From the December 2015 issue of Research Magazine • Subscribe!

2015 Advisor Hall of Fame

Welcome to Research magazine's Advisor Hall of Fame, now in its 25th year. This eagerly anticipated annual feature has become a benchmark of excellence in our industry and an example to all of the rewards that result from effort and integrity.

Candidates who pass our rigorous screens have served a minimum of 20 years in the industry, have acquired substantial assets under management, have demonstrated superior client service and have earned recognition from their peers and the broader community for the honor they reflect on their profession.

Preliminary judging in the contest was by Research magazine Editor in Chief Janet Levaux and Executive Editor Kenneth Silber. Final judging was performed by a distinguished panel of experts: Mark Elzweig, principal, Mark Elzweig Company, Ltd.; Michael Finke, professor, Texas Tech University; and Jon Henschen, president, Henschen & Associates.

This year, four winners were chosen, whom you will meet and hear from in the following pages.

Robert Balentine

Chair-CEO | Balentine
Home Base: Atlanta
Age: 58
Career Began: 1979
AUM: $2 billion
Clients: 215
Civic and Charitable Affiliations: Boards: Georgia Prevention Project, Garden Conservancy; Founding president, Southeastern Horticultural Society; Founder, Southern Highlands Reserve

What's your practice niche?

The high-net-worth market, especially entrepreneurs in transition — people selling their businesses — with a geographical focus on the Southeast. Average client size is $16 million; our minimum is $5 million. Clients are looking for a conflict-free model where the world is their oyster and we can pursue opportunities wherever we see them.

Portfolio construction:

Our investment philosophy has always been a focus on loss avoidance, managing risk ahead of return and understanding what the client is seeking from their portfolio. We serve as an outsourced chief investment officer (OCIO). We aren't about beating the benchmark, but we’re about trying to beat the client's goals. The policy statement we develop establishes ranges for each asset class, and the client delegates authority to us to rebalance among asset classes. We group these around common risks using five building blocks: cash, safe assets, market risk, manger's skill and private capital.

We focus on diversifying the portfolios across different asset classes and then tactically rebalance to capture mispricings. Finally, we implement our advice using an index fund, for example, or by hiring an active manager.

Client service style:

Ours is very definitely a high-touch practice, not only knowing the client intimately but knowing their spouse and children. We spend a lot of time educating parents on responsible financial stewardship. We’ve even had a psychologist come in and meet with the clients to talk about how to deal with their children about money. Our role is not just to be the investment advisor but in some instances, to act as, kind of, the family therapist.

We have a corporate Facebook page, LinkedIn pages and our CIO uses Twitter a lot. The tweets tend to be investment-heavy; for example, our decision to reduce equity exposure over the last couple of months. We do a monthly electronic newsletter that talks about investment themes and what's going on in the firm. Our signature research piece is an annual capital markets forecast.

Biggest challenge you’ve overcome:

Having to start over again was the biggest career challenge. In 2002, we sold 80% of the equity in [my first firm] Balentine & Co. to Wilmington Trust. In fall 2008, when I was chairman-CEO of Wilmington's investment management business, the guy that ran Wilmington's bank business told me that the bank was in good shape. But the next day I had to sign a TARP [Troubled Asset Relief Program] application! I realized that the banking guy was lying through his teeth.

When the wheels started coming off [during the financial crisis], I had the investment business keyed up to take it private; but ultimately, the board didn't want to. I realized that I needed to go find something else to do. So in late 2009, I quit and started over. That was hard at age 52. But because I know what it feels like to go through that type of transition, a lot of entrepreneurs are attracted to working with us.

My biggest personal challenge was in 1987, when two months after my father and I left Merrill Lynch to start Balentine & Co., he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. That wasn't in our business plan.

Philanthropy and its role in business:

I think we ought to give back to the communities from which we earn a living. Not only does it feel good but it gives you a way to get your name out and obtain exposure. And business is certainly driven from our own investment in non-profit boards and supporting the organizations that we care about. Fostering community engagement is one reason people like to work here.

Business advice to other advisors:

This business has become a lot harder, but it's got to be the most rewarding business there is: You get to help people realize their dreams, fund the organizations they care about, educate their grandchildren. If advisors don't build relationships with their clients’ children, they’ll have a rude awakening when the clients die and the children hire another advisor.

