The announcement immediately dispelled a cloud hanging over the advisors, giving them the confidence there would be no disruption in their business and they could continue to service their clients. Benmosche put out a series of communications to the troops and spoke at a number of national education conferences and top producer meetings, further bolstering confidence among the rank and file.

Roth credits Benmosche in large part for stabilizing the situation that had left the advisor group, its broker-dealers and reps in limbo for nearly a year.

Whether Benmosche will continue, however, and finish his commitment to stay on through 2012-in late October he began undergoing "aggressive" chemotherapy for recently diagnosed cancer-is an open question at this moment. If he should become incapacitated, AIG's board has tapped its chairman Robert S. "Steve" Miller to take over as interim CEO.

Regardless of the outcome, and Roth doesn't dismiss the possible consequences, he feels the Advisor Group is on its way to recovery. "Were Bob to retire or have to take significant time off, we'll miss him but we're going to be just fine. He's done most of the heavy lifting already."

The Advisor Group's biggest challenge from the outset has been rebuilding its depleted ranks. Retaining top-level reps is the key goal of Roth and his team in growing business going forward. Re-energizing recruiting and marketing efforts, along with improvements in technology, are central to the plan.

From the beginning of the financial crisis to the end of the first quarter in 2010, the group lost 20% of its trailing-12-month production, or GDC, with the biggest hit coming in the first six months when AIG found itself in the news almost daily.

The recession and the bad karma of the AIG parent were largely to blame, of course. But there was attrition even before the crisis struck, as the Advisor Group had begun trimming smaller-producing advisors and adding large-producing ones, according to Roth.

"Fortunately, for us," he says, "most of the fallout was in the small and mid-sized producing advisors because they were affected more than anybody by those difficult markets. So we've been growing from there."

"Since then, we have been retaining our advisors back at our normal levels several years up to 2008. Through 2007, our average retention was a little more than 95% of trailing-12-month production. We would like to grow our production over time. We'd like to grow the number of advisors, too, but we're much more focused on quality than we are on numbers."

Today, the Advisor Group is recruiting, as it has traditionally done, from other independent B-Ds and, in some instances, wirehouse reps who have exhibited an entrepreneurial spirit. The total number of advisors in the group today is approximately 5,400. The group's peak year was 2007, when the advisor count stood at 6,800 just before the meltdown began.