From the December 2008 issue of Research Magazine • Subscribe!

Forging an Independent Path

Anyone who's been in the business for 15 years -- the minimum requirement for our Advisor Hall of Fame nominees -- is a survivor. The ups and downs of market cycles test and refine us, and rookie advisors would do well to seek the counsel and mentorship of brokerage veterans. But the five financial advisors honored in these pages are far more than survivors. They have upheld the finest traditions of our industry and each has done so in his or her own unique way.

Through hard work and superior client service; involvement in the community and giving to others; ethical business practices; pushing the envelope in adopting industry best practices; and critically, though the human touch that fosters relationships with clients -- Chris Sargent, Dan Stanley, Margaret Chow Starner, Zeke Strid and Ira Walker have assumed places of prominence in the advisory world. We hope their stories will inspire you, as they have our distinguished panel of judges.

Many less established financial advisors are questioning how they, like our honorees, will forge a path forward through today's gyrating markets, organizational re-shuffling and fearful, harder to please clients. This is by no means a rhetorical question; it is precisely during these topsy-turvy times that the deck chairs are re-arranged, and some end up doing quite well and others don't make it.

While the experience of our Hall of Fame inductees draws attention to the basics of advisory excellence such as client service, it would be foolhardy not to recognize just how individual a path each one has taken. When the bills have to be paid, you sit alone; when clients are unhappy, the buck stops with you. As the saying goes, "Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan."

There has been quite a lot of failure in the current economic crisis, and much of it can be traced to herd-like behavior by financial firms, many of which levered up at the same time and dangerously de-levered at the same time. (See Janet Levaux's insightful review of Paul McCulley's recent keynote address on the paradox of de-leveraging on page 24).

We are all conditioned by our common American upbringing and living circumstances to think and act in certain ways, and normally this serves us quite well. But with the survival and success of our businesses at stake, some out-of-the-box thinking would be a good thing to encourage and cultivate in these challenging times.

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We are pleased to welcome a new panelist to our popular annual Research Roundtable this year -- our former contributor Moshe Milevsky, who joins veteran panelists John Buckingham, David Dreman and Bob Rodriguez. Also, Moshe's new book -- Are You a Stock or a Bond? -- is featured in this month's book review by Mary Scott. Our editor, Gil Weinreich, has also read the book and offers his own pithy review: "A refreshing look at the fundamental issues facing investors, Are You a Stock or a Bond? belongs on every advisor's shelf and could add value as a gift to clients this holiday season."

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Robert TyndallPublisherrtyndall@researchmag.com

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