On a Monday morning in December 1996, Janet, Sonya and I took deep breaths and walked together into our branch manager’s office and resigned. Linda left the firm to join us two weeks later and Kyle, who had just completed his finance degree at Butler, was waiting for us at our new office on the first day. These five have been here since the start. We have experienced a broad range of people and market variations. We have stood side by side through about everything the world offers. Margaret joined us during our third month and remained for 18 years until her retirement in 2015. So, when we celebrate you, our clients, at the annual banquet on November 15, 2016, we will also be celebrating twenty years as an independent firm working through Investment Planners. In addition, I will personally be celebrating a thirty year career.
In 1999, another fixture in our firm, Becky, began her career in technical support. Her addition, along with Linda and Margaret, gave us the very best staff one could ever expect in this industry. We had started our independent years with the motto, “More service than sales,” and these three people made that a reality for our clients. Over the years since, other advisors have joined us, later leaving for retirement, new careers, or other opportunities, but the business continues to be vibrant and challenging. In 2001, we all stood together speechless in our office kitchen as we watched the World Trade Towers collapse. The markets were halted several days, and finally reopened to continue a very difficult bear market, dropping nearly 55% before bottoming in October 2002.
The final leg of the mega-bear market ignited in 2007 as the financial crisis gripped our nation and sent the market on another 55% collapse. This second crisis was the most difficult era for our clients, most of whom had not had time to recover from the 2000-2 market. Together though, we have been able to find strategies to survive, if not flourish. I am sure this ebb and flow will always exist for investors.
The business has changed a lot, as Sonya’s article inside discusses some of the paper flow changes, other major differences have occurred. I remember in 1990 when I received my first order from a client on a mobile telephone while driving through Iowa! “What was this world headed towards?” I wondered. Thirty years ago, I wrote out my stock orders on a form and handed them to an operator who wired them to corporate headquarters, where they were reviewed and re-wired to the appropriate stock market floor for execution. After ten minutes or so, the wires were reversed, confirming the trade. Documenting the trade would take another ten minutes. Today, I enter the trade, receive confirmation within a second or two, and all documentation is handled electronically! Yes, much technical progress has been made. Technology, and our transition from commissions to a fee-based business, have made investing less expensive for our clients and enabled us to move from being “stock brokers” to financial advisors.
The addition of our newest advisor, Mel, and newest support staff, Lisa, along with Margaret’s replacement, Ashley, round out a great environment for work. I often say I have never worked a day at this job, I simply enjoy it. Still, when I approached age 60, watching clients retire early made me think I should be doing the same. After all, difficult markets and client life changes often conflict and can create stress for the advisor. But the truth is, my fear of an idle mind is more stressful than the markets! I love the challenge and the work makes me think. I get plenty of free time, so full retirement is just not going to happen, voluntarily. That being said, Janet and I have recently signed papers to transition the ownership fully to Kyle, and over the next decade, we will gradually turn client responsibilities over to others in the firm. What I want you to know is how grateful I am for your personalities, loyalty, and life perspectives which gives us all 20 & 30 years to celebrate.
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