Your reputation is everything. It takes years to develop, and can be undone by doing a stupid thing. Do what's right for your client, and you pay them forward. When I started out at 21, my dad told me: “Worry about your client first and yourself second; and in four or five years, you’ll have people knocking on your door wanting to do business with you.” It's about working hard, keeping your skirts clean and helping people. Eventually it comes back.

On being chosen for the Advisor Hall of Fame:

I hope this is tangible recognition that I’ve tried to look after clients and help the industry for the last 30 years. Ours is a very noble profession, and this is tremendous recognition of something that I’m passionate about.

Nick Bapis

Partner-Managing Director
The Bapis Group at HighTower Advisors
Home Base: Salt Lake City
Age: 72
Career Began: 1968
AUM: $950 million
Households: 200
Civic and Charitable Affiliations: Greek Orthodox Diocese of America; Board: Greek Church of Greater Salt Lake City; past president, Greek Orthodox Community of Salt Lake City; past president, Salt Lake City Country Club; former U.S. Army Infantry Officer

What's your practice niche?

High-net-worth families. I started 44 years ago by cold calling. As time progressed, I accumulated families and they accumulated wealth. Now we work with their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. We grew with the families, and they grew with us.

Portfolio construction:

We construct a portfolio model that's 45% large cap value, 45% large cap growth and 10% special situations. We also use outside specialists for separately managed portfolios in, say, large cap value or fixed income.

Client service style:

We have an emphasis on client service. I’ve always been available for the clients. We gradually transitioned from being transactional to giving advice and financial planning; so now clients are relying on my opinion on many financial [issues] other than equities or fixed income. I try to keep in contact with the clients as much as possible. If I see an article that might pertain to one of them, I’ll send it out. We meet with the higher-net-worth clients at least every six months, in many cases every quarter.

My son [Michael Bapis, partner-managing director] and the staff in our New York office put out a newsletter. We also have six or seven luncheon seminars a year at the country club here, where we invite economists or money managers to speak. Afterward, we contact the attendees to see if there's anything we can help them with.

Biggest challenge you’ve overcome:

My biggest challenge was getting hired. When I was working in the accounting department of Kennecott Copper and evenings at a sports retailer, the store owner, who was an investor, said I ought to become a stockbroker. My finance teacher at college told me the same thing: there was no ethnic Greek broker in Salt Lake City, so maybe I should become a broker, he said. I interviewed with eight of the nine brokerage firms here and got turned down by all eight because they wanted you to bring in family money — and we didn't have any: my dad was a laborer at Kennecott.

So I bugged the guy at the ninth firm for about seven weeks until he got tired of me and hired me — providing I’d work in the back office in New York for a year. I did and then went through the training program. When I came back to Salt Lake City, I started to build up a clientele.

Philanthropy and its role in business:

Most of my higher-net-worth clients were referrals through the town of Salt Lake City and the country club where I play golf. I never solicited anybody or pushed people. But if they asked me and wanted to meet with me, I would. Other clients were from the Greek Orthodox community. People got to know me and asked if I could help them out. If they liked it, they kept staying; and if they didn't, they moved on.

Business advice to other advisors:

It's a tough business but an easy business. Make sure you do what you told the client you’ll do and in a timely manner. First of all, put the client's best interests before yours and have an organized schedule of work every day. If you’re a new person in the business, maybe you need to join a team and move upward that way. Too many financial advisors look at this work as a short-term thing. They come in and try to make a quick dollar. But it's not a short-term thing.

On being chosen for the Advisor Hall of Fame:

This is a tremendous honor. I’ve worked hard to get here, and now there's a little bit of a recognition payback, which is very nice. I appreciate it very much.

Judith McGee

Chair-CEO | McGee Wealth Management/Raymond James Financial Services
Home Base: Portland, Oregon
Age: 72
Career Began: 1975
AUM: $423 million
Households: 749
Civic and Charitable Affiliations: Boards: Rice Museum of Rocks & Minerals, Multnomah County Library Foundation; member, Oregon Business Council's Poverty Task Force

What's your practice niche?

Mostly professionals — doctors, lawyers, engineers, small business owners. The practice is 60% women, and a lot of them are single, high-earning professionals. We have a pretty good sampling of couples who aren't married. It's a consultative practice, all about making the client's life work.

