"We started from bare wood," he says of his firm. "We had to do it all over again start from scratch and we're completely fee only." A few years later, he turned to an old friend who'd harbored similar aspirations.

School Chums
Theirs seem like the parallel lives of two Dickens characters: Bland and his new partner Tim Randak both had roots in Billings. Bland was delivered by Randak's pediatrician grandfather, they say. The two boys went through school together from the first grade through the 12th in Billings, and their two older brothers, both in medicine, work together, too.

After high school, they had parted ways for several years. Randak, after an early stint with Oppenheimer in Denver, struck out for the bright lights of New York City, where he labored at Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs in the heady risk analytics space. Bland, meanwhile, did a stint at UBS Paine Webber before striking out with his smaller firms.

Even though they were thousands of miles apart, Randak and Bland found themselves motivated by the same desires, and each had been uncomfortable with aspects of the financial services world. Bland disliked the emphasis on product at UBS at the expense of prudent allocation for his clients. Randak was a mover and shaker in risk analytics, headed for a promotion at Goldman, he says, but he had become estranged from clients.

So it might have been logic (or fate) that brought them back together. Randak, itching to leave New York and missing the West, found his friend's business proposition to come work with him too good to ignore. He joined Bland's start-up in Salt Lake City as an investment manager a year and a half ago. At some point, the firm left the attic and moved into nicer digs on the 14th floor of an office building in downtown Salt Lake City.
Trigg and her partner McLaughlin were a big help. Bland says he worked very hard to win them over after her bad experience with his former firm, and when he did, her vouchsafe for his ethics was a major watershed.
Word spread among her former co-workers, and helped his new firm in five years carve out a huge niche among BP employees, who now represent some 70% of their current assets. Some came because of Bland's persistence and seminars, but in a lot of cases it was simply the sweet grapevine.
"We work with BP employees," says Bland, "because the type of people that work in the oil fields are the type of people that we grew up around. I think it's really that basic thing. We understand their lives better."
That means everything from their values to their dress code. His previous firm had a large client clique in Scottsdale, for example, a group Bland says he had little affinity for. He describes a world of high-end golf courses where people wore what he calls "resort casual"-Tommy Bahama shirts, Maui Jim sunglasses, and brightly colored shorts covering very white legs. It was a world of entitlement where material things were valued a bit too much for his taste.
It's a stark contrast with clients like Bill Sears, who with his wife Alice is a rancher who sells calves on video auction. Bland describes taking a two and a half hour drive to see the Searses in Wyoming, traveling over dirt roads in hazardous winter treks and visiting the couple at their ranch, a home where Remington and Winchester rifles hang off the walls, where the couple sometimes have to scare the moose away from the trees and their cars with shotgun blasts overhead. These weren't the kind of people giving the gimlet eye to his designer clothes and watches, Bland says. They had different worries.
"The largest ranches in Wyoming and that kind of land up there is in the millions and millions of dollars, but that's not liquid money, it's just land."
Alice Sears says that despite the perception that ranchers are rich, her business is much more volatile than people expect. When they take truckloads of calves to auction they may have paid expenses of $1.12 a pound-and they're out of luck if the market bids only 98 cents. These are costs they can't pass through, one of the reasons her surprise annuity was so painful.

Blues For A Green Company
In BP, many of Bland's clients had found an employee-friendly oil company that offered rich benefits and a good culture, not to mention one that was known for being environmentally friendly.

That image all went up in smoke earlier this year, of course, when the Deepwater Horizon rig the company was leasing exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and sending almost 5 million barrels of oil gushing into the waters. As the environmental catastrophe unfolded on television, suddenly BP employees in some parts of the country were hiding the logos on their shirts and hats or taking them off their company cars altogether.

As part of its strategy to raise money for the legal costs and clean-up, BP has shed offshore gas assets in Vietnam; joint ventures in Venezuela; oil and gas exploration, production and transportation business in Colombia; and other deepwater fields in the Gulf. In the United States, it sold its Permian Basin assets in Texas and New Mexico and its Western Canadian upstream gas assets to the Apache Corporation. Proceeds from these sales are sought to offset the Gulf Coast burden. The plan is to dispose of $30 billion in assets by the end of 2011, according to the company's third quarter report.

Up in Wyoming, in what it calls an unrelated maneuver, BP sold some natural gas facilities that had already started to make less attractive profits (though it kept an offshore natural gas field in Wamsutter and relocated employees there who wanted to go). Between the Permian Basin and Wyoming sales, Bland's clients are having to decide whether to take a good compensation package and leave, move around to places where BP is still deploying labor, or, if they are old enough, retire early. It can be difficult choice for people who might have had different plans.

"My wife is a psychologist," says Bland, "and she has all this interesting stuff about [what happens] if you disrupt somebody financially. [People] identify themselves through their work, and if you remove that from their life, it's a real big deal to them. There's more than just numbers that we deal with."