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Three Women Advisors Explain The Common Needs Of Female Clients And Advice On Serving Them

In an industry that has been and continues to be predominantly male with a historical focus on male clients, women are advancing, both as advisors and professionals as well as clients, but gaps persist. Some, though not all, of the gaps exists because of a lack of understanding, and our industry can advance women more quickly if all advisors give due attention to the common needs and uniqueness of female clients.

To bring a better understanding of these needs and ways to meet them to advisors and other client-facing professionals in wealth management, we spoke with three women professionals at affiliates of Dynasty Financial Partners: Adrianna Stasiuk, Partner and Investment Advisor at Aaron Wealth Advisors; Daniela Pedley, Partner at Summit Trail Advisors; and Caroline Wetzel, VP, Private Wealth Advisor at Procyon Partners,

We asked each of them: What should advisors bear in mind to provide optimal service for female clients, and what mistakes do advisors make?

Their responses follow.

Adrianna Stasiuk, Partner, Investment Advisor, Aaron Wealth Advisors

In my experience, female clients tend to prefer collaborative and inclusive communication styles. I always make sure to share equitable eye contact in face-to-face meetings, making sure I don’t focus attention and eye contact towards the male participants of a meeting. I’ve witnessed cringe-worthy situations where advisors focus all the attention on the male audience in a room or pull out their cell phones during meetings.

That collaborative communication style often includes an emphasis on education and providing explanations in plain language. Providing education on financial concepts and strategies can empower my female clients. Using complex financial jargon can automatically turn off a client’s attention and interest.

While not always the case, studies have shown that women tend to take a more conservative approach to investing and risk-taking. It’s critical that an advisor provides clear guidance and tailor investment recommendations accordingly to ensure the client is taking enough risk to achieve their long-term goals. Not only do women tend to take less investment risk, but they also tend to experience unique life events such as taking prolonged career breaks for maternity, caregiving, divorce or widowhood, which can drastically impact their career earning power and financial situation.

Daniela Pedley, Partner, Summit Trail Advisors

As an advisor catering to ultra-high net worth individuals, particularly focusing on female clients, I have learned that it is important for them to feel heard, so I lead with empathy – letting them set the pace and listening closely to understand their priorities. Many women prefer to be truly understood before delving into discussions about their financial matters.

I recognize the importance of giving female clients space to express concerns and ask questions without feeling dismissed or overshadowed by their partners. Often, they worry their concerns may be unimportant, or their partners are more vocal with questions. They can, however, be just as insightful and creative as their partners, so there is value in keeping them engaged.

Sometimes wives can be sidelined. I have one who frequently is barely or not at all on screen during a Zoom, so I make a point to draw her into the conversation by asking direct questions. If I can’t spend time with her during the joint meeting, I reach out later to meet one-to-one.

To maintain my women clients’ trust, I meet them where they are at. I have occasionally spent the first 45 minutes with a client either needing to share something personal or in tears. It’s worth spending the time, because I get to know my client better and they then have more mental bandwidth to make the remaining meeting time more efficient and valuable.

By prioritizing empathy, understanding and patience in my interactions with female clients, I build trust, foster long-term relationships, and empower them to achieve their financial goals with confidence and clarity.

Caroline Wetzel, VP, Private Wealth Advisor, Procyon Partners

After resolving a difficult circumstance, a client confided in me: “Getting through this with you is like getting through life with a smart friend – thanks. I feel so much better.”

Too few advisors have the courage and confidence to “get comfortable feeling uncomfortable” with their women clients and ask them open-ended questions about what is important to them. While it is important for advisors to address financial challenges like creating cash flows in retirement to allocating assets appropriately, women I advise tell me that they chose to work with me because they felt comfortable talking to me about what’s going on in their lives “beyond portfolio returns.”

Women tell me what keeps them awake at night and I strive to listen without judgment, with a desire to understand what’s on their heads and hearts. From serving as caretakers to loved ones, to watching their partners’ physical and mental faculties decline over time, to, ultimately, surviving their spouses and facing potentially years of independent living without wanting to feel “alone,” women are navigating many ambiguous circumstances. These circumstances require creative thinking and flexibility over time when it comes to how they utilize their finances.

And when it comes to providing women value, the women I advise like both education and perspective. In addition to a solution to challenges, they like it when I provide information, context, and why I propose specific ways forward for them. This consultative partnership promotes engagement and deepens our relationship as we continuously iterate financial strategies for their unique situations.

The latest numbers are in, and Social Security is still drifting toward insolvency — just slightly less rapidly than it was last year.

On Tuesday, Social Security’s board of trustees released its 2024 report on the program’s finances, and they’re precarious. By 2035 — one year later than projected last year — the trust funds for the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance programs are on course to become depleted, and will only be able to pay out 83% of scheduled benefits.

As it did last year, that insolvency date puts Social Security on a collision course with America’s looming “gray tsunami.” By 2030, according to the U.S. Census, all 73 million baby boomers will have reached retirement age, potentially putting enormous strain on the program.

For retirement advisors, all of this raises a question: Can their clients count on getting Social Security when they retire? Somewhat surprisingly, many advisors say the answer is yes.

“I tell my clients, even the youngest, to plan on it being there for them,” said Larry Luxenberg, owner of Lexington Avenue Capital Management in New York City.

Joseph Boughan, owner of Parkmount Financial Partners in Scituate, Massachusetts, is also optimistic.

“I would say for people that are planning to retire and close to it, it is best to assume that they will get the benefits,” Boughan said. “The government is highly unlikely to just default on their obligations.”

Why are advisors so sanguine? Many attribute their confidence not to a deep faith in Congress, but to a simple political calculation: No lawmaker can afford to let Social Security die on their watch.

“At any time, cutting current benefits by 17% will be the last act of any politician who is involved with it,” said Dennis Hunt, a senior financial advisor at Moisand Fitzgerald Tamayo in Melbourne, Florida. “As it turns out, the folks who receive Social Security are also the ones who vote.”

If Congress does someday take action to shore up Social Security’s finances, a number of potential solutions are available to it. On the revenue side, lawmakers could remove the limit — or “scrap the cap” — on the Social Security taxes paid by the ultrawealthy. On the benefit side, Congress could once again raise the full retirement age for future generations, meaning Americans would collect less money over the course of their lifetimes.

But as many advisors pointed out, none of these solutions is likely to be attempted any time soon. Judging by Congress’ recent habit of tiptoeing to the brink of government shutdowns only to pass a stopgap spending bill at the last minute, legislators may not address Social Security until much closer to 2035.

“Congress is highly likely to fix Social Security but equally likely to wait till a true deadline looms before it does so,” Luxenberg said.

In the meantime, some clients do worry about the future of the program and whether they’ll be able to rely on it for part of their retirement income. How should planners address their concerns?

Chris Diodato, founder of WELLth Financial Planning in Palm Beach, Florida, has found that some of his older clients are the most anxious about Social Security. Some, he said, even insisted on collecting benefits at age 62 — the earliest possible age to file, incurring the smallest possible payouts — because they feared the program wouldn’t last much longer.

For such clients, Diodato recommends gaming out some of the worst possible scenarios.

“I encourage clients to run their plans as if they cannot take full benefits before age 70 or early benefits before age 65,” he said. “Increasing income tax rates throughout the plan is also a good way to try and account for future legislative risk.”

