Next Financial Group of Houston has been on a tear in recent years and begins 2007 with nearly 800 advisors and a new president — Barry Knight, 44, a veteran sales director with Pioneer Investments.

While the independent broker-dealer had to regroup after former President Jeff Auld returned to his native state of Iowa in August 2006, “We haven’t skipped a beat” since Auld left, says Gordon D’Angelo, chairman and CEO of Next Financial Holdings, who founded the company in July 1999. “We set our biggest records in October [2006] and expect to see revenue growth of 35 percent to 40 percent in 2007.”

D’Angelo, 53, tapped Knight to lead Next’s seven-member recruiting team in September 2006. These efforts have been spearheaded by Auld since 2000. (Auld now works for Berthel Fisher & Company in Marion, Iowa.)

“Helping advisors find ways to run their practices more effectively has been a core focus of my career,” says Knight. “I’m excited to join a firm that so clearly shares this focus.”

“Barry fits perfectly into our culture which features customizing marketing plans for financial professionals and numerous innovative business development techniques,” explains D’Angelo. This marketing effort supports advisors within their local communities through a “hometown” branding and practice-management effort. “This helps them build their practices onsite,” shares D’Angelo. “And it’s enhancing brands and showing tangible results.”

In some offices in Buffalo, N.Y., and Minneapolis, for instance, results have grown by 300 percent to 400 percent over the past three years to reach some $3 million in yearly sales. “Advisors can succeed anywhere if they want to,” the CEO says. “We are dedicated to helping those who help themselves.”

Sales grew about 45 percent in 2005 to about $54 million. They were expected to expand some 40 percent in 2006 to $75 million. If that pace keeps up, the BD could top $100 million in revenue in 2007. This will depend on whether Next can continue to attract as many advisors and as much production as it’s been able to draw lately.

In October, Next says it had its strongest recruiting month on record, bringing in some 18 advisors and about $5.1 million in yearly production. The roughly 750 advisors already in the BD generated monthly production of $8.5 million in sales that same month, according to D’Angelo.

As for recruitment, the firm added about 180 advisors in 2006, growing from about 620 to 800. “We’ve been adding between 15 and 20 advisors every month, for 30 months,” the CEO says, with the bulk coming over from other independent BDs. “That’s where we’ve been growing and that’s where we should stay.” The target production level for recruits is about $100,000 and up.

Next’s key selling points, according to D’Angelo, are that it is truly independent in terms of its products and relationships. In addition, representatives can own a share of the company. “I own less than 10 percent,” he adds.

The number of staff at the BD’s headquarters has been beefed up as well, D’Angelo explains. More than 30 staff members were added in 2006.

D’Angelo commutes every month or so to work in Houston from his home in Virginia Beach, Va. “Managing growth is a continuing issue, but we are attracting the right personnel and representatives to help us do it,” he explains. In late November, for example, Next hired Kimberly Branch to head its marketing efforts. She previously worked for AIG Financial Advisors.

The company recognized some of its branch managers in Arizona, California and Texas at a special event in December, which included a performance by the Lettermen, an oldies singing group. “But we have a presence in all of the 50 states, except North Dakota,” D’Angelo says.

“To grow like us is hard. We don’t use a magic wand or any front money. But we tell advisors they can be a decent shareholder and have a voice in the company. Our growth is right on target,” says the CEO. “It’s fantastic.”