Planning for the future with some of Madison’s top financial advisors

Planning for the future with some  of Madison’s top financial advisors

Dane County financial advisors, wealth managers and estate planners agree that careful planning for the future is essential, regardless an individual’s family circumstances, stage of life, business or net worth. Knowledgeable professionals in the field, including those profiled below, can guide you through the latest industry trends, changing legal issues, new banking products and services, and investment options to ensure that your short-term and long-term goals are financially sound.

Brent A Kimbel, CFP, ChFC, CLU is a private wealth advisor and certified financial planner with Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. He says his company offers a variety of financial services to clients. “Ameriprise Financial is the largest financial planning company in the country. Our practice in Madison focuses on helping the people who work in the area of public service,”  he says. “We do full financial planning to help people build cash reserves, pay off debt, save for goals such as buying a house, funding higher education or retirement, and have proper insurance in place. We also help them navigate any questions they might have about Medicare and Social Security.”

Through working with his clients, Kimbel has observed a growing trend in socially responsible investing. “People want to make sure the companies they are investing in are good organizations,” he says. When evaluating investment prospects, his clients are concerned about how companies treat their employees, how their business policies affect the environment, and how they interact with the communities in which they are based. In response, Kimbel and his colleagues have assembled a range of portfolios for those interested in these socially responsible investments.

Kimbel, who has eighteen years of experience as a financial planner, finds his work most rewarding when he is able to help people reach their goals. “It’s most challenging when we have a bad economy and people are nervous about their savings,” he says, “but when times are toughest, people need us the most.”

Attorney Wayne Wilson, partner in the Wilson Law Group LLC, has been helping clients protect their assets and plan for their financial futures for more than four decades. With his extensive background, Wilson is a frequent lecturer and author on the subjects of wills, trusts, powers of attorney, charitable planning, and business succession.

One of the recent trends he identifies is that of parents setting up incentive trusts for their children—in effect using their wealth to pass on important family values. “Parents can use these trusts to inspire their children to go to college, or even to do well in college,” Wilson explains. “Or they could set up a fund that would be available to a child if he or she went into the Peace Corps, or did other charitable work.”

Wilson’s firm established the RWay™ Client TrustCare Program to maintain regular contact with clients to ensure their estate plans remain up to date and their assets are properly coordinated with their estate plans.

Before instituting the program, Wilson says, “lawyers would typically draft a will, then people would take it home and stick it in a drawer. But in a lot of cases, situations changed dramatically after we finalized the first document. That’s why we have reviews now—to verify that everything is still relevant to the family’s financial situation and their goals, and to ensure that, as laws change, we can make changes accordingly.”

In his work with Summit Financial Advisors, Steven Mueller advises members of Summit Credit Union, who range in age from their early twenties to their late eighties. “All clients and their circumstances are unique,” he says. “While the products and services may be similar, we weave them together in a very specialized way, customized to each member’s unique set of risk, return and personal objectives.”

Mueller identifies the biggest trend in the industry as the large number of baby boomers planning on entering retirement in the near future. “Retirement is such an exciting idea, but can also lead to tremendous anxiety in many of my clients,” he says. “To prepare for that transition, we often spend many hours together, clearly defining income goals, both today and in the future, exploring the different investment options available, and developing an actionable written plan.” Through regular meetings Mueller and his clients address new opportunities and challenges, which he says he enjoys a great deal. “Honestly, the best part of my job is getting to live vicariously through my clients’ RV trips to the national parks, cruises around the world, or just hearing about all the things going on in their lives,” Mueller says.

Mueller is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has spent the last two decades working in the financial services industry. On a personal level he says, “The biggest challenge to what I do is also the biggest honor…I am entrusted by our membership to help them improve their financial situation and achieve their financial dreams. It is a tremendous privilege and responsibility.”

For those unfamiliar with the process of working with a financial advisor, Brian Kopp of Summit Financial Advisors at Summit Credit Union, outlines his approach.

