By M.L. Dehm The Herald Business Journal
SNOHOMISH — St. Louis-based Edward Jones is one of the largest suppliers of financial products for individual investors in North America. There are more than 11,000 Edward Jones offices across the U.S. and Canada due to a unique business model that is designed to reach clients on the community level.
“Our model is one financial adviser and one branch office administrator per office,” explained Snohomish-based Edward Jones adviser Sterling Gurney. “Advisers have the ability to choose where they want to have their office as long as it is a location that Edward Jones has researched that will support a financial adviser.”
As Edward Jones advisers are encouraged to get involved in the community where their office is located, most choose to set up within their own neighborhood if possible. That way their community involvement benefits friends and neighbors.
It’s a philosophy that goes back to Edward D. “Ted” Jones Jr., son of the founder. He believed that face-to-face contact and building relationships with clients were essential to success. Around 1955, he originated the two-person community office model that has become the Edward Jones standard.
It was this ability to reach out to members of his own community that appealed to Gurney as he began his career as a financial adviser.
“I love working with Edward Jones because our philosophies are similar,” he said. “We both believe involvement in community is valuable.”
Gurney’s current involvement includes a place on the Snohomish Food Bank board and the board of Mari’s Place — a nonprofit that helps underprivileged children experience the arts. He is also involved with the Haven for Life Ministries board. It is a nonprofit that assists teen mothers and their infants.
“I am also involved with Snohomish, Lake Stevens and Sultan chambers of commerce,” Gurney said.
Gurney’s branch office administrator, Tammy Holten, is also involved in a number of community groups and local nonprofits.
Each Edward Jones office is given the flexibility to market itself as desired. For Gurney, that includes a monthly coffee club at his office at 602 Second St. in Snohomish. It takes place on the first Thursday of each month.
The coffee club concept, followed by a number of Edward Jones advisers, isn’t meant to be a sales pitch, Gurney insisted. Those who attend get to hear about what is going on in the markets and in the economy. They can ask questions, join in the discussion and even change the subject to sports or other current events.
On Nov. 6, Gurney plans to bring an additional coffee club to the Sky Valley Chamber of Commerce office in Sultan. “It may become a regular outreach of the Snohomish branch,” he said.
Once a customer decides to invest in Edward Jones, they find that their financial adviser or office administrator are easy to contact, another part of the business model. Gurney and Holten answer the phone themselves. Face-to-face meetings are standard with plan reviews on a regular basis.
“I like to think of Edward Jones as building custom plans for everybody,” Gurney said. “Each person has unique financial plans, unique challenges and unique goals. We help by customizing plans for every person.”
The company discourages high-risk, low-cost stocks, unproven companies and commodities. Long term investment is encouraged rather than trading and there is an an emphasis on quality and diversification.
“Edwards Jones was ranked highest in investor satisfaction with full service brokerage firms, according to J.D. Power and Associates, in last year’s Investor’s satisfaction survey,” Gurney said.
There have been other awards as well. In June 2012, Edward Jones was named the top full-service brokerage firm in SmartMoney magazine’s Annual Broker Survey. It also ranked at the top in REP magazine’s 2012 annual survey, where financial advisers from the nation’s six largest brokerages grade their firms’ products, quality, service and support.
Advisers seem to like working for the company. It was named one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For in America by Fortune magazine in its annual listing. In February 2013, Edward Jones ranked as a top company for training its associates on Training Magazine’s Top 125 list.
The company provides training for its new advisers. An initial two-month training course is designed to help them pass their securities exams. They then receive mentoring and additional training from established advisers. Gurney is one of those coaches.
It is, he explained, just another way of giving back to the community, an extension of the business model that forms his business.
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