At least seven different financial advisory firms vie for business in wealthy little Corsicana, Texas — population 25,000 — where ample oil profits have made folks prosper for more than a hundred years and world-famous Collin Street Bakery turns out the ultimate in deluxe fruitcakes.
Among the competing advisories, Investment Planning, Inc., sparkles like a rare jewel. Launched in 1947 as cotton-and-grain brokerage William B. Robinson & Company, the family-owned-and-operated independent has a rich history and rock-solid reputation. Today, it caters to third- and fourth-generation clients, many of whom live in far-flung cities.
“They tell me, ‘Your parents did a great job for my parents — or grandparents — and I want to work with you too.’ That speaks well of Mother and Daddy and the business they created,” says Beth Chapman, 54, president and owner of the firm, which is affiliated with Commonwealth Financial Services.
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Who: Beth Chapman, President, Investment Planning, Inc.; Corsicana, Texas.Value of accounts: $93 million for 477 client households
A secret to her success: “We really know our clients.”
Privacy and confidentiality are what IPI’s high-net-worth clients crave in this clannish — some say snobbish — community, an hour’s drive south of Dallas, which in 1900 boasted 500 producing wells, just six years after oil was discovered there by accident.
Corsicana-born Chapman, a forthright woman, has followed her parents’ tradition of lavishing clients with special care. “A lot of people with a lot of money don’t want everybody knowing it,” she says. “I even had one client who insisted on using the back door.”
The NASD (now FINRA) lists Billie Love Robinson McFerran, Chapman’s 83-year-old mom — semi-retired and still with IPI — as the first female licensed broker in Texas, Chapman says. When the Robinsons wanted to open a firm, they sought advice from a distant relative who worked at Merrill Lynch. Billie was then 23.
“He patted me on the head and said I was a cute little thing, but that I didn’t know enough about stocks and bonds and commodities,” she recalls. “So I went over and took the test.” All that was required to pass was “saying I was honest, showing I had a little bit of common sense and proving I was a U.S. citizen.”
Today the firm is an all-female enterprise, consisting of registered investment advisor Chapman; Susan Slovak, a financial advisor; Robinson McFerran, registered advisor; and support staffers Melinda Printy and Wanda Robinson, 73, who is Slovak’s mom and part-time receptionist. Chapman and Slovak, working as a team, each draw salaries.
IPI is 100 percent female purely by chance. “It’s really nice because it obviously attracts women clients,” says Chapman, noting also that many men who aren’t investment-savvy feel more comfortable consulting with a female than a male advisor. Half the firm’s clients are men.