Kopp has had a passion for financial planning since childhood, when he learned about investing in the stock market from an uncle. That early interest led to a degree in finance and marketing from UW-La Crosse. He began his career in earnest in 2006. 

“Being part of the financial planning industry is a privilege,” Kopp says. “It has allowed me to positively impact people’s lives. It’s incredibly rewarding when I help clients prepare for important life events and then eventually realize their dreams.”

Anne Fink, CFP describes Settlers bank as an institution focused on the needs of high-net-worth clients, including high-end mortgage services. She says the company’s wealth bankers are particularly knowledgeable about credit structure, and are accustomed to working with unique loan requests.

With thirty years of experience in wealth management and banking, Fink says the most challenging part of her job is helping people realize the importance of putting their financial affairs in order, so that family members aren’t burdened with the task. “It can be daunting to coordinate all aspects of a financial plan,” she says, “but if it is broken down into manageable pieces, it really isn’t difficult. There is a significant peace of mind that comes with having a well-coordinated plan.”

Fink encourages people to find a wealth banker who can partner with tax, legal, and investment professionals to complete a financial strategy that covers a range of issues: retirement planning, business succession, mortgage financing, insurance, investments, estate planning, and trust services. “At Settlers bank, we work with outside professionals in all of these disciplines so that our clients receive objective counsel from an independent team of advisors, focused on their financial well-being,” she says.

Jeff Zimmer joined Anchor Investment Services (a division of AnchorBank) in 2013 as first vice president and program manager. In this role, he helps advisors across AnchorBank’s fifty-four branches offer comprehensive wealth management services to customers. 

“We provide customers with all of the services they would receive from a national bank, but with all the benefits that come with working with a community bank,” Zimmer explains.

Anchor Investment Services is fully supported by LPL Financial, one of the leading financial services companies and the largest independent broker/dealer in the nation. “Because the firm has no proprietary products to sell, LPL Financial advisors can provide truly unbiased, conflict-free advice and investment recommendations,” Zimmer says.

When asked about trends in investing, Zimmer says sees an increasing number of clients who are interested in comprehensive wealth planning—making sure they are on track to pursue their financial goals, especially as those goals relate to retirement and education.

“Our customers are always looking for new ways to make their dollars work harder for them,” Zimmer says. “Anchor Investment Services offers access to a wide variety of alternative investments, including real estate investment trusts and business development companies—strategies that were not available years ago, but today are solid options for many of our customers.”

Integrity Wealth Advisors, LTD, is located in downtown Middleton. A small office of seven employees, five of them are financial advisors: Cheryl Retzlaff, Ed Fink, Larry Mann, Scott Whitcomb, and Jeff Turley, who was available for our interview. The practice is an independent boutique wealth-management firm associated with Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network. The organization’s clients are individuals, families and small businesses located all over the country, with a majority in Wisconsin.

Although Turley concedes that the capital markets are unpredictable by nature, he is confident that he and his associates have the experience in both difficult and prosperous economic climates to help clients reach their investment goals.

“People are experiencing information overload right now and they need help sorting through the noise,” Turley says. “They want to be confident that their interests are aligned with their advisors’ [interests]. That is the basis on which Integrity Wealth Advisors was formed. We tailor investment strategies and plans to individual clients. We don’t use boiler plate models.”

Turley characterizes the firm as a “smart alternative” to wire-house brokerage and do-it-yourself investing. “Through our association with Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network, LLC, we have all the resources of a high-priced brokerage firm, but our independence allows us to be competitive without a bloated cost structure,” he explains. “Developing close working relationships with clients is the most rewarding part of the job.”

First Business Trust & Investments, a division of First Business Bank, is a full-service fiduciary providing a wide range of services to business owners and high-net-worth individuals. Mike Shea, vice president of private wealth management, explains that the company has four core values which he considers differentiators in the marketplace: personalized attention; quick turnaround on decisions; knowledgeable people; and access to top decision-makers. “Our existing clients tell us that is why they originally came to First Business and why they stay,” he says.