Other investors may wish to see a sliding scale of possibilities. Andrew Herzog, a wealth advisor at The Watchman Group in Plano, Texas, lets his clients decide which assumptions to make.

“As the default option, we leave Social Security benefits at 100%,” Herzog said. “However, we ask each client if they feel comfortable with that assumption, or if they would like us to reduce benefits in order to be more conservative in the planning.”

Other planners say their clients simply aren’t worried about the program.

“All in all, clients aren’t stressed about it,” said Jeff Farrar, co-founder of Procyon Partners in Shelton, Connecticut. “It’s not like a wolf at the back door. It’s more like termites in the basement — a longer-term problem that can be solved ‘later.'”

Jerry is a highly accomplished Senior Vice President and Senior Private Wealth Advisor at Procyon Partners, where he specializes in managing an exclusive clientele consisting of ultra-high-net-worth and high-net-worth individuals and families across the United States. His expertise lies in implementing an innovative and comprehensive approach via an outsourced family office model.

With his extensive knowledge of capital markets and risk management, Jerry adeptly guides his clients through the complexities of the financial markets. Prior to joining Procyon, he served as a Partner at Baker Tilly US, LLP, and was the Co-head of Baker Tilly Wealth Management, a Registered Investment Advisor (RIA). Before his tenure at Baker Tilly, Jerry held the position of Vice President and Wealth Advisor at Merrill Lynch.

Jerry’s professional background extends to his experience as the Chief Investment Officer (CIO) of a family office, where he assessed and advised on various investment opportunities, including real estate, venture capital, and private placements. Additionally, he served as the Director of Business Development for a payments company in the Midwest, where he actively participated in financial and operational due diligence for potential mergers and acquisitions within the payments industry. Early in his career, Jerry was the lead Cross-Asset Strategist and Senior Trader at the Private Bank of Credit Suisse in New York.

Jerry holds an MBA with a focus on portfolio management from the Gabelli School of Business at Fordham University in New York City. Additionally, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree with a concentration in Investment Management and Economics from Johnson and Wales University in Providence, RI. He is also a CFA Charterholder and CAIA Charterholder.

Outside of his professional pursuits, Jerry enjoys engaging in activities such as golfing, fitness, and cherishing quality time with his wife, two daughters, and their dog.

Procyon takes a bottom-up approach to portfolio management, but the firm’s real differentiator lies in its own alternative funds, giving clients access to unique opportunities in the private markets.

Diana Britton | Apr 08, 2024

Procyon Partners was founded in 2017 by financial advisor Phil Fiore with the support of Dynasty Financial Partners. Fiore previously built one of the most prominent institutional consulting groups at Merrill Lynch and then UBS before going independent. And while much of the RIA’s $7 billion business is now private wealth, the institutional DNA still runs through it.

That includes the RIA’s portfolio management process. The firm’s proxy model portfolio, explained below, consists of a 20% allocation to alternatives, which some may consider high for a retail wealth management firm. And that allocation is not through an alternative platform, such as iCapital or CAIS, but via Procyon’s proprietary funds.

Antonio Rodrigues, partner and chief investment officer at Procyon, provides a peek inside the RIA’s 50/30/20 model portfolio.

The following has been edited for length and clarity. What’s in your model portfolio?

Antonio Rodrigues: If you’re going to compare what we’re doing to a normal 60/40 portfolio, we would say it’s going to be 50% equity, 30% fixed, and 20% in alternatives.

We’re utilizing mostly passive strategies in our equity bucket, individual ETFs for the most part on the equity side, whether it’s large cap, small, mid, international or emerging markets. And then we’ll also use some thematic ETFs like cybersecurity oil. We were buying some energy-related specific ETFs towards the bottom of 2020 and held them for a couple of years.

On the fixed-income side, we’re using active managers, and we’re trying to keep our duration close to the benchmark.

And for alternatives, we’re mainly using our two funds if the client qualifies. If they don’t qualify, then we will use only one of our private funds that they can qualify for and will find an alternative, maybe a 40 Act fund, as a proxy for our fund. What’s in the equity and bond buckets, and what’s driving those allocations?

AR: What drives the allocations is going to mainly be our macro investment committee voting members. Each quarter, we have a survey of all the members of the committee. We weigh the answers, and we act accordingly. And we essentially ask them, “If you’re 60/40 or whatever the target is, what are your tactical weightings? And here were the weightings last time, and here are how you would answer it today.”

We use benchmarking in order to gauge our success. On the equity side, 75% of our benchmark is the Russell 3000, and 25% is the ACWI-ex-U.S.

On the fixed side, it’s just the Bloomberg Aggregate Bond Index. And on the private side, there’s no real benchmark there. That’s more manager-by-manager.

We will often substitute or enhance our equity or fixed-income targets with individual securities or SMAs. We do have a series of in-house managed equity portfolios and own several SMA managers across the firm for both stocks and fixed income. Have you made any allocation changes in the last six months to a year?

AR: About a year ago, we had an overweight to China, and we exited that overweight as we saw that their reopening did not occur. We’re market-weight or neutral on emerging markets right now. We also have added a little bit to small-cap and to developed international simply because the expected return of diversion from the mean has been so dramatic. In public equities, typically, that’s going to revert to the mean versus the U.S.

When it comes to holdings themselves, we’re using Vanguard, Schwab ETFs. We’ve got 23% in growth. We’ve got 20% just in large cap blend. We’re using the Capital Group Dividend Value ETF at 7%. We’ve got a 5% position in the NASDAQ Cybersecurity ETF. We’ve also added to the Pacer U.S. Cash Cows 100 ETF. We’ve gotten out of small-cap value over the last year. We’ve added back to small-cap growth with the Pacer U.S. Small Cap Cash Cows ETF as well.

We are of the mindset that there was always going to be three rate cuts this year because we tend to believe the Fed. We think if those cuts occur, we’re going to get a greater beta out of the growth side versus the value side. So far, it hasn’t been priced in that that will occur, but we’re keeping an eye on it as some of the leadership is changing in the market.

On the fixed income side, we have moved closer to duration. We’ve essentially exited most of our cash positions that we would’ve held over the last two years. We were overweight cash; now we’re back to market weight when it comes to fixed income. On the duration side, we’ve been short for a long, long time. We’re moving closer to neutral duration. But by and large, we have active managers in there, so we don’t want to over-manage the managers either. We’re tactical where we need to be on a macro basis, but we give the managers there a lot of leeway. How are your private funds structured, and what do they invest in?

AR: We launched two flavors: One is a vintage drawdown series, so that’s Procyon Vintage I. Inside of that is all private equity and venture capital. We have funded three managers so far and looking to fund a fourth manager that was launched in July of last year. We are charging no management fee and no carry for current Procyon clients to invest in there. We get the same revenue whether you own shares of Apple or a treasury bond or you own a Procyon fund. We wanted to be true fiduciaries, and we wanted to make sure we didn’t have just a single source solution. So we’ve put together a couple of parties that are all independent of each other to create those funds and deliver them.

