January 2011

Your Friendly Neighborhood Financial Advisors - MORGAN KEEGAN

Author: Mark Kreuzwieser | Photographer: Photography by Anne

Competitive doubles tennis, whether in jovial games between close acquaintances or hard-contested tilts among bitter rivals, requires team members have a good amount of trust—just as financial planning and management demands confidence between client and advisor.

At the Hilton Head office of Morgan Keegan & Company, Jeff Hull, Dan Fuller and Maria Mena provide their clients with dependability for investment banking, securities brokerage, and wealth and asset management.

What sets Memphis, Tenn.-based Morgan Keegan apart from the others is that it is a “regional brokerage firm,” said Hull, who as managing director supervises four other financial advisors, in addition to himself. “Morgan Keegan has 1,200 advisors, and our relatively small size allows us to deliver more client-based service than our larger, more institutional competitors.”

The more nimble Morgan Keegan allows its advisors, like Hull and Fuller, senior vice president, to indulge in “client-intensive” relationships, Hull said recently. “When we consult with our clients, the communication and advice runs from the advisors up to the clients rather than from an ivory tower down to the client. Our home office works to support our advisors who have the relationship with the clients and know how to best serve them.”

Instead of having to deal with an impersonal, faraway advisor, Morgan Keegan’s clients can connect with someone who’s in the neighborhood or at least the same time zone.

“We have a Fixed Income trading desk in Atlanta, and the staff knows the markets in South Carolina,” Hull said. “It’s not like someone being interested in investing in South Carolina and having to talk to a trader in New York City.”

In fact, Morgan Keegan’s four municipal bond trading offices are spread throughout the firm’s entire footprint and are always on the lookout for bonds their clients might be interested in, Hull said.

While Morgan Keegan’s equity research department follows the stock value of over 300 companies of all sizes, the firm also keeps a weather eye out for smaller, more regional companies that may be worth investing in, Hull said. “This firm was built on finding investment opportunities outside Wall Street, specifically in the South.” It’s this agility coupled with Hull’s and Fuller’s philosophy, based on intimate relationships with their clients, that they believe gives them an edge. They prefer face-to-face meetings over telephone interviews.

“We travel all over the country to meet with our clients,” said Hull.

“We know their children, their parents, their jobs and hobbies,” said Hull. “We feel we should get to know our clients personally. We count the majority of our clients as friends, and we want them to be able to call us, not some remote, faraway office at a 1-800 number.”

And, by knowing their clients as close friends, Hull and Fuller believe they can be in tune to their interests in investing. When the financial advisors come along an investment idea, they can think, “One or another client just might like this idea.”

“We may be talking to a client, and we may not even be talking about investments or business but chatting about what’s going on in our lives, and this helps us down the line in advising about investments,” Hull said.

During a recent interview with Hull, Fuller was across country attending a client’s family wedding—that’s their business modus operandi.

“We feel we know our clients so well that we are a sort of confidante,” Fuller said upon his return. “They share with us their family issues, things going on in their lives.

“It keeps this job fun—getting to know people with such varied backgrounds and from so many different places originally,” said Fuller, a Wisconsin transplant. “I learn something new every day.”

While they collect a lot of frequent flyer miles, Hull and Fuller’s client base is about 70 percent local, in the Hilton Head/Lowcountry-Savannah area. “We conduct at least quarterly financial reviews with about 90 percent of our clients,” Hull said.

Investments have not been recession-proof, and the finance industry is riding out the storm, too. While not suffering as catastrophic setbacks as real estate and manufacturing, the bonds, equities and stock markets have taken their hits, Fuller and Hull said.

The devastated real estate markets have had more than just trickle-down consequences on the economy, including in the Lowcountry. So many local financial sectors rely on healthy real estate and property economies. If real estate isn’t moving, and investments and values are down, that rubs off on Beaufort and Chatham counties’ tourism, food and beverage, sales and services and entertainment industries.

“Real estate and property business drives our economy here just as much as tourism,” Hull said.

Many of Fuller’s and Hull’s clients are retirees looking for fixed-income investments. While many are doing relatively okay in the current economic downturn, thanks in part to diversified investments, others are going back to work to make ends meet and to build a hedge in these uncertain times. “Some are living off their investments, but today it’s a bit more of a challenge,” Hull said.

Fuller said it requires a lot of sound strategy to help their clients get the most for their investments these days because of record low returns on many bonds and equities investments.

“Many people are interested in fixed-income (long-term) investments rather than the stock market,” Fuller said. “Though it can be kind of difficult when you’re talking about a long-term, locked-in investment for someone who is retired.”

But when all is said and done, people are realizing that the age-old strategy of long-term investment may be the soundest strategy, Hull said. “Long-term investing is coming back. We know that what is worthwhile in life gains its worth over time, like marriages, homes, families, friends, careers, those things we hold and appreciate over long periods of time.

“And, that’s a key to our relationships with our clients, that we are with them for the long haul, from their baptism to their wedding and their funeral. There’s no clock on this business.”

Rounding out the Morgan Keegan Hilton Head office is Maria Mena, vice president and client service associate. Between the three, they have about 75 years of experience in finance and investments.

Morgan Keegan is located at 2 Lafayette Place at Indigo Run on Hilton Head, next to Regions Bank. For more information, call (843) 682-1602 or visit hullfuller.mkadvisor.com.

Morgan Keegan & Company, Inc. Member FINRA, SIPC. Securities and insurance products are not FDIC insured, not a deposit, not an obligation of or guaranteed by Regions Bank, it affiliates, or any government agency and may lose value.

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