Portfolio construction:

We have a team that manages internally, and we run off models that are almost totally discretionary management. What's in those models is a mix — anything from individual stocks and bonds to securities such as Vanguard ETFs. We measure passive and active against each other. We’re very aware of expense ratios and internal fees. I tell clients, “We have one foot on the gas, one foot on the brakes and both hands on the steering wheel!”

Client service style:

We’re very high on personal connection. I’ve always felt that you get paid for the amount of service you give, and that's been part of our code. Every Monday we email a report on what our thinking is regarding the previous week, what occurred in the markets and what we expect for the coming week. We have in-person planning meetings; and for clients who aren't in town, we do computer screen-share, where they can see all the data. We also Skype with clients and have brief “Touch-and-Go” meetings for updates and answering questions. We also have a LinkedIn presence and a Facebook page. There's been a big emphasis on education to teach people skills to build money muscle.

Efficiency is more than a priority! My daughter [Linette Dobbins, president-CCO], in the practice for 28 years, is all about technology and processes. I really like attention to detail and want to make sure that we haven't missed anything.

Biggest challenge you’ve overcome:

In 1988, both my parents died at age 65, within two months of each other. Soon after, I had surgery for an ovarian tumor, and they found I had breast cancer. I had a double mastectomy. Then I got divorced. Everything happened within just a little over a year. Earlier, my 20-year-old brother was killed on a Navy reconnaissance flight over North Vietnam. All this deepens your ability to understand what goes on in other people's lives and what they might be going through. It lets you address very difficult things with compassion so that you can be helpful.

Philanthropy and its role in business:

Because we’ve been blessed with some success, part of what we’re about is giving back. For me, it's more of a social commitment than marketing for the business. It does help build our reputation as to who we are as a firm, but I don't do these things because I’m out looking for clients. I do them because I want to make the world a better place. Every employee is given money and eight hours of paid time to volunteer wherever they choose. This year we’re building a house for a veteran under Habitat for Humanity. The whole firm is donating time and money.

Business advice to other advisors:

This is such a caring and helping profession. We’re part analyst and part care-giver. It takes skills to be helpful, so continuing education is important — knowing what you’re doing and not just knowing about it but being disciplined in your education and attitude. Be absolutely reliable and trustworthy. Do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it. It's important to be connected to other people in the community that can be helpful to you. And you need to participate in the industry in [activities] that will broaden your understanding of the profession. If a young person can attach to a firm or to advisors that are willing to care about them enough to help them grow, that's the best of all worlds.

On being chosen for the Advisor Hall of Fame:

It's huge. It's humbling. And it's going to be cherished because it says that my life has meaning in a very concrete way. Every day is a challenge. I have a very low boredom level. So if it weren't challenging, I’d probably find some other mischief to get into.

Ronald Sadoff

Founder | Sadoff Investment Management
Home Base: Milwaukee
Age: 75
Career Began: 1978
AUM: $1,050 billion
Clients: 614
Civic and Charitable Affiliations: Founder-president, Milwaukee College Prep, a four-campus inner-city charter school

What's your practice niche?

Our investing style is our niche. Minimum account size is $1 million, and they vary from retirement plans to foundations to corporations to trusts to individuals. Our easy-to-understand style uses a methodology of identifying stocks and industries likely to outperform the market. I started to develop it when I was in college. Over the years, the niche grew as I explained to potential clients my unique investing strategy, which is low risk and focused on performance.

Portfolio construction:

We do our own portfolios, and there are two main styles. We stay pretty much fully invested in major bull markets, and we highlight when to get out. In terms of stock selection, our methodology is distinct: we line up all the stocks in an industry — automobiles, drug companies, housing and so on — to see if certain price trends have taken place. We track over 100 indicators. We’re looking for industries that have been in a major sharp downtrend — like banking stocks were from the 2007 peak. Generally, we buy those stocks and hold them for the whole bull market cycle.

Client service style:

When a client comes in, we sit down with them and detail our style and strategy. Client communication is very important. All clients can call us whenever they like, and we promptly get back to them. We always touch base with them once or twice a year, and we put out a monthly client newsletter. We view the clients as family. Our holiday, birthday and anniversary cards feature paintings I’ve done, and many clients have told me that they save them because they like my artwork.

Biggest challenge you’ve overcome:

The only time in my business career that I had to bounce back was when high tech stocks were running at several hundred times earnings, but we didn't have that industry since what we buy are [stocks] coming out of a long-term downtrend. The whole investment community believed that high tech was the future, but we didn't have those stocks. That was a rough period. But we stuck to our style and strategy. High tech went up but then took a nasty tumble — and our style and strategy caught on again.

