One of the most rewarding aspects of spending 18 years chronicling a business that transformed itself from a cottage industry into an emerging profession is getting to meet some of the individuals who populate this community. Watching compelling people work to develop a vision and, more often than not, turn those visions into reality is a pleasure of a lifetime.

After writing for Financial Advisor every month for the last eight years, Nick Murray is writing his last regular column. For reasons he explains on Page 35, Nick has decided to devote his full-time energies to his online newsletter,
I've rarely encountered a non-fiction writer who combines the wisdom, historical perspectives and understanding of human nature with the flair that Nick possesses. No matter how much innate talent one is given, writing at that level requires painstaking work. My experience has been that hard work and rare talent are more than a coincidence.

For the last eight years, we've all been the beneficiaries of Nick's hard work, and for that, we're eternally grateful. And if we're lucky, he may revisit these pages on occasion.

Another individual with rare insight on this profession is Don Pitti. When I first became editor of Financial Planning in 1990, all the knowledgeable players in this business told me I'd never completely grasp how it evolved unless I met Don, who at the time was president of J. & W. Seligman's distribution arm. Late that year, we had lunch at Harry's, the famous Wall Street restaurant, and Don described the evolution of the financial services business out of the Glass-Steagall world of the 1930s and explained why it was finally starting to crumble. His elucidation of this entire business that December day may be more relevant in 2008 than it was in 1990.

Suffice it to say, in the Glass-Steagall world if an investor was interested in long-term investments and financial planning and she went to a bank, she got a CD. If she went to an insurance company, she got a whole life policy. And if she wanted asset protection and went to a stock broker, she got a few blue chip stocks. Paraphrasing Henry Ford, Don described the calcified regulatory structure which forced intermediaries to tell customers "they could buy any color car they wanted as long as it was black."

In 1995 as fee-only asset management was gaining traction as the favored compensation model, I asked a young reporter to look at the possibility of basing a fee-only practice on hourly consultation fees. Many fee-only advisors reacted with the same visceral revulsion that commission-based planners did when they viewed the newfangled AUM model. I told the reporter to call Don, who responded by saying if he were a little younger, he'd be out doing exactly that. Five years later Sheryl Garrett was taking the idea national.

This month Don receives the FPA's P. Kemp Fain Award. I've known most of the past recipients. All were deserving. But I can't think of any two people who could illuminate the nature of this business and explain how it interacts with the lives of ordinary Americans and their yearning for financial independence and choice better than Nick and Don. So a special thanks to both of them.

Evan Simonoff, Editor-in-chief
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P.S. If you want to see Nick Murray, Charles Maxwell and Brian Wesbury, sign up for our Financial Advisor Symposium in Chicago by visiting