Unsolicited letter gave an ‘old school’ planner his big break

Pete Mahurin is an adviser who shuns technology in favour of a pen and paper

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Pete Mahurin took an unconventional approach when he decided to apply to join Hilliard Lyons as a financial adviser in 1968.

As a high school maths and physics teacher from what he describes himself as a “rural poor” family, he did not think he had the background needed for a financial advisory job but he “gave it a shot” anyway.

“I have no rich or influential friends or relatives and can bring your firm no business in that manner,” he wrote in his unsolicited application letter. “My background is rural, and I am not in the country club set, the golf set, etc. What’s more, I have no intention or desire to be in it. The only organisation to which I belong is the church. I am poor at remembering names. I can see this might be a handicap.”

To his surprise, he ended up being offered a job. He believes that what stood out from his letter — a trait he values the most to this day — is his “good, old school integrity”.

Mr Mahurin is among the longest-practising advisers and one of the most loyal to a single employer in this year’s Financial Times 400 list.

“Everything about me is old school,” says Mr Mahurin, who is based in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

He says he sticks with his pen and paper when discussing investments and other matters with his clients and prospects, never feeling the need to take out a tablet or laptop, or use mobile apps or PowerPoint presentations.

Just over a fifth of the FT 400 advisers are 60 or older, including Mr Mahurin. Only 42 per cent of the advisers in this age group say that the need to ensure technology tools are up to date and efficient are among their toughest challenges.

A large part of Mr Mahurin’s reason for sticking to his old school methods is that the clients and prospects are also quite traditional. Mr Mahurin says the investors he advises — many of whom have been with him since his early years as an adviser — and prospects want explanations presented as simply as possible.

Hilliard Lyons does invest in technology such as client databases, customer relationship management systems and investment software. “Those are available to any adviser in the firm who wants to use them. It’s just not a big deal to me personally,” he says.

There are seven advisers at the Bowling Green branch of Hilliard Lyons, ranging in age from their 20s to their 80s.

The company, which has about $38bn of funds under management, has 400 advisers in 73 branches nationwide. Mr Mahurin himself manages $1.3bn in client assets. He has been among Hilliard Lyons’ top revenue producers since 1972, and he was the first in the company to attract $1m from clients and then $2m.

Mr Mahurin says he managed to earn Hilliard Lyons’ trust five decades ago when the company hired him, and he has been doing his best to establish and retain trust among his clients and prospects ever since.

“I see people, I talk to them, I listen to them, and I show them that I know how to manage money,” he says. “I build a relationship from scratch and develop it, the old school way.”

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