Only seven years old, NEXT Financial has won broker/dealer of the year honors for the sixth year in a row, and did it in three different divisions as its rep force has grown. That's quite an admirable achievement. If you ask Gordon D'Angelo, chairman and CEO of NEXT Financial Holdings, the B/D's holding company, why its representatives continually give NEXT such high praise, he'll sum it up in one tidy sentence: "NEXT was built on the premise that reps would have voice, value, and vision."
Since reps own NEXT, they're given free rein to voice their opinions about the direction of the company. NEXT's board of directors consists of OSJs, and they also serve on various committees, which allows them to speak out about such issues as compliance or production, D'Angelo says. While D'Angelo is the main visionary of the B/D, he doesn't work in a vacuum--"the reps and the committees," he says, have to approve the direction he wants to go in. If they give a nod, "that's the direction we dedicate our time and assets to." It's certainly one of the traits that Chad Hoffman of Worth Investments in Marion, Iowa, likes best about NEXT. "If they're going to change a policy, they'll usually ask for the reps' input first," he says. "If reps have a problem with it, they will reevaluate their decision." One of NEXT's biggest strengths, agrees Barbara Wood with Comprehensive Investor Services in Haughton Lake, Michigan, is that "we all have an interest in the well-being of the company." Both Hoffman and Wood also agree that NEXT provides top-notch customer service. "If I have compliance questions or if I need to get something done, NEXT is on it right away," Hoffman says. Adds Wood: "We always get an answer when we call."
NEXT also prides itself on "touching reps in their hometowns," D'Angelo says through monthly coaching calls, a hometown marketing program, and through best practices tours. The coaching calls allow reps to get feedback from an expert on a certain issue, while the marketing program helps reps hone and develop their marketing techniques. It also offers an "advanced" marketing program through a specialized department created by D'Angelo. The program teaches reps how to go after clients in their target market and to develop a vision for their firm. The best practice tours teach reps "how to improve their practices and get a better business sense of what they do," D'Angelo says. NEXT is also developing a business continuation or succession planning platform, which will provide a mechanism to allow reps to purchase other rep's practices in and outside of NEXT as well as a way for reps to sell their own practices.
The combination of all of these service offerings has "played an integral role" in NEXT's growth, D'Angelo says. In 2007, he expects NEXT to hit $100 million in revenue.
But NEXT will be advancing on these fronts without one of its long-time guiding lights--President Jeff Auld. Auld is leaving NEXT to return to his home state of Iowa for what he says are personal reasons. But he's also agreed to take a position with Iowa-based B/D Berthel Fisher, though he will remain a partial owner of NEXT.--Melanie Waddell