An interview with Robert Brown, owner of the Brown Financial Group, No. 10 Sixth St., Astoria, (503) 325-7972.

Robert Brown's second-floor office on a pier overlooking the Columbia River is a long way from the Midwest, just as his present job as a financial manager is a long walk from his last career as an English professor at Kent State University in Ohio. In his eight years in Astoria the 42-year-old Brown, who is originally from the Portland area, has built a stable investment planning business with approximately 1,000 clients.

What services do you offer at Brown Financial Group?

"We do a traditional brokerage business: buying and selling stocks, bonds and mutual funds. We're a discount brokerage. We charge less on commissions than somebody like Merrill Lynch would charge, typically about half what their fees are. Some other things we do are retirement plans for companies and individuals."

What is the total value of assets you have under management?

"Fifty million to $60 million. It is mostly individuals' investment portfolios and retirement plans. There are also some nonprofit organizations' (investments)."

What are some of the challenges you are facing now in your business?

"The hardest thing was when the stock market went down for three years in a row, the average client was not happy at all. It's also hard to get people to have realistic expectations and stick to the plan. They talk to a friend who bought a stock two weeks ago that went up 40 percent and they want to buy that one. It's usually too late to buy that one."

How did the business get started?

"I was an English professor in Ohio, and my wife and I had twins and decided to move back to Oregon, and there weren't any jobs in my field at universities. But I had a decent-sized investment portfolio, and I spent a lot of time looking at my money, so I thought: Why not try this?"

Why are you located in Astoria?

"Because there are nice, large old houses with views of the river, and it's safe for my kids here. It wasn't for the business climate here, which I think is improving."

Has Astoria proved to be a profitable place for your business?

"Yes, it's done much better than I ever expected."

Why?

"We have a financial planning-based approach. I think a lot of places have more of a transactional-based approach. They don't spend a lot of time learning about their clients and what their needs are."

- Patrick Drake

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