A little Sunday school philosophy and a good measure of diligence have added up to kudos for Ken Rosenson, regional sales manager of the Pacific Metro region for OppenheimerFunds of New York. Frank Gleberman, principal at Los Angeles-based Century Benefits Group, singled out Rosenson from his peers, praising the wholesaler's service-oriented approach.
"It's my view that not only will wholesaler intermediaries like Ken build very substantial blocks of business for the companies they represent, but have the potential to create an entire new industry with their talents," he said.
"I just treat the financial advisors like I like to be treated," said Rosenson, describing his mindset in servicing his Los Angeles-area territory. The "do unto others" philosophy certainly isn't new, but Rosenson has created a process and structure that allow him to fulfill that goal.
Rosenson has been wholesaling for Oppenheimer for eight years, starting with the internal sales desk in New York. When the fund company first handed him its Indiana territory about six years ago, it had only $90 million in business. Within 19 months, Rosenson had more than doubled that amount to $220 million.
He then moved to California to his current territory, growing that from shy of $250,000 to a high of $420 million. Those assets have shrunk, but Rosenson has "every intention of getting it back up there by the end of the year.
Getting the Word Out
While working in Indiana, Rosenson developed a strategy for servicing all of the producers in his territory. Observing that some wholesalers with multiple-state territories states will simply ignore several of their states, he wanted to see as many faces as possible to avoid such neglect. Rosenson said he was "really early to the curve" in implementing "cluster meetings," which are "the best way to get the word out and see as many people as possible."
Rosenson breaks his territory into mini-regions, where he can identify top producers and prospects within small geographical zones. He holds regular meetings aimed at educating producers on issues as broad as the economy and as narrow as specific applications of products such as 401(k) or variable life.
Such education often takes the place of home-office support from the broker-dealer, whose resources may be limited. "Our broker-dealers cannot supply the support that good wholesalers can," said Gleberman.
These meetings provide real value to many reps and are held close to their offices; from Rosenson's perspective, it's his job to travel, not the adviser's. "I have to try to make it very easy for me to be seen. Financial advisors don't want to travel far to see you," he said.
Rosenson said he typically sets up shop in a restaurant, scheduling between four and 10 meetings within the span of two days. The hour-long meetings often feature guest speakers such as Oppenheimer portfolio managers or other planning experts.
In addition to face-to-face meetings, Rosenson maintains regular communications with producers, especially via e-mail. Most importantly, he doesn't indiscriminately spam' reps, instead reaching only those who are interested in that level of attention.
Thinking Like an Entrepreneur
In order to keep organized and remain responsive during a rigorous travel schedule, Rosenson hires a full-time personal assistant. He also works with an Oppenheimer internal wholesaler, but having the dedicated help at his home base creates a structure that frees Rosenson to focus on his own productivity. "That's why I'm able to have such an organized system," he said.
Describing his own business, Rosenson echoes the most common refrain of investment philosophy: "I have a process in place, people, and products." In fact, Rosenson sounds more like a franchise entrepreneur than an employee, assiduously using an annual business plan.
Nevertheless, he works within the corporate structure and has even made presentations to share his strategies with other Oppenheimer wholesalers. Like many wholesalers across the country, Rosenson has watched as Oppenheimer combines formerly separate sales channels and even looks forward to expanding his business with the addition of separate accounts. Some observers have argued that the expansion of product lines, especially coupled with centralized sales channels, will dilute wholesalers' efforts, but Rosenson does not share those concerns.
"A financial advisor doesn't necessarily need to hear from another Oppenheimer representative on a product that quite frankly is a niche product. When it comes to separate accounts, if a financial advisor does separate account business and also mutual funds, why do they need to hear from two people?" he asked.
Rosenson's approach to wholesaling mirrors the financial planning businesses of the producers he serves: "You have to be persistent, patient, and you have to really try to understand what the financial advisor needs because I think that's more important than what I need. They're my clients and I treat them that way."