Philanthropy and its role in business:

Nineteen years ago I started a charter inner-city school, and today we’ve got four campuses with nearly 2,000 children. That hasn't impacted my business; it's just my giving money to a great cause. But what I do look for is performance, whether it's with clients’ funds or my charitable giving. I want to see these kids excel, and we follow and track them for years afterward.

Business advice to other advisors:

This is a fun business because it incorporates everything [important]. You have to be able to distinguish yourself and be different from the competition. Most of the time people will [opine] that they’re either positive or negative, bullish or bearish. But the next question you have to ask is: What would cause you to change your opinion? That's essential.

You can't be in business and be correct in all the decisions you make. Everybody has failures once in a while. But what makes you is how you get up and get back on your feet again. You need that bounce-back facility.

On being chosen for the Advisor Hall of Fame:

It's a nice frosting on the cake. To be honored for what you’ve been doing with the same style and strategy for about 40 years is very rewarding. We’ve outperformed the S&P 500 over a long period of time. So it's a nice congratulations.

Honorable Mentions

In response to the high quality of many applications in the 2015 Hall of Fame contest, Research has created a new category of “Honorable Mentions,” recognizing advisors who provided applications of notable merit and considerable promise for future Hall of Fame contests.

Randy Carver

Carver Financial Services/Raymond James Financial Services

Mentor, Ohio

Samuel W. Spanos

Spanos Group of Raymond James

Beaver, Pennsylvania

Steven Dimitriou

Mayflower Advisors, LLC/Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network


Laurie Kamhi

HighTower Advisors

New York City

Thomas E. Weisenfels

Merrill Lynch Wealth Management

Wilmington, Delaware

Teri Harmon

Wells Fargo Advisors

Seal Beach, California

Winners, 1991–2015

Here follows the full list of Advisor Hall of Fame winners, past and present. Winners from previous years remain entrants in the Hall of Fame and need not reapply in subsequent contests.

Lewis Altfest | Altfest Personal Wealth Management

Charles Andriole | Wachovia Securities

Alexander P. Armour | Davenport & Co.

Bruce Bagge | Gruntal & Co.

Kent Baker | Merrill Lynch

Robert Balentine | Balentine

Nick Bapis | The Bapis Group at HighTower Advisors

L.H. Bayley | David A. Noyes & Co.

Roy Belknap | Shearson Lehman Brothers

David Bendix | The Bendix Financial Group/Royal Alliance

Drew Bilotta | Raymond James & Associates

Brenda Blisk | Spire Investment Partners

Morris B. Blumenthal | Prudential Securities

Lyman H. Bond | Prudential Securities

Steve Booren | LPL Financial Services

Arthur H. Bougae | Alex. Brown & Sons

Jerry Brown | Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

Alan Bubalo | Edward Jones

Thomas F. Bullock | Edward Jones

John W. Cary III | Morgan Stanley Smith Barney

Alex S. Carroll | Prudential Securities

H.L. “Chappie” Chapman | First Union Securities

Theresa E. Chacopulos | Wells Fargo

Louis J. Chiavacci | Merrill Lynch

Kyle Chudom | Morgan Stanley

Shelly Church | Raymond James & Associates

Robert J. Collins Wachovia Securities

Susan Colpitts | Signature

Jeffrey Concepcion | Stratos Wealth/LPL Financial

John D. Cooke | Prudential Securities

C. Marcus Cooper Jr. | Legg Mason

Mark A. Cortazzo | MACRO Consulting Group/SII Investments

Robert Costos | Merrill Lynch

James R. Cotto | Wachovia Securities

Thomas J. Curran | Curran Advisory Services

Randal Dickinson | Edward Jones

Paula Dorion-Gray | Securities America

Larry Dorn | Dorn & Co.

Ric Edelman | Edelman Financial Services

Susan E. Edwards | Morgan Stanley

Robert D. Enright | Royal Alliance Associates

John (Jeff) Erdmann III | Merrill Lynch

Jay M. Eshbach II | National Planning Corp.

