Many advisors feel that a successful career path lies in targeting and cultivating a client niche. But Jim Marquardt, a financial advisor at Bremer Bank in Rochester, Minn., takes the opposite approach.

For the 26 years that he’s worked in Rochester and the surrounding rural areas, Marquardt has successfully served a diverse client base that includes doctors and hog farmers.

“I’ve lived my whole life in this community,” Marquardt says. “And I’m familiar with all its different facets.”

For Marquardt, being a generalist makes things more interesting. He grew up on a farm, which makes it easy for him when meeting with farmers, but he’s also learned about other professions along the way, and he enjoys this variety.

“It would be boring if every client I had was a dentist,” Marquardt says. “As a generalist, I get to meet someone new with a new situation everyday. I love the fact that one day I’m working with a 90-year-old couple looking to leave money to their already retired kids, and the next, I’m dealing with parents who brought in their 17-year-old daughter or son to start planning their finances.”

But whether he’s talking with a dairy farmer or a dentist, Marquardt believes that empathy and understanding are key.

Regardless of a client’s profession, what’s important to Marquardt is being sensitive to his clients as people, irrespective of whether they’re wearing lab coats or overalls.

That means listening to them carefully, getting to know them well and helping them figure out what’s important to them in terms of their financial planning goals.

“My clients know it’s important for me to have those personal relationships with them and their families. I tell people that both husband and wife need to know what the plan is because some day, one among the three of us won’t be in the room anymore, so it’s important that everyone be on board.”

The close relationships he has with his clients has yielded numerous referrals over the years.

When clients recommend him to their children and their grandchildren, or their parents, it creates even more meaningful ties with families and the community, he says.

Marquardt serves about 650 families, some of which have been his clients for more than 20 years. But despite his roots in the community, his employer is new to him. Earlier this year, Bremer Bank acquired his former employer, Eastwood Bank, and changed their broker-dealer from LPL to Raymond  James.

Marquardt, who makes it a priority to stay abreast of all industry developments, regularly attends seminars and conferences. “Every time I have the opportunity to learn something new, I take advantage of it,” he says.

He says he’s still surprised sometimes at the financial savvy of his clients, in particular those who live in the rural areas or very small towns.

“There’s a misconception that people who live in small towns are unsophisticated and have low incomes,” he says. “While that may be true for some, there are also a lot of people with large dairy farms and on paper, they are quite wealthy and need estate planning, tax planning and transition planning advice. Many people outside of these areas may think that farmers and landowners show up to meetings in their muddy boots but that is not all the case, and most of them have very sound financial knowledge and detailed hedging or marketing plans to reduce their risk.”

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