The evergreen structure was launched in the fourth quarter of last year. It is a 307C fund, whereby all the investments inside the evergreen structure are going to be hedge-funded in private credit and a little bit of GP. We’ve identified six managers there, and we’re looking to fund all of them by the end of April. The target minimum raise is $25 million. So once we get to the $25 million, we’re able to deploy all that capital for accredited investors. Even though the underlying investments are QP only, they’re very high minimums, $5 and $10 million minimums. Again, we take no carry nor management fee for Procyon clients. We are developing a share class whereby we can allow other RIAs to invest for a small management fee attached to it. How is the first fund you mentioned, Procyon Vintage I, structured?

AR: It’s a feeder fund, and that one is likely going to close at the end of this year. We’re going to close that fund once we fund it, and that’ll have a 10-year lockup for investors, and those are QP-only investments. How are you getting access to these private equity managers?

AR: We’ve got a big network within the firm of advisors and people that have worked in the industry for a while, so we have a lot of inputs there. There are a lot of people who are knocking on our door to get into the funds and be a part of our platform. We didn’t want to use iCapital or CAIS to source the funds because if we could get them on the platform, then we wouldn’t create our own feeder. We would essentially just buy them on the platform. So we hired a firm owned by F.L. Putnam, Atrato Consulting. Atrato’s sole focus is to do due diligence and source new managers. They have sourced the majority of the managers there. We gave them the criteria of the management we were looking for, which are high minimums, off-platform, and hard to access, and that’s what they found us.

We’re looking at a diversified basket of managers. So what’ll happen is, in the vintage fund, investors will commit capital, and if there’s enough there to fund another manager, then we will fund that manager. And then it’s a drawdown structure. Each of the managers will have their own capital calls on the fund. So each of the commitments will get funded little by little over the course of one to two years. And then what will happen is there’ll start to be some distributions, and that may be sort of self-funding going forward. What differentiates your portfolio?

AR: On the public equity side, we’re delivering low-cost, tax-efficient, tactical, and thematic. We have a top-down understanding of the economy. We have a bottom-up understanding of the portfolio, and we run it that way. But it’s very hard to differentiate on that these days. You want to make sure people have access to public markets in an efficient way. So what we’re really trying to do is find access to managers that are hard to access.

We’re looking for funds that may be closed, but willing to accept some interesting new deposits or new clients. We’re doing a lot of work on the alternative side because that’s where most of the work belongs. It’s very difficult to identify good managers on the alternative side, so we’re delivering a ton of value there. And then we’re getting access. So we’re getting calls from people who have been investing with us now in alternatives, and they may have a co-invest opportunity for some unique clients. We’re working really hard on getting access to unique opportunities for all the clients. What’s your due diligence process for choosing asset managers and funds?

AR: We have a small group within our walls called the Manager Research Group. It’s a committee whose job is to run all the due diligence on all the managers, and it was born a couple of years ago. We took Procyon’s institutional due diligence process because we have several billion in institutional funds, 401(k)s and pensions. We took that due diligence process and overlayed the private wealth prism on it. In institutional due diligence, it’s all about meeting metrics—backward-looking. In private wealth, it’s all about what the expected return is going to be. And so we took those two things and built them together and created our manager research group. They meet on a monthly basis.

We look at about 11 different pillars. A lot of that has to do with manager tenure, fees, who owns the fund, how much is in the fund distribution, potential distributions, and then you have peer group rankings and so forth. They all have to be within the top two quartiles of all the data in order to be considered a good fund.

For private, it’s vastly different. The data is not readily available to look at the market as a whole easily. We wind up having to go manager by manager; we have a voting group made up of the main members of the main committee, and we get managers lined up, they get proposed, and we do the research, and we vote them in or out. What’s the opportunity you see in investing in alternatives?

AR: You’re supposed to be fully diversified in a portfolio. Now if you’re not an accredited investor or higher, it’s difficult to get access to these kinds of things, number one. So there are barriers in place for a reason, and so we adhere to those. But what ends up happening is once you become accredited and qualified, then all new doors open up, and that’s the way it’s built. What winds up happening is there’s this big demand in the private markets because the public markets have become so much less diversified.

On top of that, nowadays, you can structure investments in alternatives with much better liquidity structures than you would have been able to 10 years ago. The evergreen structure would’ve been more difficult. We do believe there’s a premium to be earned when you have less liquidity, so we want to capture that for the clients. To clients and even to some professionals, the public markets more and more look “rigged,” and people don’t trust them as much. Do you have any interest in bitcoin ETFs or getting into the crypto markets at all?

AR: We’ve entered the crypto markets on a non-discretionary basis over the last several years. As the demand came up for us internally, we wanted to provide the right solution as opposed to referring everyone. So we partnered with a company called Eaglebrook Advisors, and essentially we hold everything in cold storage. And now with the advent of the ETF and the size and the scope of them, it becomes more of a tactical decision.

We have approved on our recommended list, one bitcoin ETF. Essentially to us, a bitcoin ETF as it’s structured today is just all about what the fees are because they should all have very low tracking errors and so forth. But we have not made an active decision to allocate to bitcoin, and if we do, that would be in the alternatives portion of the portfolio.

You Can’t ‘Legislate Good Behavior’: What Advisors Really Think About The DOL Rule

APRIL 5, 2024 

As financial professionals anxiously anticipate the Department of Labor’s new fiduciary requirements, which President Joe Biden is expected to sign this spring, their attitudes vary greatly. Some look forward to the anticipated changes, while others foresee disaster and still others are somewhat indifferent.

“I am not as concerned about it impacting our advisory business since we already act as a fiduciary to our clients,” said Amber Kendrick, vice president and retirement plan consultant at Procyon Partners in Shelton Conn. “However, I do think it may impact the retirement plan industry.”

No one knows yet exactly what the final regulations will entail, but last October’s proposed draft version provides a pretty good idea. It’s expected to expand the scope of what qualifies as “fiduciary” advice, and will likely close what the DOL regards as regulatory gaps that currently allow certain financial professionals to offer guidance that may or may not necessarily be in my client’s best interest.

If signed into law, as expected, the proposal will update and expand who classifies as a fiduciary and redefine what counts as fiduciary advice. The Investment Advisers Act of 1940 requires registered investment advisors (RIAs) to act in the best interests of their clients under a “duty of care.” The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) holds retirement-plan administrators to what some consider an even more stringent fiduciary standard, requiring retirement advisors to meet a five-part test before they are held to that standard. That test says, in short, that the investment professional is rendering advice about the suitability of purchasing or selling an asset and providing such advice on a regular basis—so that the professional might be presumed to be acting in the client’s best interests.

But if the professional only makes a single recommendation, some critics charge, he or she is exempt from the fiduciary standard. The draft proposal would eliminate or tighten certain such exemptions.

The DOL has said the current web of definitions about what does and does not constitute fiduciary investment advice has too many loopholes, while the Biden administration said the proposal is also designed to eliminate “junk fees” that are prevalent in the retirement investment advice business.

This isn’t the first time the DOL has attempted to modify ERISA. A 2016 measure required financial professionals to enter into contracts that would allow clients to theoretically sue for inappropriate advice. But two years later, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth District struck that effort down, saying the DOL had gone too far and exceeded its authority. In 2019, the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) enacted Regulation Best Interest to advance a standard of conduct for broker-dealers who recommend securities transactions outside of 401(k) plans.