Lynn Faust | Raymond James & Associates

D. Craig Fecel | PaineWebber

Todd Feltz | Feltz WealthPLAN/LPL

Jim Ferrare | PWM Advisory/Pinnacle Associates

H. Michael Finkle | Kemper Securities

Lorayne Fiorillo | Wells Fargo Advisors

Denise Fries | Securities America

Alan K. Gage | Prudential Securities

James F. Gallivan | J.C. Bradford & Co.

Carol Glazer | Smith Barney

Donald G. Gloisten | GBS Financial Corp.

Meg Green | Meg Green & Associates/Royal Alliance

Roger S. Green | Multi-Financial Securities Corp.

Sherry Griffin | Principal Financial

John S. “Jack” Gunter | Merrill Lynch

Bruce E. Haney | Piper, Jaffray & Hopwood

James C. Hansberger | Shearson Lehman Brothers

Scott Hanson | Securities America

Gena Harper | Smith Barney

Victor Hazard | H.D. Vest Financial Services

Mary McFadden Hastings | Wells Fargo Advisors

Martin Higgins | Family Wealth Management/Mutual of Omaha

William F. Holly | Sage, Rutty & Co.

Christopher E. Jay | Merrill Lynch

Stephen W. Johnson | Raymond James Financial Services

Robert G. Jones | Prudential Securities

F.D. “Bud” Jordan | Smith Barney

Alan K. Jusko | Prudential Securities

Susan Kaplan | Kaplan Financial Services/LPL

Gregory W. Kasten | Unified Trust Co.

Mitchell Kauffman | Raymond James Financial Services

John T. Kelleher | Merrill Lynch

Gerard (Gerry) Klingman | Raymond James Financial Services

Carla Koren | Smith Barney

Sally Law | Raymond James Financial Services

Eugene Lerner | HighTower

Howard S. Lorch | Wachovia Securities

Malcolm A. Makin | Raymond James Financial Services

James A. McKenzie | Edward Jones

Albert Maggini | Merrill Lynch

David A. Mallach | Merrill Lynch

Kenneth Margolin | PaineWebber

Nancy Matta | Merrill Lynch

Edward J. Meeuwsen | Salomon Smith Barney

J. Nathan McCarley Jr. | Interstate/Johnson Lane

Judith McGee | McGee Wealth Management/Raymond James Financial Services

Edward F. McGehrin | Merrill Lynch

Marion L. McMillan Jr. | Smith Barney

Charles A. Mills III | Anderson & Strudwick

Stanley Milne | Edward Jones

John Mockovciak III | Everen Securities

Joseph Montgomery | Wheat First Butcher Singer

Gerald K. Moore | PaineWebber

Royce Nies | D.E. Frey & Co.

Richard C. Otter | Shearson Lehman Brothers

Paul A. Pagnato | HighTower

Eric Park | LPL Financial Services

John F. “Jack” Peters | Butler, Wick & Co.

Van Pearcy | Raymond James Financial Services

Thompson S. Phillips, Jr. | Phillips Securities

Gregory Powell | Morgan Stanley

Robert Reich | Wells Fargo Advisors

Ronald Sadoff | Sadoff Investment Management

Howard Safer | Argent Trust Company of Tennessee

Christopher S. Sargent | Wachovia Securities

Greg Sarian | HighTower

Fareed Siddiq | Salomon Smith Barney

Mark J. Smith | Raymond James Financial Services

Mark J. Snyder | Royal Alliance

David G. Speck | Wachovia Securities

Daniel L. Stanley | Edward Jones

Margaret Chow | Starner Raymond James & Assoc.

Sheryl (Sherri) Stephens | Raymond James Financial Services

Gerald “Zeke” Strid | Wachovia Securities

Bryan Sweet | Raymond James Financial Services

William R. Tennison Jr. | D.E. Frey & Co.

Willard J. Tillotson Jr. | Hefren-Tillotson

Robert C. Upton | Edward D. Jones

Ira A. Walker | UBS Financial Services

Freeman H. Welch | Wells Fargo Advisors

Julius Westheimer | Ferris, Baker Watts

T. Manley Whitener Jr. | Interstate/Johnson Lane

W.R. “Bob” Wigley | Smith Barney

Gail Winslow | Ferris, Baker Watts

Gary A. Wollin | Wedbush Morgan Securities

--- Check out the 2014 Advisor Hall of Fame on ThinkAdvisor.

Close single page view Reprints Discuss this story
We welcome your thoughts. Please allow time for your contribution to be approved and posted. Thank you.

Most Recent Videos

Video Library ››