From the February 2009 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

February 1, 2009

Future Shock, Under Control

"When this is over, you'll still be running your firm, facing these same challenges." The speaker was Mark Tibergien; the occasion was the December Investment Advisor/Moss Adams Advisor Summit, and the comment was spot on. Not the first time that Mister T. cut to the chase when it comes to this profession, and this industry, of independent advisors. The financial markets and attendant economic crisis has caused a crisis of confidence among independent advisors. You wonder if you've done the right thing by your clients. You wonder if you've done enough. You wonder if all the investing theory you learned was correct. And you're still running your firm, facing the same challenges that are right under the surface of this market volatility that causes you to question yourself.

However, you're not alone. Moreover, there are many of your peers that are thriving despite the roaring bear market and the deepening recession. In the best tradition of the independent advisor charisma, we decided to ask five leading advisors to share their wisdom with us, especially as it pertains to the five major challenges that advisors are beginning to face today and all will face in the near future. That's because, in our judgment, these peers of yours saw the challenges ahead of time, planned to co-opt those challenges, and then implemented processes that accomplished their goals.

Whether it's building a firm that dominates a local area, like Tim Kochis and his partners at Aspiriant; or building cutting-edge portfolios that shrug off a recession, like Lou Stanasolovich at Legend Financial; or learning how to serve an underserved client niche in an increasingly diverse nation, like Mindy Ying at Pillar Pacific Capital Management; or building a process that uses technology to make a practice--and its owners--the most efficient they can be, like Greg Friedman of Friedman & Associates and Junxure; or becoming the employer of choice through careful vetting of new employees and nurturing existing ones, like Tom Muldowney of Savant Capital Management, your peers are out there making a difference. Our story sharing their insights begins on page 32.

Sure, his "clients are pissed off," as Mr. Friedman admitted in mid-January in a visit to New York, and recalled the Golden Era of about, well, "pre-mid-08" when "we had good problems like how to manage growth," and when he, and you, "had the luxury of inefficiency." Those days are over. Also over are the days when clients implicitly trusted you. You can thank Bernie Madoff for that, and as Mark Tibergien points out in a special feature story this month, it's your responsibility to help restore that trust.

And you should feel confident about the future. As Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, who knows something about hard times, wrote :

People are like stained-glass windows.

They sparkle and shine when the sun is out,

but when the darkness sets in,

their true beauty is revealed

only if there is a light from within.

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