The latest round of proposed changes was published in October 2023, with an open comment period that closed in January. A final version was approved by the Office of Management and Budget in early March, and it’s expected to be signed by Biden in the spring.

“Investors overwhelmingly want and expect all financial professionals to provide them with financial advice in their best interests,” said Leo Rydzewski, general counsel for the Washington, D.C.-based CFP Board, an industry group for certified financial planners that supports the legislation. But that’s not always the case right now, he said. “A strengthened standard [of] trust and confidence is necessary and appropriate,” he said.

Might Confuse Clients
Other experts, however, aren’t so sure the new ruling will accomplish its stated goals. “The DOL rule is well intentioned, but it may not have the effect it desires,” said Jason Branning, founder of Branning Wealth Management, a fee-only advisory firm in Jackson, Miss.

To him, one problem is that the proposal makes no distinction between committed, full-time fiduciaries, such as fee-only advisors, and stockbrokers or insurance agents who provide transaction-oriented advice but not necessarily other financial-planning guidance.

“This posture will likely confuse consumers,” he said, “and will require hybrid brokers to define which hat—broker or fiduciary—they are wearing when a piece of advice is rendered.”

Brian McNamara, associate general counsel at Edelman Financial Engines in Boston, said that his firm already acts as a fiduciary, putting clients’ interests first. “We’ve been able to do this over time based on our independence and the application of our underlying business model,” he said. “We do not foresee any relevant impact to [our] business.”

Howard Bard, vice president and principal deputy general counsel at the American Council of Life Insurers in Washington, D.C., said that existing regulations are more than sufficient. The proposed rule “completely ignores the best-interest and conflict-of-interest standards already imposed and enforced by the SEC and state regulators,” he said.

What’s more, he said, the proposal would “impose a fiduciary barrier” by forcing low- and middle-income retirement savers who seek advice to go to fee-only advisors instead of to less expensive brokers and sales reps. Thus, it could cut off access to many types of annuities, for example, that would guarantee retirement income, Bard contended.

A Boon For No-Load Annuities
Some say the new fiduciary rule could boost sales of no-load, zero-commission annuities, which they argue are inherently free of conflicts of interest and cheaper anyway.

“Having zero commissions eliminates conflicts of interest as pertains to product selection,” said David Lau, founder and CEO of DPL Financial Partners in Louisville, Ky., which specializes in low-cost annuities.

Broadly speaking, annuities come in two flavors that have differing degrees of oversight. Fixed annuities are considered insurance products and are primarily regulated by state insurance commissioners. Variable annuities, which invest in mutual-fund-like subaccounts, are overseen by state insurance commissioners and fall under the jurisdiction of the SEC, just like market securities.

The new rule would make both types of annuities fall within the same fiduciary guidelines, Lau said. “This is a good thing for consumers,” he said.

Far-Reaching Implications
To be sure, many advisors already institute solid fiduciary policies, not giving clients inappropriate or self-serving guidance. Nevertheless, the new standard could have far-reaching implications, industry experts say.

“All financial professionals who work with retirement savers are potentially impacted by this rule,” said Jason Berkowitz, chief legal and regulatory affairs officer at the Insured Retirement Institute in Washington, D.C.

For some advisors, though, that’s good news because, they say, the current standards are simply not sufficient.

“Requiring financial professionals to act as fiduciaries can only positively impact the financial advisory business,” said Dan Forbes of Forbes Financial Planning in East Greenwich, R.I. “There have been too many cases of financial malfeasance over the years, and investment products continue to get more and more complex. The financial advisory business is mature enough to have a uniform set of standards where all advisors commit to avoiding conflicts of interest.”

Moreover, he said, financial planning is moving away from a transaction business to a relationship business.

“While the history of financial services is based in sales, the future of the industry is financial planning,” agreed Charles Weeks Jr., founding partner of Barrister, an investment advisory practice in Philadelphia. “That must include strict rules of conduct.”

He acknowledged, however, that even the new rule won’t fix all the problems. “You can’t simply legislate good behavior, morals, and professionalism,” he said. “We also need the players in the industry themselves to step up.”

Andrew Evans, CEO of Rossby Financial in Melbourne, Fla., put it this way: “At one point barbers and surgeons were the same person. That split had to happen, and we as an industry are at that kind of evolutionary moment now.”

Three Experienced Dynasty-Affiliated Firm Leaders Share Keys To Ensuring Successful Acquisitions

Acquisitions aren’t just for RIA aggregators and large enterprises – small and mid-sized advisory businesses often choose to grow inorganically. While the scaled, repeat players have teams of experts with years of experience and playbooks for multiple strategies, less experienced firms may encounter difficulty evaluating an acquisition opportunity and, once they decide to enter the arena, knowing how to make one proceed smoothly.

To learn the keys to successful acquisitions for advisory business leaders, we reached out to Dynasty Financial Partners affiliates who lead advisory firms and have successfully completed acquisitions: Mike Quin, Partner and CEO, DayMark Wealth Partners; Phil Fiore, Jr., CEO, Executive Managing Director and Founding Partner, Procyon Partners; and Ronald E. Thacker, Managing Partner and President, Americana Partners.

We asked each of them: For advisory business leaders looking to acquire another firm, what are three important issues that may appear small but can make a large difference in a successful acquisition?

Their responses follow.

Mike Quin, Partner And CEO, DayMark Wealth Partners

Mike Quin, Partner & CEO, DayMark Wealth Partners
Mike Quin, Partner & CEO, DayMark Wealth Partners

Three seemingly minor issues can make or break an acquisition for both the buyer and seller:

Cultural fit and philosophy: Financials often take precedence, but cultural compatibility is where I spend most of my time early in the M&A process. A misalignment in cultural values can lead to failure. Understanding culture will give insight into clients at the target firm. I often put the seller in social situations to observe behavior. An easy way to start this process is to watch how they interact with staff at a restaurant. If they are courteous to people they don’t know, who are there to serve them a meal, chances are that attitude will carry over into their organization. People matter.

Talent retention: The real assets of businesses in our space ride up and down the elevators every day. Recognizing and retaining key employees, especially as they relate to the overall goal of the acquisition (growing the business or succession are good examples) is another issue that makes a huge difference in a successful acquisition. People matter.

Transition planning: Often the actual transition is discussed but not planned to capture every detail. A quick, efficient transition is an opportunity to show clients what is in it for them. Our partners at Dynasty execute this, in concert with DayMark, at a high level. This client experience should blow away expectations. Details matter.

In the RIA arena of acquisitions, attention to these perceived minor issues can help position your firm for outsized growth and success.

Phil Fiore, Jr., CEO, Executive Managing Director And Founding Partner, Procyon Partners

Phil Fiore, Jr., CEO, Executive Managing Director & Founding Partner, Procyon Partners
Phil Fiore, Jr., CEO, Executive Managing Director & Founding Partner, Procyon Partners

For leaders in the advisory business considering acquiring another firm, three seemingly minor factors can significantly impact the success of the acquisition.

The alignment of culture stands paramount. An advisor from a lifestyle-oriented practice may struggle to integrate into a dynamic, high-octane environment like ours, for example. Embracing the firm’s mission is crucial – it may not resonate with everyone. Advisors skeptical of firm values might find themselves out of sync.

