From the November 2007 issue of Boomer Market Advisor • Subscribe!

November 1, 2007

The 2007 Broker/Dealer Excellence Award Winner

The guitar master strode through the ballroom at a resort in Lake Tahoe, took his place at the stage and began to tune his instrument. The crowd waited patiently, with a few occasional coughs. After pausing for a split-second he adopted an intense look and began to play. As flamenco music filled the air, many in the room who were unfamiliar with (or at least unused to) the genre sat and stared. At the end of the 15 minute performance they erupted in boisterous applause. Not exactly standard fare at a lunchtime meeting of 300 registered reps. But then again, Brecek & Young isn't standard fare.

The reason for the performance? The Folsom, Calif.-based firm bestowed its Legend Award at its annual conference in late August. The award is given to a top rep that has consistently outperformed over the course of his relationship with the broker/dealer. As a surprise, Brecek & Young brought in the family of this year's winner, Dick Rios, for the presentation. And since Rios also happens to love and play flamenco music, the firm asked his guitar teacher to entertain the crowd.

Such is the atmosphere at Brecek & Young, one heavy on family and community. It's been a part of the firm's culture since its founding. Roland Brecek and Hal Young, both formerly in education (one as a school psychologist and the other as a teacher), had their start in financial services by moonlighting, naturally, with 403(b)s. They soon found they were making more money in their part-time jobs than in education, and Brecek & Young Advisors was born. It began as another firm's largest OSJ. In 1996, the office formed its own broker/dealer and started with 75 advisors. They have over 300 today.

"We bring on representatives with different credentials," says Chris Ranney, the firm's chairman and CEO (and -- no surprise -- a former school psychologist as well). "They're CFPs, CLUs, CHFCs, tax professionals. We have some attorneys, and then very experienced individuals who have all the commensurate licenses they need."

But the firm mainly attracts representatives considered to be true wealth managers, those who work with their clients on the entire portfolio: pensions, rollovers, inheritance dollars that might be coming to them, a business they might be selling.

"We attract reps who have a good breadth of experience in those arenas, but also those who can be part of a wealth management team," he explains. "For example, when clients retire, it's critical to make sure that the portfolio is positioned for proper income. That's where the tax professional comes in. The estate plan is where the attorney comes in. Then there are the representatives of Brecek and Young, which are the financial experts."

And they do it while running a clean shop, something that's immediately apparent when researching the firm. Ranney credits Leia Farmer, the firm's chief compliance officer, for strict but flexible oversight. From the top down, compliance is an extremely high priority, and a heavy investment is made to ensure the compliance team has everything it needs to do its job.

"Our priority at the firm to protect and serve," Ranney says. "Protect the representative, protect the client and protect the firm. We work with our reps to work through complicated compliance issues. We have to work, though, within the parameters of FINRA and the SEC and other regulatory authorities. We get the necessary information and then educate the representatives about how to protect themselves and their clients."

This includes ongoing compliance education course through Brecek & Young University (or BYU), whose classes are provided online. Then there are the compliance conference calls.

"We have continual communications that go out from our compliance team," he says. "And it's all in an education mode. We have to stay within the compliance parameters of the regulators, but we have to somehow make that palatable to the representative force."

If you ask about technology the firm employs, get comfortable, because running through the numerous offerings will take awhile. It starts with Albridge Solutions for reporting, a program Ranney calls "very robust and one the representatives love." MoneyGuidePro is offered as a financial planning tool. Forefield offers approved marketing and educational pieces that reps can share with clients. Laser App provides form-filling software. Streetscape and National Financial Services handle the trading and clearing. The firm offers its reps, free of charge, the capability to build their own Web sites. And on and on it goes ...

As for growth moving forward, Ranney says the firm is focusing in two main areas.

"One is organic growth," he says. "The recruiting team is headed by Roland Brecek, and it recruits individual representatives and OSJ offices. But they also are very helpful in assisting our outside OSJ offices in recruiting reps to their firms. We fly prospective reps out here to visit the office and, hopefully, they'll decide to join us. If they do, we provide financial assistance and a transition team. It's a very smooth and efficient process. And that's a more traditional recruiting method. The other area of growth has to do with potential acquisitions. We find out about a broker/dealer that wants to sell, for lack of a better word, and we then can get in to negotiations to see if that would be a good business decision."

But Ranney emphasizes that despite concerted efforts to grow both organically and through potential acquisitions, the firm's goal is to grow at a rate where its excellent service is not compromised. Easily said, but how is it done?

"We're doing a lot of outreach. I visit with the representatives in the key offices on a regular basis. We attend events and openings. We have representatives come here to visit. Our audit team is really great, and they're out there visiting with reps. We have an advisory council member group of 17 reps who we meet with face-to-face twice a year, in addition to our conference calls. So our intent is to be out there meeting with the reps as much as we can to continue the family atmosphere. It's critical to our success."

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