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Back to the Future

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Research magazine got its start 30 years ago in the summer of 1978. At that time, Research was a quarterly so there is no exact corresponding anniversary month. In deciding how to mark this milestone, we decided to acknowledge the anniversary in May (through a few articles), but to reserve the hoopla for our June issue. In this issue, Patricia Abram, who got her start in the business three decades ago, offers a compelling personal retrospective; David Drucker looks at the evolution of advisor technology from the seventies till now; and senior editor Ken Silber reviews the market history of the sideways seventies in his Historical Research series.

Why so subdued in May? For one, we felt that the typical retrospective approach to big anniversaries can be a little self-indulgent and a tad boring. Sure, we have reason to congratulate ourselves on our great strides these past 30 years, but for most brokers who were in the business, 1978 is not a time they enjoy remembering. The Carter-era malaise saw stagflation, gas lines and a Dow mostly stuck in the 800s, though with a frightening swoon into the 500s.

Instead, sitting around a conference table in San Francisco, Peter Tucker, our resident design genius and art director, suggested we forgo the fog of seventies gloom in favor of a firm focus on the bright future still ahead. So stay tuned to these pages next month when 30 experts glimpse the next 30 years in this industry, which we hope to reveal in all its challenges and promise (as best anyone can tell, of course.)

The confluence of a difficult past and hopeful future seems especially appropriate at this uniquely transitional time. In response to ever-deepening credit woes, the Fed and Treasury have introduced a more intensive new regulatory scheme over Wall Street. This was inevitable after the government used billions of dollars of taxpayer money to ensure JP Morgan’s buyout of Bear Stearns. It’s hard to know how close we may have come to the Second Great Depression but for the Fed’s quick action. Perhaps that’s one of the questions we’ll have answered 30 years from now.

But there are lessons we can apply immediately as to how to straddle this hybrid economy of wealth and worry, where retail advisors are still doing reasonably well, but real-estate-induced problems continue to ripple through the economy.

First, never hide from distressed clients; in fact, go out of your way to stay in touch. The upside of tough times is that they allow you to draw nearer to people, to be there for them, to show support that they will remember in better days. Second, if things become tough for you, always remember there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We’ve been through tough times before and in retrospect can see just how adaptable we are. If there is a message our 30th anniversary highlights, it is that we should learn from the past, but we should never lose faith in a bright future.

Gil [email protected]


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