Business compatibility is another critical factor. An RIA focused on high net worth families but employing a starkly different business approach, such as trading stocks versus offering comprehensive planning and advisory services, could jeopardize a potentially fruitful partnership. Despite attractive initial figures and public relations benefits, a discordant business model can lead to long-term challenges.

Lastly, the transition should be mutually beneficial. An acquisition that favors only one party, failing to create shared value, is likely unsustainable. Our policy is to avoid engagements with advisors whose primary motive is the immediate financial gain rather than a long-term partnership. This approach isn’t about financial competitiveness but about fostering a community built on mutual respect, growth and shared success.

Ronald E. Thacker, Managing Partner And President, Americana Partners

Ronald E. Thacker, Managing Partner & President, Americana Partners
Ronald E. Thacker, Managing Partner & President, Americana Partners




























In any M&A transaction there are literally hundreds if not thousands of details to work through and consider, and some are clearly more critical than others.

When it comes to the success of an M&A opportunity, company culture is the top issue that makes or breaks the success of the deal. The parties involved in the deal may think they are not overlooking it, but its importance is often underestimated.

Everyone has an ego and that drives success in many situations, but individual egos can’t be so overbearing that it disrupts the harmony and cooperation within the existing firm. Not only do the business models of the firms joining need to line up but the personalities and egos involved also need to gel.

Also, the client must always be first and foremost, as a top priority. Growing a successful bottom line is clearly a mandate, but clients must never be made to feel that the firm’s interests come before their interests, and this ties back to the culture of the people in the firm that we are acquiring. All parties must have a “serve the client first”  attitude instead of a “make money for myself” attitude.

If the culture and people factors are positive and in alignment, all the details seem to fall into place without too many problems. If the culture and people factors are not positive, every detail feels like a hill to die on, and that’s when you know it’s time to cut bait and work on the next deal.

Michael Madden, Contributing Editor and Research Analyst at Wealth Solutions Report, can be reached at .

Daniel de Visé


Spring cleaning can mean tidying up your wallet or pocketbook, as well as your closet.

In the spirit of renewal, here are 12 financial moves you should make this spring. Some are annual rituals or should be. Others are tasks we tend to put off, but shouldn’t.

1. Revisit your resolutions

Many of us set New Year’s resolutions for 2024 around spending and saving, borrowing and earning, but fewer of us followed through on them.

“For a lot of people, a top money goal was paying off credit card debt or starting an emergency fund,” said Kimberly Palmer, a personal finance expert at NerdWallet. Spring is “the perfect time to see if you’re making any progress,” she said.

Learn more: Best debt consolidation loans

And what if you’ve made zero progress?

“For those of us who fell off track, there’s something called a reset button,” said Ashley Folkes, a certified financial planner in Birmingham, Alabama. “Spring offers the perfect opportunity to restart where we left off, without dwelling on regrets.”

2. Clean your financial ‘junk drawer’

Spring offers a chance to sort through that drawer – or box, or unused corner of the dining room table – where you stash financial paperwork to deal with on some unspecified future date.

“You know the one I’m talking about, where you toss all your statements and bills, intending to sort them out later,” Folkes said.

Working through the neglected papers is a great way to ease financial stress, he said. Throw some away. File some away. Deal with the rest, one way or another.

3. Start a 2024 tax folder

Speaking of papers: If you haven’t already, consider setting up a folder to stow all your tax documents for 2024: receipts, donation forms, and anything else you need to report or plan to deduct. Better still, set up one real folder, and another on your laptop, says Jeff Farrar, a certified financial planner in Shelton, Connecticut.

4. Watch that withholding

While you’re at it, look at your W-4 form and make sure you are withholding the right amount of your paycheck.

“Since taxes are on our mind, with April 15 coming, why not get better prepared for next year’s taxes?” Farrar said.

Will you get a refund next year, or will you owe? Most of us have a lot more control over that question than we think, said Jeff Jones, CEO of H&R Block. You may want to reap a large tax refund to help your family’s cash flow. You may prefer to limit your withholding so that you hold onto more of your paycheck until tax time. The decision is yours.

“In general, you can actually control the outcome,” he said. “We try to remind people, it’s really a choice you can make.”

Most of us have fairly predictable income. Take a look at your last few tax returns. Study the pattern. Are your earnings trending up, or down? Then, consult a tax professional.

Taxpayers straightforward returns “can be in much more control if they just get some expert help and think about withholding changes on their W-4 at the beginning of each year,” Jones said.

5. Talk to your tax preparer

More broadly, spring is a great time to have a conversation with the person who prepares your taxes.

“Aside from housing, taxes are most people’s largest annual expense, so it deserves more attention than pulling together your W-2 and 1099s” and sending them in, said David Flores Wilson, a certified financial planner in New York.

“Our advice is to have a thoughtful, proactive conversation with an accountant, CPA, or financial planner after the spring tax deadline so that you can strategize what you can do the rest of the year to lower your taxes prior to next spring,” he said. “Perhaps there are deductions or credits you weren’t aware of.”

6. Max out your retirement plan

You can contribute to an IRA up to April 15 and have the money count toward your 2023 savings. The contribution limit for 2023 is $6,500 if you’re under 50, $7,500 if you’re older.

Even better, get an early start on contributing to your IRA for 2024. The longer the money sits in your retirement account, the longer it can accrue interest.

“There is a 15-month window to make IRA contributions for any given year,” said Mary Ryan, a certified financial planner at Vanguard. “The earlier you make it, the more you benefit from the compounding effect,” earning interest both on the money you’ve saved and on the interest it has already reaped.

Spring is also a good time to challenge yourself to contribute to a workplace 401(k), Wilson said.

Those plans have higher contribution limits: $23,000 in 2024, plus an extra $7,500 if you’re 50 or older.

“Maxing out 401(k) contributions can lower your taxes and get you closer to financial independence,” Wilson said. “Our advice is to marginally increase your contributions every couple of months, up to a level that’s uncomfortable, then back off a little.”

Not saving for retirement? Now is a good time to start.

“Even if you can only save a little right now, getting started is very important, because you want to give your retirement savings time to grow,” said Terri Fiedler, president of retirement services at Corebridge Financial, a financial services company in Houston. “Ideally, you’ll be contributing enough to at least maximize what your employer will match. And if you’re not there yet, look for opportunities to increase your contributions over time.”

7. Name your beneficiaries

Most retirement plans and life insurance policies include beneficiaries: The folks who get the money if you die.

Many of us procrastinate in naming them. In the spirit of spring cleaning, why not name them now?

8. Dust off your estate plan

Speaking of beneficiaries: Anyone with an estate plan should review it every year, or at least any year when a major life event plays out, like a job change, marriage, divorce, or arrival of a new child, experts advise.

“An estate plan isn’t something you can set and forget,” Ryan said.

Consider whether you need to update any part of the plan, including your beneficiaries.

9. Book your 2025 vacation in 2024

Setting up vacation plans a year early saves money and gives you more choice of flights and lodgings, experts say. And then there’s the psychological value.

“Studies have shown the anticipation of a vacation is half the psychic value you get out of it,” Farrar said. “So, enjoy this summer’s family vacation, but put next year’s on the calendar, as well.”

