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How an RIA won a Counting Crow away from a Paine Webber broker

Vickrey takes the advice of fellow Crow's father

Monday, November 23, 2009 – 6:23 AM by Brooke Southall
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Dan Vickrey: “We’re concerned about money because we have a career that could end any day.”

Even Counting Crows count their pennies.

Dan Vickrey, lead guitar of the Los Angeles-based band, was not unlike millions of affluent investors in how he set about managing his wealth.

He asked his accountant to refer him to a suitable financial advisor when his band was starting to make it big in 1994.

The accountant, he recalls, gave a relatively unenthusiastic referral to a local Paine Webber stockbroker who happily took on the account. “My accountant just said: ‘I know a guy,’” Vickrey recalls.

Vickrey, 43, who lives in San Francisco, stuck by his choice — until 2002, when the tech bubble burst. “I was really getting down,” he says.

The burst bubble was a wake-up call that reminded him of his precarious position as a rock star. Fame, he realized, was as ephemeral as the revenues of some tech companies.

Concerned about money

“We’re concerned about money because we have a career that could end any day,” he says.

With that unsettling thought in his mind, Vickrey pulled aside fellow Crow, David Bryson. [The band was formed in 1991 by Bryson and Adam Durwitz and joined by Vickrey in 1994] Its big hits include: “A long December”, “Raining in Baltimore”, and “Mr. Jones.”

He knew that the fellow guitar player had roughly the same income. The two of them had invested in their retirement accounts at about the same annual rate.

Vickrey had heard Bryson speaking highly of an independent advisor he used back in their Bay area home, and Vickrey wanted to see the facts behind his rock colleague’s claims.

Vickrey found out that Bryson’s portfolio had outperformed his own by nearly 100% over the years.

Vickrey asked to meet Bryson’s financial advisor, who turned out to be a registered investment advisor named Malcolm Gissen, principal of Malcolm H. Gissen & Associates Inc., which manages about $150 million from San Francisco. (SEE RELATED STORY)

Bryson had found Gissen after his father heard him speak about investing one evening in Oakland. Bryson liked what he heard and hired him. Subsequently several members of The Counting Crows have retained him. [Ironically, Bryson’s father did not – to his chagrin — hire Gissen until this year, Vickrey adds.]

“No b.s.”

“Once I met Malcolm, I was impressed,” he says. “It was night and day. He had ideas. He answered all the questions that I asked with no b.s.”

It confirmed what Vickrey had thought of his Paine Webber [subsequently UBS Financial Services] stockbroker for years.

“I always thought the other guy was muddling through,” he says.

What price does Gissen pay for being Vickrey’s financial advisor? Sometimes his client is hanginaround.

“I’m sure I’m one of his peskier customers,” Vickrey says. “I definitely check in more than time and again.”

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