A look at the people behind the numbers in area business:


Title: Wealth management adviser

Age: 54

Peter Eckerline, wealth management adviser at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management in Wayzata, was recently named the state's top financial adviser by Barron's, the eighth time in the past 10 years he has received that recognition.

Eckerline, who has been with Merrill Lynch throughout his 31-year career, characterized the recognition as "a testimony to the work my team and I do to make the lives of our clients better."

Barron's cited Eckerline's conservative approach to running his practice, noting that he designs portfolios to meet clients' specific needs and rebalances them regularly to reduce risk, which can mean "sometimes telling clients, 'no,' when they want to do something they probably shouldn't," Eckerline said.

"We're trying to manage to what their goals are," Eckerline said. "We seem to grow our business more in down markets than we do in up markets just because we are more conservative."

Eckerline took an usual approach to becoming a financial adviser. Told he needed sales experience, Eckerline, who had a business degree and MBA in finance from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, acted on a tip his brother had heard from radio commentator Paul Harvey and began installing front-door peepholes for condo residents.

"I went back to interview a couple of months later and said I had had doors slammed in my face and had some door-to-door sales experience, so they took a chance on me," Eckerline said. "It was a funny, roundabout way to do it, but it was pretty exciting when I got my job offer."

In a number of cases, Eckerline is working with a third generation of clients' families.

Q: To what would you attribute Barron's repeatedly recognizing you as the state's top financial adviser?

A: I've always tried to put clients first. Our primary goal is to help clients live the lives they want to live. Ultimately, we measure our success by our clients' success.

Q: What motivated you to pursue a career as a financial adviser?

A: I wanted a job where I could work with people and make a difference in their lives. I really love working with people. And I love the market. I enjoy the challenges, all the constant change. Every day seems like a new adventure.

Q: How strong is the economy now?

A: I concur with Merrill Lynch research, which feels we're in the fifth or sixth inning of a recovery and we've still got more room to run. We continue to see slow growth and maybe are coming out of this recession a little slower than previous ones. But everything's kind of getting a little better.

Todd Nelson