While you’re at it, he said, “dig out your passport and check the expiration date. Nothing worse than getting ready for an international vacation and realizing your passport is about to expire.”

10. Review your investment portfolio

“You don’t need to monitor your portfolio on a daily basis,” Farrar said, but spring is an ideal time to review your asset allocation and make sure it suits your needs.

Your mix of stocks, bonds and other investments can drift over time, and your portfolio objectives change.

“Check to see if your allocation of stocks vs. bonds is where you want it to be,” said Maureen Demers, a certified financial planner in North Andover, Massachusetts.

11. Invest in high-yield savings

Yields on savings accounts, certificates of deposit, money market accounts and other savings vehicles have been up for the last year or two, along with interest rates generally.

Yet, many people “are still holding large cash balances in suboptimal, low-yielding vehicles,” Wilson said.

If your savings isn’t earning 5% annual interest, or close to it, consider transferring the balance into a high-yield account.

Growing debt:Our credit card balances threaten to swamp our savings. Here’s how to deal with both

12. Check your credit card

Credit card debt is rising, along with credit card interest rates. Now is a good time to take a good look at your card, especially if you carry a balance from month to month, Palmer said. The key question: “Are you paying more interest than you realize?”

Credit card rates change over time, and lately, they’ve been going up.

If the APR on your card is rising, Palmer said, then it might be a good time to shop around for a new card.

Daniel de Visé covers personal finance for USA TODAY

Daniel de Visé

A great way to make a household budget for 2024, financial planners say, is to look at how you spent money in 2023.

You might call it data-driven budgeting: Before you create a spending plan for this year, analyze how you allocated funds last year, to see where your money actually went.

“You need to figure out what happened in the past to have a roadmap going forward,” said Lili Vasileff, a certified financial planner in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Some financial experts term the exercise “backward budgeting,” or “reverse budgeting.”

(Confusingly, a quick internet search reveals another budgeting technique that bears those names. It’s based on the principle that you pay yourself first, assigning money to savings before you pay other expenses.)

‘Data-driven budgeting’ can be daunting: A budget app can help

Whatever you call it, data-driven budgeting is a daunting exercise. To do it right, you must pore over hundreds or thousands of expenses and assign them to categories: Streaming services. Take-out coffee. Meal deliveries. Out-of-pocket medical expenses. Housing costs. Veterinary bills.

A budget app can help. As NerdWallet explains, the purpose of budgeting software is to categorize and track spending and to show where your money is going.

Randy Bruns, a certified financial planner in Naperville, Illinois, used a budget app to track his spending last year. He and his wife felt that they were overspending, but they weren’t sure for what.

“We figured out we were spending a ridiculous amount going out to dinner,” he said. “It was absurd: Thousands of dollars a month, just going out to dinner. And we figured out that the big spike was in summer” when warm weather lures suburban Chicagoans out of their homes.

Many of us set budgets based on how much we would like to spend, with little regard for how much we actually spend. Such budgets might be termed aspirational or “forward” budgets.

An ‘aspirational budget,’ not based on actual spending, can swiftly fail

An aspirational budget can be great for ratcheting down expenses, experts say, by challenging you to spend less on things you don’t really need. But it can also meet with swift failure.

“If you’re budgeting without looking at, let’s call it the historical data, you’re starting from a place that isn’t tethered to anything,” said Jonathan Duggan, a certified financial planner in Frederick, Maryland.

Duggan recently examined his own spending and found that it varied dramatically from month to month.

“I have three cats,” he said. “I take them all to the vet basically one time a year, and so in December, there’s going to be a big vet bill coming up. I play a lot of golf in summertime, so my summer months are going to have a bigger recreational budget than my winter months.”

With clients, Duggan said, “what I tend to see is that most people’s spending is too lumpy to really get an accurate picture when one is only looking over a one-month period. What I mean by ‘lumpy’ is things like vacations, doctor’s visits.”

Duggan recommends that consumers review their spending over an entire year to capture the full picture.

“An ideal time to do this is either the end of the previous year or the start of a new one,” he said.

Melissa Cox, a certified financial planner in Dallas, said she is taking on more and more clients who “are not really sure where money goes.” She helps them comb through transaction records to better understand their monthly spending.

Some clients didn’t realize how much they were spending on Amazon impulse buys or Starbucks coffee. One woman had no idea she was shelling out $500 a month for in-app purchases in online games.

“A lot of the time, there’s going to be fat to trim,” Cox said. “Let’s maybe limit it to $200 in-app purchases for the first month. Maybe they realize they can make Starbucks at home.”

Tracking our spending has never been more important

Tracking our spending has never been more important, finance experts say, because so much of it plays out in automatic payments and one-click purchases, transactions we might barely notice.

“It was never easier to spend money without realizing it,” said Christopher Lyman, a certified financial planner in Newtown, Pennsylvania. “Every company wants you on an automated subscription, and there’s a reason why. It continues to draw money out of you without you realizing it.”

All of those auto-pays make it easy for people to lose track. One of Lyman’s clients estimated his spending at about $4,500 a month. Lyman ran some numbers and determined the client was spending nearly twice that much.

“Knowing how much you actually spend is very eye-opening for people,” he said.

Lyman sits down periodically to review his own spending. He stores his transaction records and monthly budget in Quicken, the personal finance app.

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The last time he reviewed the numbers, Lyman decided too much of his budget was going toward the supermarket. “We were spending $2,400, $2,600 a month just on groceries,” he said. “That’s not even dining out.”

His family resolved to “empty out our pantry, empty out our freezer.”

After that, he said, “we really just focused on one grocery store, signed up for the rewards program. We’ve cut our grocery bill essentially in half, just by being cognizant of what we’re buying. If this item’s 50% off because they’re clearing out the shelves, stock up. We just bought 20 bottles of olive oil.

Procyon Partners has brought on Harry Kirkpatrick to serve as chief revenue officer.

Procyon Partners, the $6.5bn RIA backed by Dynasty Financial Partners, has hired a chief revenue officer, the firm revealed on Wednesday.

Harry Kirkpatrick is joining Procyon from NEIRG Wealth Management, where he’s served as chief operating officer since May 2023, according to his LinkedIn profile.

‘Over the course of my career, I have been proud to help financial advisors hone their skills and mature in the industry, so that they in turn can offer their clients superior service,’ Kirkpatrick stated. ‘I am excited to work with Phil and the team to design a development program to further enhance the talents and expand upon the services at Procyon.’

Procyon chief executive Phil Fiore told Citywire that Kirkpatrick’s primary responsibility will be working with the firm’s financial advisors to get the best out of them.

‘It’s no different than bringing in a trainer or coach for professional athletes,’ Fiore said. ‘I think of our financial advisors as professional athletes. Our skills have to continually be refined. They’re literally going to have an exec at the firm at their disposal to be able to spread their wings as far as they want to spread them.’

Prior to his time at NEIRG, Kirkpatrick spent six years at financial planning platform Facet, where he last served as chief revenue officer. He was also chief case designer at Pinnacle Financial Group from 2015 to 2017, his LinkedIn profile shows.

Employee-owned Procyon has been  affiliated with Dynasty since 2017. In 2021, the firm merged with New York-based Pivotal Planning Group, the first time two Dynasty RIAs combined.