Looking toward the future, Shea anticipates his clients requiring more creative ways to meet their lending and investing needs. For example, he says, it could make more sense for someone to borrow against his or her investment portfolio, instead of against the equity in a home. “We can set our clients up with a line of credit against their portfolio right away, so they can take advantage of financial opportunities, which may arise suddenly.”

Shea says his organization has earned a reputation of trust by delivering integrated, objective and transparent advice. “We also develop a team-oriented approach with each client, so even if their primary contact is out of the office, there is always someone available who knows their financial picture and can help get things done.”

Scott James is vice president, financial advisor, and portfolio management director at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, one of the largest financial advisory firms in the world.

“We work with successful people who don’t have the time or inclination to create their own financial plan or manage their investments,” says James. “Every hour they take out of their day to manage their financial lives is an hour taken away from their family or their business. Our team helps them use their time more efficiently. With $1.8 trillion in client assets and 1,200 global locations, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management offers award-winning research, thought leadership, and resources that provide our clients with the most comprehensive set of wealth management services.”

James and his associates help clients make good financial decisions by focusing on the clients’ goals. These can include having enough cash flow in retirement, funding their kids’ and grandkids’ college educations, and being able to help fund philanthropic organizations that they are passionate about.

To meet those objectives, James conducts an annual “financial physical” with his clients that involves a review of goals and a discussion of any anticipated changes in their lives. “We review progress and assess changes that should be made to their plans,” he explains. “It is intended to help clients stay on top of the constantly changing landscape of the global financial markets.”

As a growing, federally insured financial institution, the UW Credit Union provides a full range of customized financial services to meet the money-management goals of its members. As a financial consultant in the organization, Jeremy Marshall primarily works with university employees, alumni, and students—some of whom are just beginning to set up investment portfolios, and others who have significant wealth to manage.

Marshall finds that as the country comes out of the recession, some people are still hesitant to invest in the stock market. “It’s difficult to get over that fear and manage those emotions,” he says. “The important thing is to remember the time horizon for your investments—you need to look out between ten and twenty years, maybe even longer, and not get caught up in short-term fluctuations.”

Marketplace trends Marshall has noticed include new ways for retirees to generate income. “Right now it’s a challenge for some older investors to generate income, since the federal interest rates are so low,” he explains. “CDs and bonds are not earning interest like they used to, so we’re looking at other avenues, including non-traded REITs (real estate investment trusts), which generally have a low correlation to the stock and bond market, and offer a higher yield.”

Another growing trend Marshall identifies is that of investors opting to pay a management fee of one or two percent per year instead of being charged for each transaction. With a flat management fee, Marshall contends that advisors and clients are on the same side of the table—both want to see the account grow.

“It’s important to remember that in the investment services department at UW Credit Union, we are completely member-driven,” he adds. “Our members’ interests always come first. We don’t have any sales quotas, or minimums for investing. We simply want to understand our clients’ goals and help achieve them.”

Derek Notman, ChFC CLU LUTCF, is uniquely qualified to offer financial planning services to entrepreneurs because he is one, himself. In fact, his business, Steadfast Capital Solutions, LLC, is the second financial-services company he has founded. “Most firms have a wide market,” he explains. “By contrast, my firm is very focused on helping new companies that are just getting started. That is my passion.”

Notman feels an affinity with his clients because he identifies with the entrepreneurial mindset and understands the typical business cycle of a startup. His clients often “have an initial idea and work on it in their garage or basement while working a separate full-time job,” he says. “They take on a lot of risk by investing enormous amounts of time and finances. We’re helping entrepreneurs with comprehensive, holistic planning starting in the early stages, so we can grow with them throughout the business cycle. We understand that they will have unique financial planning needs, including insurance and investments. We want to serve as a trusted advisor all the way through the process.”

