Roger C. Bransford, one of the best known, well-liked and respected figures in the pension consulting community, was killed in the crash of a Comair commuter aircraft near Detroit Jan. 9.
Mr. Bransford was managing director of investment consulting at Watson Wyatt Investment Consulting, Atlanta. He was aboard a commuter plane that crashed south of Detroit during a blinding snowstorm, killing all 29 people aboard. He had just attended a client meeting in Cincinnati and was on the way to yet another in Detroit.
Mr. Bransford, 52, is survived by his wife, Ave, and three sons.
At Wyatt, a worldwide search is on for his replacement. No timetable has been set. Charlie Clemens, chairman of the executive committee, temporarily will assume Mr. Bransford's duties.
Business associates, clients and competitors remember Mr. Bransford as one of the most formidable consultants in the business, a loving family man and a conscientious boss whose sense of humor was a trademark.
A memorial service - attended by about 1,000 friends, members of the Atlanta business community and pension industry figures - was held Jan. 12 at his local church.
"We will be a lesser industry with the loss of Roger Bransford," said Catherine Higgins, national director-asset consulting services at Towers Perrin, New York, who succeeded Mr. Bransford at the firm he left in 1992 to join Stein Roe & Farnham as president of its institutional asset management division.
"I've known Roger all my working life both as a colleague and as a competitor, and he was truly a warm and wonderful man and perhaps the best marketing and sales person our business has ever had," said Ms. Higgins.
Said Edward C. Hamill, one of Mr. Bransford's closest friends, who retired as managing partner at Brinson Partners Inc., Chicago, in 1995: "I worked with him in so many parts of my life."
"He was a great guy to work for and one of the best pure business development people in the whole world. He had his arms around the industry and, truly, the industry had its arms around him."
Those who knew Mr. Bransford praised his business acumen and dedication to the industry, which he served in several high profile positions since 1971.
He began at A.G. Becker & Co., where he worked from 1971 through 1978. He then became senior vice president with Meidinger Inc., leaving in 1984 to serve as president of Meridian Management Co., Little Rock, Ark. He returned to Meidinger for a short time, then became a partner with D.L. Eager & Associates in 1986.
In 1987 he became national director-asset consulting at TPF&C (now Towers Perrin) and left that position in 1992 to become president of the institutional asset management division at Stein Roe. In 1994 he became senior investment consultant at LCG Associates. He joined Watson Wyatt in February 1996.
Ms. Higgins said because Mr. Bransford was the first leader of the asset consulting practice at Towers Perrin, he laid the foundation for its later progress.
"He recruited many of the senior people here and was instrumental in the formative days of our practice. If you determine who the people are going to be and what the firm will be doing is very significant. The firm hired him and he sort of took it the first lap," she said.
Mr. Bransford probably helped LCG Associates - a small, unknown firm at the time he joined - the most. "Roger automatically gave them a lot of credibility throughout the business, and his name opened a lot of doors for LCG," one money manager recalled.
During each of his investment and consulting roles, Mr. Bransford maintained his residence in Atlanta, a city he loved and wanted as the home for his family.
"He had a strong, beautiful family. He was a rich man who loved his church; he had a passion for the community and for his job," said Perry Johnson, senior consultant and southeast regional practice leader in Wyatt's Atlanta office. He was recruited by Mr. Bransford from Brinson.
Mr. Johnson noted Mr. Bransford had known his wife since kindergarten: "He had the most beautiful marital relationship I've ever seen."
Rebecca Garner, chief investment officer at Llama Asset Management, Little Rock, worked with Messrs. Hamill and Bransford at Meridian in the 1970s. "He knew everybody, and he accumulated people," Ms. Garner said.
"His personality was such that he didn't dismiss anyone. If he met you, he kept up with you.
"We used to joke and kid him later about his job changes. We used to say that he liked seeing his name in print so much that he changed jobs just so there could be another article written about him," said Ms. Garner.
"It's a people business and ultimately it's the person that counts, and he was a lovely person. He always went home and was totally committed to his family. We just won't ever see anyone like him again. We won't see anyone who has had as much impact on as many places as he had."
Mr. Bransford's presence and ability to manage client relationships were unusual, business colleagues said. As a result, many of his pension and 401(k) clients moved with him whenever he changed jobs.
One client who did just that is Southwest Airlines Inc., Dallas, where Mr. Bransford was consultant on the firm's $500 million 401(k) plan.
Over the years, Southwest Airlines transferred its business to Mr. Bransford while he was at Towers Perrin, LCG and then to Wyatt.
"We followed him wherever he went; he was very good to us," said Jenny Stephens, manager-profit-sharing/401(k) at Southwest Airlines. "At Southwest Airlines we don't only hire people for their professional expertise but also for the personal chemistry. He had the right combination of knowledge, personality, character and sense of humor. We were honored to have Roger in our lives."
Peter Bowles, president and founder of Fiduciary Capital Management Inc., Woodbury, Conn., worked for Mr. Bransford at Meidinger.
"He was my last boss before I founded FCM. He was the kind of boss who would set the tone and direction, help establish goals and objectives, but stayed out of your way and gave you the latitude and freedom to do your job. Had he stayed at Mercer, I might never have started FCM," said Mr. Bowles.
June Debatin, now senior consultant, international investments at LCG in Atlanta, worked for Mr. Bransford at Meidinger and again when he was with LCG.
"While I was at Meidinger, Roger saw to it that I was treated right. As the years passed, we often would talk about our families and business goals. He would frequently talk about his sons; they were a great source of joy to him," said Ms. Debatin.
"He had balance in his life. He was able to balance the pressures of work with those things which are meaningful in life - his family, his church and all the other things he had to do," she said. Dave Eager, managing partner at Eager & Associates, Louisville, Ky., said Mr. Bransford is "the reason I got into this business." Mr. Bransford hired him to work at A.G. Becker in the 1970s.
"Roger could bring direction and vitality to an organization. I once asked him to describe himself in a few words," said Mr. Eager.
His answer - "An energizer."