Fiore said Kirkpatrick’s hiring kicks off what he expects to be a strong year for Procyon.

‘We’ll celebrate seven years in June,’ he told Citywire. ‘I really believe ‘24 could be one of our breakout years. Not only from an organic growth standpoint, but inorganically, too. The pipeline is certainly robust.’

Lead generation platforms are ‘worth exploring’ but advisors prefer other approaches.

If you’re looking for new ways to prospect for new clients this year, be prepared to be disappointed.

It seems most advisors prefer to stick with what they’re already comfortable with – networking and referrals.

Even though there are several lead generating platforms that assist advisors with identifying prospective clients, from SmartAsset to Catchlight and FP Alpha’s Prospect Accelerator, several advisors say the platforms aren’t working the way they’re supposed to.

“I have used a couple of different leads services in the past and found that they were not very helpful because they would not segment by gender, and my clients are women,” Liz Windisch, certified financial planner at Aspen Wealth Management, wrote in an email. “I didn’t feel that there was as good of an ROI as I would like since I had to pay for prospects that I was uninterested in. I asked to only have women sent to me, and the were not willing to do that, so I no longer use leads services.”

Some advisors who do use the services, like Jeff Ferrar, chief operating officer and managing director at Procyon Partners, say they provide OK-quality leads.

“I describe it a little bit like fishing with a gill net,” he said. “You can be doing other things, while SmartAsset (or Catchlight) is out there trying to find you leads, and they’ll let you know when there’s a fish in the net or prospect.”

The two biggest areas his firm gets leads from, Ferrar says, are good old-fashioned referrals from happy clients and referrals from professional centers of influence.

“Referrals are probably still the No. 1 generator of clients,” said Sean Lovison, financial planner and founder of Purpose Built Financial Services. “If you get a referral from somebody, those leads tend to turn into actual clients at a much higher rate.

“The main way that I’m prospecting for new leads is a combination of tried-and-true networking locally, and leads generated from just seeing my name in the news. Two of the leads that I’ve just talked to within the last two weeks were both generated that way,” he said.

Catherine Valega, financial advisor with Green Bee Advisory, said prospecting is all about taking great care of her current clients.

Valega plans to incorporate tax planning into her practice this year, as a new IRS enrolled agent, which allows her to do tax prep and expand her client service offering, hopefully attracting more clients as well.

At the very least, Chuck Failla, president and CEO of Sovereign Financial Group, says lead generating platforms are worth exploring but he also offers a fair warning. “There’s a valid business proposition to be had by those companies,” Failla says. “Just make sure your expectations going into it are good because you need to give it a good six to 12 months before you start really seeing some results. Don’t expect each lead to turn into a client. Sometimes you have to work a good number of years to get those numbers to come to fruition.”

Advisors say the age at which people retire and the definition of retirement are changing.

December 14, 2023 By Josh Welsh

Many Americans’ lives consist of going to school, getting a job, buying a home, having a family and saving for a nice retirement. For Gen Xers, on the other hand, that doesn’t seem to be the case – at least when it comes to retirement.

As the cost of living continues to go up, so do the dreams of Gen Xers who would like to retire, according to the latest survey from Schroders.

Schroders found that Gen Xers – non-retired Americans between the ages of 43 and 58 – on average think they need $1,112,183 in savings to have a comfortable retirement, yet they expect to have just $661,013 saved.

While these results may paint a grim picture, advisors say it’s anything but.

“Most clients I’ve talked to, they’re not looking to do a hard stop in retirement, like hit a certain age and be 100% done, they’re just looking to downshift,” said Jeff Farrar, chief operating officer and managing director at Procyon Partners.

Ferrar, who’s considered Gen X himself, said the definition of retirement is changing and so is the age.

“If you’re still working, even if it’s part-time or a different job, that helps the retirement goal, because you’re still bringing in some cash flow with the longer ability to save,” Ferrar said.

Liz Windisch, certified financial planner at Aspen Wealth Management and also a Gen Xer, said it’s OK for Gen Xers to seek assistance with retirement planning.

“It’s time for them to get professional help,” she says. “I’m not just saying that because those are my clients, but you’re running out of time, and having a professional help you can make a huge difference. It’s time to buckle down, figure out what they need to do.”

The study also found 61% of non-retired Gen Xers aren’t confident in their ability to achieve a dream retirement, compared to 49% of millennials and 53% of non-retired baby boomers.

Generation X – also known as the latchkey generation given their independent childhoods since both parents were working – is preparing to take care of themselves, Ferrar said, with less support from Social Security in retirement.

The Schroders report found just 11% of non-retired Gen Xers say they will wait until 70 to receive their maximum Social Security benefit payments, with 47% concerned Social Security will run out.

“Waiting until they’re 70 to claim Social Security would be a tremendous help if they’re able to do that. It’s something that they should very seriously consider,” Windisch said.

Additionally, 45% of non-retired Gen Xers say they have not done any retirement planning, compared to 43% of millennials and 30% of non-retired baby boomers. With 84% of Gen Xers saying they’re concerned or terrified about the idea of no more regular paychecks in retirement, many still feel the need to keep working.

“I actually have a lot of clients who are very well prepared for retirement,” Windisch said. “They’re terrified of not having a paycheck. They’re still working, even though a lot of them probably could retire or retire soon.

“It’s a long time to live,” she added. “If you retire at 58, you might have 40 years in retirement and that is just a really scary thought.”

The Accenture Life Trends 2024 report found that with the average life expectancy increasing to 78, funding retirement is very different now than it was even 20 years ago. This also comes with long-term planning. 48% of respondents surveyed make plans less than a year ahead, or don’t at all.

“As people are living longer, retirement income products haven’t evolved very well,” said Scott Redell, managing director at Accenture. “Advisors often aren’t really equipped to talk about that with investment and kind of plan in the right way.

“Product-wise, there’s a lot of gaps and silos as well,” he said.

For those Gen Xers who want to start saving for retirement, Ferrar advises clients to “spend less than you earn and invest the difference wisely.

“I’d say the generation is not pessimistic, they’re optimistic,” he added. “They’re in their prime earning years. Their families are growing, kids are graduating from college. They’re just getting ready for the next chapter of their life.”

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In honor of Veterans Day and National Veterans and Military Families Month, we’re pleased to present ThinkAdvisor’s 12th annual Advisors Who Serve(d) compilation, in which we highlight stories of veterans in the advisory world, told in their own words.

Advisors Who Serve(d) highlights financial advisors and other industry professionals who have served or are serving in the military.

This year’s compilation of advisors’ stories debuted on The Fourth of July.

This group of eight stories and photos is arranged in alphabetical order so you can keep track of advisors as you scroll through. Maybe you’ll even recognize a few faces along the way.

Michael Ball

Title/company: Financial Advisor / Edward Jones

Branch: U.S. Navy

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Ensign / LT Commander

Service dates: 1999 – 2019

Work you did: Surface warfare and retired out of U.S. Special Operations Command

Brief story that stands out from your service time: There is nothing better than returning from deployment with everyone safe and sound. A highlight was always seeing the new fathers who were meeting their little ones for the very first time and all those who were reunited with families after being deployed to the combat zone. No matter if it was my first deployment or my last, the feelings were always the same, with the same intensity of love, joy, and comradeship.

