Jamie Green: The Right Man at the Right Time

The former editor never lost sight of the real goal: providing information to help independent financial advisors better serve and care for clients

By now, I suspect most readers are aware that a couple of weeks back, Jamie Green left his job as editorial director of the Investment Advisor group. In the 14 years that he had been at the helm, Jamie had become an industry icon. A regular speaker at many advisory industry conferences and events, mentor to many of today’s leading writers and editors, and a prolific writer in his own right, Jamie has left an imprint on the industry that will not soon be forgotten. 

Of course, Jamie wasn’t always an industry rock star, but he did always have that potential. I remember how excited I was reading the resume he’d sent in, back in 1998, when I was editor-in-chief of this publication.

Jamie was an editor at The New York Times, and we were a small, two-magazine operation in the bedroom community of Shrewsbury, New Jersey. That is to say, we didn’t get a lot of resumes from Times editors.

But Jamie and his family lived just down the street from our offices, and he was looking for a better quality of life that a short commute had to offer. And the timing was good for me, too.

My managing editor, Janet Eldon (think air traffic controller for all the articles coming in, being edited, laid out, and going out to the printer each month) had given notice two weeks earlier, so she could move to California, marry my brother, and give me two nephews and a niece.

Janet was a truly great managing editor (some people are just born to tell other people what do to). But, although Jamie didn’t have much experience in that position, and knew nothing about the advisory industry, he pitched right in, and never missed a beat. Classically educated and scary smart, Jamie quickly mastered the delicate balance of pushing people to do a tough job with scant resources — while gently motivating them to do their best.

At the same time, and with a bit of guidance, Jamie began to unravel the Byzantine enigma of the financial services industry, and the role of independent advisors in it. I left after Dow Jones sold our little mom-and-pop company in 2000, and the new owners tried and failed with an outside top editor. So, Jamie finally got the job in 2002. And the magazine has grown steadily since.

New Media

To me, that’s one of the most amazing things about Jamie’s tenure, particularly as he had to contend with the modern-day experiment known as the internet. I don’t think outsiders can really comprehend what a monkey wrench (read: malware virus) the internet has thrown into magazine publishing.

Yes, I get it — it’s way better, easier, faster, more useful, etc. etc. than print. But the problem is that publishers haven’t really figured out how to make a business out of it yet.

Consider this. You and your staff of between 10 and 20 people are happily putting out a magazine every month. Yes, you could use a bit more staff and writers, and it’s a challenge to get the book to the printer on time each month — but you have a system, and you and your people know what you’re doing. So, you get the job done, take a couple of down days to recuperate, and then do it all over again.  

Then one dark day, the owners, and probably the publisher, come into your office and say: “Hey, we think this new internet thing has real potential. So, we’re going to put up a website, and we want you to create some content for it. Sure, you can put up your magazine stories, but we also want some new content.

“And, by the way, we want people to visit this 'site' as often as possible, so we want new stories to go up not just once a month — but every day. Oh, and since this site isn’t going to generate any revenues for some time, you can’t hire any more people to do all this extra work.”

That’s what Jamie had to work with. And amazingly, he and his staff did make it work: ThinkAdvisor is up, successful, and posting new stories — every day. I don’t know how he did it. It amazes me just thinking about it.

Yet, at the same time, Jamie never lost sight of the real goal: to provide information that helps independent financial advisors provide better care and services to the clients who rely on them. Somehow, through all the pressure and confusion of new and ever-changing technology, Jamie never lost his affinity for the industry, traveling, speaking, and writing in his “spare” time.

I hope he continues to have a presence in the industry; it would be diminished without him. And I hope we can continue our friendship — my world would feel smaller without Jamie in it. 

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