Importance Of Personal Service
Your article, "Billion Dollar Babies," profiling examples of successful larger investment advisory firms and what makes them tick (September 2005), caught my eye. Last month, I spoke with one of the firms the article profiled, RegentAtlantic in Chatham, N.J., as a possible advisor for members of my family. When it became clear that the services they had to offer were not an ideal fit with my family‚s needs (which centered more on legal and accounting help rather than comprehensive financial planning), they immediately offered to provide me with a list of professionals in my area who might be a good match for the needs I had outlined to them.
Margaret Prentice from RegentAtlantic called the next day with several suggestions, along with an offer to call anytime if I had additional questions. I had never spoken to these people previously, and have no affiliation with them whatsoever. Nonetheless, they went out of their way to be of help to me.
Perhaps one reason this firm (and very possibly others mentioned in your article) has enjoyed a high level of success is that they have not forgotten the importance of providing personal service. RegentAtlantic‚s approach made me want to recommend them to others, which is one way advisory businesses turn into "Billion Dollar Babies."

H. Robb Levinsky
Neptune, N.J.

Are We Really A Profession?
Bill Bachrach‚s "Six Do‚s and Don‚ts" column in September was a perfect example of what is wrong with a large part of our profession. Specifically, I take great offense at the concepts that "Keeping up with Financial News" and "Becoming Overinformed or Overeducated" are among the things that are to be avoided. When you go to the doctor, do you hope to find a physician who runs his practice well, relates to you well and fails to keep up with medicine, proudly avoiding learning more about his field? Well, neither do I. When I go to the doctor, I want it all: a well-run practice with a caring professional who is knowledgeable and current in his field. If you follow Bill‚s advice and put all your efforts into the practice management area, how do your develop the skills and foresight to evaluate the money managers you hire? I consider risk management and forward-looking expertise part of what I owe to my clients. Anyone who has been awake for the last decade (Enron, mutual fund scandals, etc.) should feel they owe more to clients who entrust them with their savings than merely delegating money management blindly to others. We need to be knowledgeable and have a discipline for evaluating who should be entrusted with our clients‚ assets. Otherwise, we are just a salesman who can be replaced by a "Lifestyle Fund."

Ted Schwartz
Capstone Investment
Colorado Springs, Colo.

Editor‚s Note: What follows is a response by Bill Bachrach to the above letter:
Dear Ted,
After reading your comments and re-reading the article I wrote I was a little perplexed that you were offended. It seems that we are basically in agreement. I agree that you should be as informed as you need to be in order to serve your clients.
My article referred to the need on the part of some advisors to be "OVERinformed and OVERedu-cated" which they use as a work-avoidance mechanism. I did NOT suggest that you be totally uninformed and so ignorant that you can‚t serve your clients. The words "blindly follow" and "proudly avoid learning anything about his field" are your words, not mine, and a gross mischaracterization of what I was communicating. I can only speculate that you might have been offended because this particular issue does not apply to you, as you have managed to organize your time in a way that allows you to stay as educated and informed as you need to be and are still able to do all the other things required to build a successful and great financial services business. So, while you may have a thriving business teaming with Ideal Clients who are all thrilled with your service while you also lead a happy, healthy, fulfilled and balanced life–not all advisors are as fortunate as you to have figured out how to get that done.
I appreciate your feedback, and encourage you to take the whole article in context to find those aspects that are actionable for you in a way that will help you better serve your clients and create the perfect practice for them and you.
It sounds like you are exactly the kind of caring trusted advisor we need more of in our industry.
Keep up the great work!