But more than anything else, she says, she offers her clients the confidence to retire comfortably - which after hearing Botsford's story, we assume is an easy sell.

John Schneider


John Schneider's a hometown boy, born and bred in Pittsburgh, Penn. His love of the Iron City means he's involved in just about every charitable endeavor and received every local award possible. The only problem we could find is his pride in the local NFL team. With $600 million in assets under management and offices in Pittsburgh and neighboring town of Greensburg, Schneider says he has the infrastructure in place to be a $1 billion dollar firm in the not-too-distant future.

"In order to hit that billion AUM mark, we have to have the revenue stream, the economies-of-scale, high-end technology and a high-end staff to get there," Schneider explains. "I feel we've finally reached that point."

Schneider proudly points to an eight-year track record of money management success, which he says is extremely important to his boomer clients.

"Boomers are looking for the use of technology and accountability on the performance side," he says. "The previous generation of clients - the 'Millionaire next door' types - didn't care as much about a track record. Now, new clients are coming in specifically because we've performed so well."

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