Doll says the decision to hook up with BAM came when firm representatives gave a presentation at an AICPA financial planning conference in Las Vegas in 1999. He says the firm's investment rationale, combined with the fact that the firm was run by accountants, for accountants, immediately "clicked" with him and his partners. "Teaching clients to have long-range plans, rather than focusing on the hot stock or the hot sector of the moment, really appealed to us," he says.

Since starting Capital Performance Advisors in Walnut Creek that same year, Doll says the firm has grown to serve about 250 clients and has about $140 million in assets under management. Through the bear market of the past three years, he says the firm's clients have, on average, stayed about even or seen some slight growth in their portfolios.

The key things BAM brings to the firm, he says, are the back-office services and the training, which includes an annual conference and periodic advanced training sessions, he says. "We could probably do it cheaper in-house, but I don't know if we could duplicate it," Doll says. "I'm not sure we could replace the training, marketing help and the bond-trading services we're getting."

Zimmerman says that clients of BAM are not required to use DFA funds or to follow a passive path in their investment management, but virtually all of them do. "They wouldn't use us for their back office if they really wanted to do half of their stuff on the active side," he says.

Buckingham and BAM, meanwhile, are expanding the breadth of their services. One recent addition has been the creation of a third firm, Bemiston Insurance Services, which Zimmerman says is of particular value to BAM clients who have had to hand off clients to outside insurance agents on estate matters. The firm already has a custodial relationship with Charles Schwab and Fidelity, and offers trust services through an alliance with Santa Fe Trust.

As for growth, Zimmerman and Schweizer feel their window of opportunity is unlimited, particularly when it comes to the future of BAM. Zimmerman notes that BAM has only scratched the surface in a market comprised of about 30,000 accounting firms. He also says investors are more apt to seek out accountants as trusted advisors after getting beaten up by the bear market.

"It's almost universal that our clients plan on doubling their assets or come close to that by the end of the year," he says.


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