While the economy may be looking up in some respects, it's not a walk in the park when it comes to financial advisors generating income and protecting the wealth of their clients.

So this month, in SMAs Tough It Out, our cover story, contributor Elizabeth Wine went to Morningstar to identify the Top 50 Separately Managed Accounts—that is, the top 10 performers in five categories. What she found were managers who refused to be at the mercy of the markets. Instead, they looked for opportunity and made their own luck. 

As we head into spring, On Wall Street, with the help of our sponsor, New York Life/MainStay Investments, starts looking to name the top 10 branch managers of the year taken from the list of 100 branch manager honorees. We realize just how difficult the role of the job of the branch manager is, as financial products evolve in complexity, regulations that require greater disclosure continue to multiply, and financial advisors are confronted with clients heading into retirement amid uncertainty in the global markets. That's not all today's branch manager faces. A global investing perspective is increasingly in demand. And, the needs of high-net-worth investors are becoming ever more complicated as they fight to maintain their wealth, while planning for both their heirs and their philanthropic legacies.

Branch managers also have to consider how to recruit the new crop of advisors as the industry—much like the greater society—confronts an aging population. They have to think about how to retain the biggest producers who service the wealthiest clients as a war for talent rages. Against that backdrop, I look forward to naming the Top 10 branch managers very soon.

Of course, several of those issues that branch managers have to help their advisors with get discussed in the pages of this month's On Wall Street. In a provocative piece, Milton Ezrati, our "Going Global" columnist writes about what Europe needs to do to deal with its problems and takes the continent's leaders to task for failing to have the courage to do so.

Then there is Jeff Tjornehoj of Lipper writing our "Mutual Fund Focus" column. In it, he discusses the 15 most popular benchmarks and the number of funds outperforming them. He points to winners and losers alike.

This month marks the 100th column of Alan J. Foxman, who has been answering your compliance questions for 10 years. This time, our resident legal expert takes a break from answering questions, instead offering his insights into what some of the big challenges are for the industry.

One topic that is always at the forefront of advisors' minds is retirement. And John Diehl of The Hartford in this month's "The Wealthy Retiree," discusses how to get your clients ready for those golden years. You do that the same way you get to Carnegie Hall—practice, practice, practice. Of course, instead of going through scales on the piano, practicing for retirement is different. But Diehl argues that it isn't terribly difficult. See what he has to say and pick up some valuable tips that will make you and your client wiser, wealthier and happier.

As always, let us know what you think and what topics you would like to see us tackle in the pages of On Wall Street.

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