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A Wider Perspective on the Crisis

A conversation with a visionary in the financial planning field.

Veena A. Kutler and Annette F. Simon, 03/26/2009

This monthly series of articles describes the many steps and occasional missteps we have taken in building our financial advisory business, Garnet Group LLC. Currently, Garnet has eight staff members, more than 90 clients, more than $300 million in client net worth under advisement, and offices in Bethesda, Md., and Boston. Veena Kutler, CFA, and Annette Simon, CFP, are the managing principals in the Garnet office in Bethesda.

The last year has been a seminal one in the financial services industry. All boats, large and small, have lost anchor, drifted and/or crashed in the tsunami. Giants like Citi and AIG make the headlines every day. But the smallest players, the independent financial advisors who don't make the news, have suffered also. We at the Garnet DC office have been relatively lucky. While we have had more meetings and phone calls than ever and our clients have been concerned and anxious most have stayed relatively calm. Our conservative portfolios and retainer fee structure have provided some cushioning of our revenues through this terrible downturn. Anecdotally, we have heard from peers who are unable to sleep at night, and struggling to keep their businesses going. We consider ourselves fortunate that we are able to continue to forge ahead.

For a wider perspective on the industry we turned to Bob Veres, an industry icon who has had his finger on its pulse for more than 20 years. Bob sometimes refers to himself in his typical humorous and self-deprecating way as the gadfly of the financial planning industry. While that may be true, his role extends well beyond that. Though not a planner himself, Bob has been involved in the planning industry in multiple roles and at every level.

Bob's impressive resume is so well known that it may not need to be recounted; but we will do so anyway. He has been editor of Financial Planning magazine, a contributing editor to The Journal of Financial Planning, a columnist and editor-at-large of Dow Jones Investment Advisor magazine, and the first editor of MorningstarAdvisor.com. Bob has been named one of the most influential people in the financial planning profession by Investment Advisor magazine and by Financial Planning magazine, was granted the lifetime achievement award for service to the profession by the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, and received the Heart of Financial Planning Distinguished Service Award from the FPA.

Here's our interview:

Garnet: Bob, we think you have a unique perspective on our industry. What do you think your role is and why is it singular?

Veres: Back when I was editor of Financial Planning magazine I felt the planning profession and professionals in it were all very smart collectively, but everyone was sitting in their offices thinking they were the only one. That's a lonely place to be.

Garnet: We can't recall a time like this in our professional experience, where so much has happened so fast. Would you agree or do you think its part of the normal market cycle?

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