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Top 50 Professionals Award

Program Summary and Research Methodology

PROGRAM SUMMARY


Top 50 Professionals Award conducts market-specific research to identify outstanding service professionals. Founded in 2010, the Top 50 Professionals Award award program is the largest and most widely published award program in North America. 


Professionals recognized as award winners are published by Top 50 Professionals Award and its partners. Award winners cannot pay a fee to be included in the research or the final list of award recipients. However, Businessweek500.com membership is required.


PROGRAM PRESENTATION AND DISCUSSION WITH SEC STAFF


The Top 50 Professionals Award program was presented and discussed with the SEC Staff in Washington, D.C., in June 2010. The SEC Staff verbally advised Top 50 Professionals Award that the program does not constitute a client testimonial because (a) clients do not participate in the nomination and pre-qualification process and (b) the use of consumer feedback in the consumer complaint process is insignificant.


RESEARCH OBJECTIVE


Our research objective is to recognize Real Estate Agents, Mortgage Professionals, Home/Auto Insurance Agents, Wealth Managers, and Investment Professionals who show a commitment to clients, and demonstrate strong industry credentials.


For purposes of this program, wealth managers include SEC- and state-registered investment adviser representatives and registered investment advisers. Our final list is not intended to be exhaustive.


To receive the Top 50 Professionals Award, a professional must satisfy 10 objective eligibility and evaluation criteria. 


RESEARCH METHODOLOGY


The following steps define our research process:


Award Candidate Identification Process


The nomination process is designed to identify the possible population of high-quality award candidates in order to ensure that eventual award winners have been drawn from a large and diverse pool. Award candidates are identified by one of three sources: firm nomination, peer nomination, or pre-qualification. Self-nominations are not accepted.


1. Define Research Geography and Relevant Population of Wealth Managers and Firms


Top 50 Professionals Award defines the relevant geographic area for the research and identifies the wealth managers and firms in that area.


FINRA and SEC-registered representatives, as defined by an outside data provider, and past Top 50 Professionals Award winners are contacted as part of the peer nomination process. Broker-dealers and registered investment advisers, as identified by a third-party data firm, are contacted as part of the firm nomination process.


2. Acquire Peer and Firm Nomination Lists


Once the populations of peers and firms have been determined, contact and eligibility data is acquired. For nominations sent by mail, Top 50 Professionals Award processes all mailing lists through verification software to ensure that data is updated with any change-of-address submissions to the USPS in order to maximize the deliverability.


3. Solicit Peer and Firm Nominations


Peers and firms are asked to nominate one or more wealth managers they know who have an established practice, good client relationships and a strong reputation. Nominees can be SEC- or state-registered investment adviser representatives.


Peer Nominations:

Peers are invited to nominate wealth managers by accessing Top 50 Professionals Award web-based nomination system. Each peer may nominate up to six wealth managers. Nominations are collected through an individual online form.


Firm Nominations:

Firms are invited to nominate wealth managers by accessing Top 50 Professionals Award web-based nomination system. A firm may nominate up to 10% of its wealth managers in the market for consideration. Firms with fewer than 10 wealth managers in a market may nominate one wealth manager. The firm representative submitting nominations must provide their contact information.


4. Collect Nominations and Verify Validity Peer Nominations:


Top 50 Professionals Award collects peer nominations submitted to our web-based nomination system. Top 50 Professionals Award research staff reviews nominations for completeness of required information and to guard against self-nomination. In the event of questions, research staff contacts the peer that submitted the nomination(s).


Firm Nominations:
Top 50 Professionals Award collects firm nominations submitted to our web-based nomination system. Top 50 Professionals Award research staff reviews nominations for completeness of required information and to ensure no more than 10% of the wealth managers of each firm in the market are nominated. Firms with less than 10 wealth managers may nominate one wealth manager. In the event of questions, research staff contacts the firm representative who submitted the nomination(s).


6. Identify Pre-Qualified Award Candidates


Internal and external data sources are used to identify relevant and high-potential candidates. Multiple pre-qualification attributes are considered and may include years in the industry, fiduciary status, and assets administered, among others.


7. Conduct Regulatory and Consumer Complaint Review


To ensure that award candidates are in good standing with a favorable regulatory history, regulatory reviews of reported complaints and disciplinary actions are conducted for each candidate.


As part of the regulatory review, Top 50 Professionals Award conducts a review of each award candidate as reported by FINRA and the SEC. For wealth managers with a CRD Number, Top 50 Professionals Award relies on the wealth manager’s FINRA BrokerCheck Report and/or the SEC Investment Adviser Public Disclosure website. For wealth managers without a CRD Number, Top 50 Professionals Award relies on Form ADV for the wealth manager’s firm.


Additionally, Top 50 Professionals Award promotes, via local advertising and through our website, the opportunity to submit feedback — including whether a consumer had an unsatisfactory experience — regarding a wealth manager. Complaint data submitted in this way serves as an early alert system to unfiled consumer complaints and augments the regulatory review of reported complaints. A favorable regulatory and complaint history is defined by Top 50 Professionals to mean that they have not:


  • Been subject to a regulatory action that resulted in a license being suspended or revoked, or payment of a fine
  • Had more than a total of three settled or pending complaints filed against them (and no more than six total pending, dismissed, or denied) with any regulatory authority
  • Individually contributed to a financial settlement of a customer complaint
  • Within the past 10 years:
    • Been terminated from a wealth management or financial services firm
    • Filed for personal bankruptcy
    • Been convicted of a felony
      Wealth managers who do not have a favorable regulatory history, based upon the criteria listed above, are removed from consideration.  


Each wealth manager who passes the Top 50 Professionals regulatory and complaint history review must also attest that they meet the definition of a favorable regulatory history, based upon the criteria listed above. This step occurs at the time the wealth manager submits information about themselves and their practice (see item B).



Research Methodology

Selection Process

Top Top 50 Professionals invites each award candidate to submit information about themselves and their practice, including specific data related to eligibility and selection criteria. Candidates are required to certify that the information they provide is accurate. Award candidates who satisfy the following objective eligibility and evaluation criteria associated with providing quality services to their clients receive the Top 50 Professionals Award.

Eligibility Criteria Required

Credentialed as an investment adviser representative or a registered investment adviser.

Actively employed as a registered investment adviser representative or as a principal of a registered investment adviser firm for a minimum of five years.

Favorable regulatory and complaint history review. Fulfilled their firm review based on internal firm standards. Accepting new clients.

Eligibility Criteria Considered

One-year client retention rate. Five-year client retention rate. Non-institutional discretionary and/or non- discretionary client assets administered. Number of client households served. Education and professional designations. The specific numeric values for some of the objective evaluation criteria are determined after the wealth managers have submitted their data forms. 

Firm Review

Each firm has the opportunity to review the preliminary award winners from its firm. As part of their review, firms are able to remove individuals from the preliminary list of award winners for internal company reasons such as failure to adhere to company standards (behavior, performance, compliance, etc.).