Although Notman has been in Dane County for only a year, he says Madison is a great fit for Steadfast Capital Solutions. “The demographic here is young and educated,” he explains. “There are lots of people in the area looking to build businesses, whether it’s in high-tech, biotech, or other areas. We want to be in on the ground floor.”

Notman is very engaged with his clients’ success. “A lot of my clients are serial entrepreneurs,” he says. “They go from an idea to an exit strategy in six years, and then they start over with something new. Working closely with them, I get to go along on that ride, which makes what I do fun and exciting.”

Founded in 1969, Starion Financial is a full-service bank with a Middleton location that opened in 2008 and a Sun Prairie branch that opened in 2013. According to personal banker Nicole Gorton, even though Starion Financial has grown into a billion-dollar bank, the company continues to focus on the communities it serves and to espouse the same small-town values it started with. “This allows us to give extraordinary customer service to every person we work with,” she says. “As a super-community bank we’re not too big to be small, and not too small to be big.”

One of the current financial trends Gorton has noted is customers’ increased interest in online access to their accounts. “Our clients are looking for updates on their banking information, both at home and on the go,” she says. In response, Starion Financial offers an Online Banking and Mobile Banking app to give clients access to their funds and financial information twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, from a computer, tablet or smartphone.

Gorton, who has worked in the banking industry for more than ten years, enjoys all aspects of the finance world. “As a personal banking expert I help clients with all their personal financial needs,” she explains. “I offer them assistance with savings for retirement, college tuition, and even loans if their needs require financing.”

Johnson Financial Group is a family-owned company headquartered in Wisconsin. As Johnson Bank’s wealth division, Johnson Financial Group has three offices in the Madison market and a local staff of twenty-six professionals. Under this umbrella, Vice President of Wealth Ed Kindschi provides individuals, families and institutions with comprehensive financial planning, investment management and fiduciary services.

“We don’t push product,” says Kindschi. “We provide unique financial solutions that are tailored to our clients’ specific needs. We believe in forming long-term relationships with our clients to see them through every stage of their lives.”

Right now, Kindschi is concerned about the sheer complexity that his clients are facing when it comes to their financial health. He explains: “With ever-changing laws, tax codes, new investment vehicles, a global economy, and immediate reaction by the financial markets, we live in a complicated world. Many individuals and business owners are turning to financial professionals to assist them in managing their affairs so they can spend more time with family or growing their business. Having someone you trust to have your best interest ahead of theirs is invaluable.”

After seventeen years in the business, Kindschi says the most rewarding part of his job is the relationships he has developed with his clients. “I value the trust and confidence they have placed in me,” he says.

Carol Stang is vice president of Wealth Advisory Services, an investment advisory and management service that is dedicated to helping individuals, families, businesses and non-profit organizations protect and enhance wealth. She works in this capacity with Wisconsin Bank & Trust, a member bank of Heartland Financial USA, Inc.

“We set ourselves apart from the competition by acting as a trusted advisor to our clients,” Stang explains. “The idea of serving as a ‘fiduciary’—bound to do what is in the client’s best interests—has been at the core of our relationships as long as we have been in business.”

In addition, Stang says her company provides increased communication through difficult economic times. It also maintains a transparent fee structure, and assesses its practices through internal and external reviews. “These simple ideas have allowed us to maintain long-term relationships with our clients and have been key factors in our growth,” she says.

To help give their clients a complete picture of their financial futures, Wealth Advisory Services utilizes planning software to test various scenarios and their likelihood of success or failure. This creates a framework in which the wealth advisor and clients can speak candidly about their goals, expectations and the risks of each strategy. Through this collaboration, the clients understand why certain recommendations are being made.

Stang encourages those looking for a financial advisor to “do their homework” first. “Be sure to check their professional background to understand their experience and competence,” she counsels. “Look for credentials such as J.D., CFP, or CTFA, and see if they have had any disciplinary actions levied against them in their career as an advisor. Be sure you feel comfortable with your advisor. Trust is paramount.”