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Store Trek is a regular Voice feature, profiling new stores and businesses in the neighborhood. This month's Store Trek, written by Bill Yard, introduces two financial experts -- one specializing in stocks and bonds and the other in home, car, and life insurance.
EDWARD JONES INVESTMENTS
Kathy Zucchi, Investment Representative
816 Diamond Street (near 24th)
If just the sound of the word "NASDAQ" gives you a serious case of the jitters, at least you have company: the stock market's recent convolutions have left even seasoned Montgomery Street pros pondering a switch to decaf. But before you start cashing in your IRAs and stuffing your mattress with 10s and 20s, you might want to talk to Kathy Zucchi, a stock broker now representing Edward Jones Investments in Noe Valley.
A former graphic designer and longtime San Francisco resident, Zucchi returned to her native Midwest in 1994 to complete the training and licensing requirements to operate as a full-service broker. After coming back to the Bay Area in 1998, she began an extensive search for a location in the city. She was particularly attracted to Noe Valley, "because of the people, the weather, and the neighborhood feel." In April, Zucchi opened her office in a remodeled storefront on Diamond near 24th Street.
She's now affiliated with Edward Jones, a nationwide investments firm. "Harvard Business School has ranked Edward Jones an A+ company," she says. "They even teach a class on our firm as a model of what a brokerage firm should be."
In addition to advising clients on their investment choices, Zucchi sends out a monthly newsletter. "My job is to educate people, so they can make informed decisions. Do you really want to be managing all your finances?" she asks. "We take our cars in every few months for service, we visit the doctor regularly, but a lot of us don't seek professional help about our financial health."
She also sorts through the staggering amount of financial information now available on the Internet. "People can't be expected to know everything," she says. "There's a big difference between information and knowledge."
Zucchi brings her clients in for a get-acquainted session, and reviews their employment status, assets, retirement plans, and other objectives such as college tuition or debt reduction. "You have to get the whole picture of the whole person," she notes. "As a result, no two portfolios that I manage are invested the same way."
One tip she has for Noe Valley homeowners is to "get an estate plan in place. Otherwise, your heirs can be hit hard by taxes, fees, and miles of red tape. I can refer you to some great estate planning attorneys right here in the neighborhood."
What Zucchi does not provide are day-trading services. Nor does she speculate in options, futures, or commodities. "Our investment portfolios are balanced according to our clients' goals, needs, and risk tolerance," she explains. Also, fees at Edward Jones are transaction-based only.
Zucchi, assistant Lee Miller, and administrator Maureen Compton keep the office open from roughly 7 a.m. until early evening, Monday through Friday. Zucchi also counsels clients by appointment on Saturdays. Potential clients can call first, or just visit the office. If you drop by, look for the bright green awning and the quote from Gandhi in the window.
FARMERS INSURANCE GROUP
Dwight Duke, Insurance Agent
1600 Castro Street (at Clipper)
Dwight Duke, the Farmers insurance agent assigned to Noe and Eureka valleys, took the long way to get here: he hopped on his motorcycle, left Chicago, and ended up in Rio de Janeiro, at Carnaval. After seven years in Brazil, he met and married his wife Maisa, and decided to return to the States to pursue an insurance career. Settling in San Francisco was an easy choice: "We're a bi-racial couple, so we wanted to live somewhere we'd feel comfortable. This city's famous for its diversity and tolerance."
An important issue affecting the local insurance industry is the recent spike in real estate values. Duke thinks residents need to look over their insurance coverage regularly. "Healthy people spend more on insurance than they do on medical care," he notes, "but it might not be money well spent. They may be spending too much, or have too much coverage, or be underinsured if their property has increased in value."
To help his clients understand their options, Duke offers them a free review of their insurance coverage, then compares their current rates with those of Farmers. "What they do with the information is up to them," he says. "I feel that if I can provide some competitive prices, then I'll get some business."
Sharing an office with Co-op Realty at the corner of Castro and Clipper streets (he moved in last December), Duke offers the gamut of insurance products, including home, auto, and life, as well as other financial services such as IRAs and annuities. He sees a particular need in this neighborhood for renters' insurance, as well as for domestic partner coverage. "Often, when I review the policies of two people living together, I find that they have duplicate coverage in some areas but no coverage in others. So I can sometimes go in and, for the same money, give them more complete protection."
Duke, who walks to work from his home at 21st and Castro, says his clients appreciate the fact that he lives in the neighborhood.
"Who would you rather settle a claim with," he says, "one of your neighbors you can go visit in person, or some anonymous stranger on an 800 number?"
You can call Duke or visit his office between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, or on Saturday mornings by appointment.
Meanwhile, if you notice a guy in a weathered motorcycle jacket who leaves a big envelope in your neighbor's mailbox, then jumps on his bike and roars off, you've probably glimpsed Noe Valley's Farmers agent working his territory.