When Mike Cunningham, an independent with Cunningham Kaestner in Oklahoma City, found himself doing a lot more business thanks to the recession, only one thing helped keep that growth manageable: in his words, “blatant honesty.”

Cunningham has been receiving a lot of referrals recently, first because he make a point of asking clients for them in every meeting — he says face to face works best — and second because his business, which is heavy in non-traded real-estate investment trusts and other alternatives, has strong resonance with every investor frightened by market volatility and leery of sticking all their assets in low-yielding bonds or moving to cash.

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