Many financial advisors think that a successful career path lies in targeting and cultivating a client niche, but Jim Marquardt, an advisor at Bremer Bank in Rochester, Minn., takes the opposite approach.

For the 26 years that he has worked in Rochester and surrounding rural areas, Marquardt has successfully served a diverse client base that includes doctors and hog farmers and has gotten many referrals.

“I’ve lived my whole life in this community, and I’m familiar with all its different facets,” he says.

For Marquardt, being a generalist makes things more interesting. He grew up on a farm, which makes it easy for him when meeting with farmers, but he has also learned about other professions along the way, and he enjoys the variety.

“It would be boring if every client I had was a dentist. As a generalist, I get to meet someone new with a new situation every day,” Marquardt says.

“I love the fact that one day I’m working with a 90-year-old couple looking to leave money to their already-retired kids, and the next, I’m dealing with parents who brought in their 17-year-old daughter or son to start planning their finances,” he says.

But whether he is talking with a dairy farmer or a dentist, Marquardt thinks that empathy and understanding are key.

Regardless of a client’s profession, what is important to him is being sensitive to his clients as people, irrespective of whether they are wearing lab coats or overalls.

That means listening to them carefully, getting to know them well and helping them figure out what is important to them in terms of their financial planning goals.

“My clients know it’s important for me to have those personal relationships with them and their families,” Marquardt says. “I tell people that both husband and wife need to know what the plan is because someday, one among the three of us won’t be in the room anymore, so it’s important that everyone be on board.”

The close relationships Marquardt has with his clients has yielded numerous referrals over the years.

When clients recommend him to their children and their grandchildren or their parents, it creates even more meaningful ties with families and the community, he says.

Marquardt serves about 650 families, some of which have been his clients for more than 20 years. But despite his roots in the community, his employer is new to him.

Earlier this year, Bremer Bank acquired his former employer, Eastwood Bank, and changed its broker-dealer to Raymond James from LPL Financial.

Marquardt, who makes it a priority to stay abreast of all industry developments, regularly attends seminars and conferences.

“Every time I have the opportunity to learn something new, I take advantage of it,” he says.

He says he is still surprised sometimes at the financial savvy of his clients, in particular those who live in rural areas or very small towns.

This story is part of a 30-day series on how to generate the best referrals. It was originally published on Aug. 25, 2015.

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