Chuck Carrick

Title/company: Managing Director / Beacon Pointe Partner

Branch: U.S. Army

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Private E-1 / E-5 in the National Guard, upon later graduating from college and achieving 2nd Lieutenant status

Service dates: 1977 – 1981 Regular Army, 1981 – 1984 National Guard and Reserves

Work you did: 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) Ft Myers, Virginia, spending 2 years as a Sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Brief story that stands out from your service time: I was fortunate to serve in a time of peace, however many of the leaders I served under were Viet Nam veterans. They taught me about dedication, honor, sacrifice, and teamwork. These soldiers helped to ensure that we truly understood the incredible honor we had to be sentinels at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. A place where families from across the country came to connect and honor those who sacrificed everything so that we could enjoy our freedoms.

David Chepauskas

Title/company: Senior Wealth Management Adviser / Summit Financial, LLC

Branch: Field Artillery branch

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: 2nd Lieutenant / Major

Service dates: 1977 – 1990

Work you did: I graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point in 1977, as a Second Lieutenant choosing to enter the Field Artillery branch. After attending officers’ basic artillery course (OBC) in Fort Sill Oklahoma, I was stationed with the 101st Airborne Division in Fort Campbell Kentucky for five years.

Brief story that stands out from your service time: I commanded a field artillery firing battery for two of those years as a first lieutenant. After completing the field artillery officers advanced course (again at Ft Sill), I had the privilege of commanding the largest artillery battery in the US Army, stationed in Berlin, Germany.

This was a unique assignment, living in a walled in city over 100 miles inside a communist country (which most Americans did not realize), during the Cold War. The city of Berlin was surrounded by multiple Soviet Divisions, and we had a single Brigade; we were outnumbered many times over. Interestingly, we were able to travel through Checkpoint Charlie into East Berlin.

I often say that seeing a communist country in 1990 during the Cold War was perhaps the best advertisement for capitalism one could imagine. Crossing through Checkpoint Charlie from West Berlin, a bustling metropolis like Manhattan or Paris, into East Berlin, was like walking into a black and white movie from the early 1900s. The city buildings still had not repaired many of the bullet holes 45 years after World War II ended. The seeming attraction of an 11 to 1 currency exchange rate would presumably enable a 28-year-old to purchase things we normally couldn’t afford on a Captain’s salary. To our surprise, it apparently didn’t matter how much money we had available; there was virtually nothing to be purchased. The department store front windows would display fine German crystal and dishware, collectibles, cameras, etc. But when we went inside to purchase, we found that they were only there for show; nothing was actually available for purchase. People would wait patiently on long lines to buy rotten fruit. Shabbily dressed citizens drove East German-made vehicles which seemed too small to fit into. The primary source of heat was coal, giving one a headache from the fumes by the end of the day.

Upon completion of my German tour, I was accepted to teach on the West Point faculty, so I was sent for a master’s degree at the University of Georgia. As a faculty member at West Point, I attended night classes for a second master’s degree in business. It was there that I took a finance course, deciding that I wanted to make a career in finance.

Sandra Cho

Title/company: President / LPL-affiliated Pointwealth Capital Management

Branch: U.S. Navy Reserve

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: E03 (Petty Officer 3rd Class) / E02 (Petty Officer 2nd Class)

Service dates: 2002 – 2005

Work you did: Journalist, now it’s considered Mass Communications

Brief story that stands out from your service time: At the end of boot camp, Chief said to all the female recruits that we could pick out a movie to watch at the end of our last night. He read out loud the names of 30 videos. After hearing the last movie name we all screamed and cheered and picked that one unanimously. He threw his cap on the ground and said, “Damn! I’m sick of watching G.I. Jane!”

Richard Dickson

Title/company: LPL-affiliated Financial Advisor / Galene Financial

Branch: U.S. Army

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Private / Captain

Service dates: 1990 – Oct 2000

Work you did: 734th Company EOD

Andy Leung

Title/company: Private Wealth Advisor / Procyon Partners

Branch: U.S. Marine Corps

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: 2nd Lieutenant / Captain

Service dates: 1990 – 1997

Work you did: Combat Engineer and Executive Officer of Marine Corps Security Forces

Brief story that stands out from your service time: The Dayton Accords were signed in 1995 signaling the end for the war in Bosnia. NATO immediately deployed as the peace keeping forces in Sarajevo. Our Marine company in Naples was the most forward deployed US units and were attached with days notice to the NATO Headquarters being established in Sarajevo. We worked jointly with units from the other NATO members to include French, British, Turkish, Italian Greek and others to stabilize the area. The lessons learned was always be prepared, be flexible and work together to get the job done.

Gregg Shallan

Title/company: Managing Director – Investments / Wells Fargo Advisors
Branch: U.S. Navy

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Ensign / Commander

Service dates: 1981 – 2001

Work you did: Naval Special Operations Officer (EOD)

Brief story that stands out from your service time: I spent 20 years as a Navy Special Operations Officer (EOD). As an EOD Technician, we were responsible for rendering safe all types of unexploded ordnance, from mines to IEDs to nukes, around the world, on land or underwater. I experienced the joy of traveling around the world, the wonder of new cultures and the responsibility of serving as a Commanding Officer. But to me, the most special takeaway from my service was the privilege of being part of the Specops/EOD community This was an all-volunteer outfit that accomplished amazing missions in an inherently hazardous environment. As a young officer, I learned to keep my mouth shut and ears open. I learned to trust my teammates in high-pressure situations, and to work harder than I had ever done before, just to keep up. I learned that every person had a talent, and it was up to us to discover it, nurture it and refine it, which would invariably lead to a much stronger organization. To look back on my career, and know I was a part of this elite force, gives me the confidence that I can handle anything that life throws my way.

Daxs Stadjuhar

Title/company: National Managing Director LPL-affiliated Mariner Advisor Network

Branch: U.S. Army

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: 2nd Lieutenant / Captain

Service dates: 1995 – 2002

Work you did: Infantry Officer – Over my 7 years I was a Heavy Weapons Platoon Leader, Rifle Company Executive Officer, Aide-de-Camp to a Brigadier General, Support Platoon Leader, Strategic Plans Officer, and a Air Assault Company Commander for Charlie Company, 2-502nd Infantry, 101st Airborne

Brief story that stands out from your service time: My time in the Army and the mentorship by great leaders is one of the things that has made me who I am. I could tell stories of “close calls” and “what if’s” but the best part of the Army was meeting my wife when I was serving in South Korea between 1995 and 1999. She was serving as a Military Intelligence officer and after our first date I knew she was the one. I proposed after only 4 months and we were married several months later when we took our mid-tour leave. No one can deny that marriage is hard, but it can be even harder in the military when you are trained to put the Army first. During those tough times we always fell back on the fact that you never quit at anything. We were trained to always keep running, always do more pushups, to keep climbing the hill even though you were exhausted. While those brute strength approaches can work in training and deployments, they don’t always work in a marriage; unless you flip the script. You can learn to listen harder and you can learn to close your mouth longer. I look back on those early years and the fact that we continued to tell each other that we were not going to quit on our marriage. That same attitude has helped both of us in our education, raising our children, and building businesses. You have probably never heard of someone saying the Army saved my marriage, but it sure did in my case, and much more.