The Smartest Guy in the Room (Financial Services Company of the Year)

Bernard Beal leads investment banking firm M.R. Beal & Co. to bigger deals and becomes the 2011 BE100s Financial Services Company of the Year

To keep his herd of now 50 employees from wandering, Beal hired Stanley Grayson in 2002. Grayson, a former deputy mayor for finance and economic development of New York City under Mayor Ed Koch, serves as vice chairman and chief operating officer of M.R. Beal. What does that title mean in the firm’s day-to-day reality? “Bernard and I complement each other very well. In Bernard, you have true brilliance of mind. I think part of my job is to take a lot of things off his plate to allow him to focus on strategic direction,” says Grayson, whose managerial know-how has helped the firm court a new, smart team of bankers and sales representatives who were downsized from larger Wall Street firms in recent years.

Grayson’s presence has allowed Beal and his wife, who serves as the firm’s senior vice president and director of strategic planning, to focus on expanding and diversifying the business. One of the firm’s most notable recent moves came last November when it announced a strategic alliance with national brokerage firm TD Ameritrade. The larger brokerage house will offer newly issued municipal bonds underwritten by M.R. Beal, meaning that retail investors, and independent registered investment advisers on TD Ameritrade’s platform, will have access to the hundreds of municipal bond issues M.R. Beal brings to market each year.

Beal is so focused on the continual building of his firm that he hasn’t given much thought to the horse farm he and Lancaster-Beal dreamed of years ago. The Beals are considering a succession plan that would include a place for their son, Michael, should he be interested in joining the firm in the future. Michael Beal, 27, is finishing his first year of M.B.A. studies at Harvard Business School after working in Morgan Stanley’s mergers and acquisitions shop and completing a stint with a West Coast private equity firm. The Beals also have a 23-year-old daughter, Erica, who teaches third grade at a charter school in Harlem. Any plans the Beals have for a life of leisure are a long way off. “We’re really focused on making M.R. Beal the best it can be,” says Lancaster-Beal. “We’re not ready for the farm yet.”

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