Twenty Years of Business … and Lasting Friendships
The year 1999, the stock market was almost five years into one of its biggest bull markets ever—fueled by the internet craze—and Ronald Chakler was closing in on his 20th year in the business; despite these milestones, he knew he needed a change. He was running a small broker/dealer (B/D) and wearing too many different hats. It had become too difficult to manage his book of business, oversee the activities of other brokers, write written supervisory procedures and make sure financial reports were filed in a timely manner, along with the multitude of other details that go into operating a B/D.
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Twenty Years of Business … and Lasting Friendships
The year was 1999, the stock market was almost five years into one of its biggest bull markets ever—fueled by the internet craze—and I was closing in on my 20th year in the business; despite these milestones, I knew I needed a change. I was running a small broker/dealer (B/D) and wearing too many different hats. It had become too difficult to manage my book of business, oversee the activities of other brokers, write written supervisory procedures and make sure financial reports were filed in a timely manner, along with the multitude of other details that go into operating a B/D. I had just finished up a surprise audit from the SEC that lasted almost two weeks and I was completely overwhelmed with everything I had to deal with on a daily basis.
I turned to my liaison at Bear Stearns, the firm we were clearing through at the time, and asked him for some names of people who he felt I would be most compatible with, knowing both my business and my personality. Without hesitation, he told me I needed to contact a guy named Lon Dolber. Lon was supervising a large OSJ with Nathan & Lewis but, at the same time, had this vision of starting a B/D of his own that would not only be truly independent, but also earmarked a good portion of the entire company to be owned by the investment professionals and the employees. I was intrigued by the idea, so I travelled to Long Island, New York, to meet him.
They say you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. I can say that I will remember that day forever. We met in a small office that he was running his OSJ out of with his sister, Melissa Grappone, and assistant, Ethel Valentino. We spoke for only a few minutes when he got up and asked me to take a ride with him to watch his daughter, Rebecca, take an ice-skating lesson for her hockey team.
It didn’t take me long to realize that this wasn’t going to be some formal “corporate” interview, but rather the beginning of what would become a very formidable relationship in my life. I came home that night and told my wife that Lon and I were not only going to become business partners, but he was also someone who was most likely going to become a close friend and confidant. I was never so assured about any other business decision I’d made more than this one. And, although I wasn’t quite ready to make the move at the time, Lon was calling me each and every month telling me how much he wanted me to be a part of his organization. This proved to be another good sign that this relationship was going to be mutually valued by the both of us. My experience in the general securities business was of particular value to him, as the majority of his financial advisors were focused primarily on mutual
funds and annuities.
It was Memorial Day weekend in the year 2000 when I officially joined Nathan & Lewis and, along with the handful of other managers at the time, began to plan our course which would lead us to becoming American Portfolios Financial Services, Inc (AP). Sixteen months later, we officially became AP, just one day before the tragic events of 9/11. While the timing was difficult, we persevered. From day one until today, the firm’s primary goal has always been to understand and improve upon exactly what we—the investment professionals, the backbone of the firm—need to run our practices most efficiently. But, more importantly, the quality of the relationship always took precedence over what would be most profitable for the firm, something very rare in corporate America. Although we can never discount the importance of earnings, 20 years and more than 850 investment professionals later, that culture is still prevalent throughout the entire organization.
I was honored to be asked to be part of the first AP Advisory Board for three years, a group that serves as a conduit between the brokers, management and operations. We accomplished a lot, namely helping to reconstruct the Capital Units Program; the board still exists today as the AP Advisor Council, continually improving the quality of life for all our financial professionals. AP has always been much more than just a firm that helps me facilitate my business, but rather a group of very special people who I consider to be a part of my extended family. When my life was turned upside down in 2011 and my wife was diagnosed with a fatal illness, Lon was the first person to contact me, offering help in any way I needed. Throughout her two-year battle, the emotional support I received from everyone at AP helped greatly in giving me the strength to help face the circumstances and, for that, I will be forever grateful.
Our firm has managed to maintain its unique culture throughout our 20-year growth. I think I speak for the vast majority of the financial professionals when I say how fortunate we are to be a part of such a great group. Every accolade and award that AP has received throughout the years has been deservedly earned because of the cooperation, concern and the value that every employee puts forth to make this company so special. It was certainly no surprise to me that our firm had won the “Broker-Dealer of the Year” award again for the sixth straight year in 2020.
I’m excited and eagerly looking forward to the next 20 years. Congrats to everyone at AP who played a role in our two decades of success and have given me many wonderful memories.
Please reference disclosures: https://blog.americanportfolios.com/disclosures/