Jamie Letcher is a Financial Advisor for Summit Financial Advisors, a full-service financial services program located at Summit Credit Union that offers products and services through CUNA Brokerage, Inc. The staff consists of seven financial advisors helping credit union members manage nearly $400 million in assets. Characterizing themselves as “financial coaches,” Summit Financial Advisors educate their members and clients on ways to achieve their ultimate financial goals.
His advice to those considering working with a financial advisor is to persevere in what might seem like an overwhelming process. “Often wealth management feels daunting to consumers because it can be incredibly complex and filled with unfamiliar jargon. That’s why it’s important for financial coaches to clearly explain and simplify the process, breaking a larger plan down into a series of achievable action steps,” he says. “Virtually every credit union member I sit down with has two to eight necessary action steps. It’s important to take them one at a time, and keep your eye on the long-term benefits. As tempting as it is to procrastinate, accomplishing financial goals—even in the short-term—requires action.”
Letcher has worked in the credit union movement for more than three decades, and has helped members and clients achieve their financial dreams for 11 years, in a variety of roles. “My work is enormously rewarding, since so many people are looking for direction on financial matters,” he says. “And this position gives me the opportunity to work with people from all walks, and in all stages of life. If they are unsure of where to start, need honest advice about savings strategies, or simply want guidance in forging their own path, we’re here to help. The culture of credit unions is ‘people helping people’ in a cooperative fashion.”
Procrastination can be a difficult barrier to surmount when it comes financial planning. “The most challenging aspect is overcoming procrastination and actually taking the first step together,” Letcher says. “This often involves changing habits and behaviors, and for many people that is very difficult. But it’s essential to achieving their financial goals for the future.” Financial Consultant Jeremy Marshall works in Investment Services at UW Credit Union, a full-service investment company that offers advice, education and financial planning to members from all over the country. “Our member-clients are very diverse in their backgrounds and needs,” Marshall says. “We manage their assets and advise them in all aspects of their finances—everything from planning for retirement to saving for a down payment on a home.”
More than simply offering financial products, Marshall says the company focuses on educating members on investment topics and understanding each client’s needs and goals. “Because we’re member-owned, and guided by the principle of putting members’ best interests first, we go the extra mile to help clients find the right strategies to reach their financial goals,” he explains. “We stay on top of current market trends and industry changes to make sure that our member-clients are getting the best advice possible.”
Marshall says there have been some major changes in the industry over the last few years regarding regulations that will result in greater transparency about the costs and possible conflicts of interest from individuals offering retirement advice. “At Investment Services at UW Credit Union, we embrace this trend,” he says. “We want investors to have better information, and the ability to make good long-term financial decisions, without having to question the motives of the advisors.”
Marshall says he enjoys the planning side of his job the most. “It’s really satisfying when I can help a member-client map out their financial plan,” he says. “I’ve had many member-clients come in with questions about retirement. After analyzing their situation, we may determine that they can actually retire immediately if they would like. Knowing that gives them tremendous freedom.”
He concedes that every year presents new challenges for the financial services industry, from regulatory changes and political concerns, to market worries. But these fluctuations have an upside. “These hurdles provide an opportunity for consumers to revisit their financial plan and make sure it is still on course,” Marshall says. “It’s important to meet with your financial advisor annually to verify that everything in your plan is still aligned with your goals.”
Monica Schlicht joined First Business Bank more than a year ago as Vice President of Private Banking. She is focused on the day-to-day banking and credit needs of business owners, executives, and individuals with high net worths. These clients are often interested in investment management or establishing a trust, so Schlicht works with her partner chartered financial advisors, certified financial planners, and other trust and estate advisors on staff, to facilitate transactions.
“I have been in banking for 20 years,” she says. “When it comes to looking out for our clients’ goals and helping to achieve them, I don’t think anyone can do it better than our team can here at First Business Bank. In fact, clients are surprised by the concierge-level service they receive when working with us. Providing an exceptional banking experience is a commitment I make every day when I walk through the front doors. Every opportunity we earn
is an honor.”
Schlicht believes that her company has a competitive edge in the marketplace because “we really do what we do in a distinctly different way. We know our clients well, and we can offer customized solutions to meet their needs. We know their businesses. We know their families. Clients call us and we already know their stories. This allows us to execute a transaction within 24 hours that may take other financial professionals days or weeks to fulfill. We are focused. We listen to what the client needs. We execute.”
Schlicht says she is passionate about her work because she truly loves the variety of challenges inherent in her job. “One day, I am helping a family with three kids figure out a college plan. The next day, I am seeing a client achieve his goal of building his dream home,” she says. “And the next, I am helping a client simplify her banking and investments, to position herself and her family for her next milestone in retirement. In every case, I am focused on these goals, as if they were my own. And that’s a privilege.” Clint Bauch, CFP,® ChFC® is President/CEO of Park Capital Management, LLC, an independent Registered Investment Advisory (RIA) firm that focuses on financial planning, consulting on companies’ 401(k) retirement plans, and wealth and investment management services.
“Park Capital Management’s financial planning and consultation services are as individualized as our clients,” he says. “Our goal is to understand their long- and short-term goals and objectives and to put a plan together based on those needs. We do this by meeting with each client one-on-one and mapping a future plan together.” Bauch and his colleagues undertake planning for retirement, tax and estate planning, and overall investment management.
Bauch believes Park Capital Management’s independence is key to its success. “The company is not held to any proprietary investments, which allows us to truly engage with our clients as their partner,” he says. “As a fiduciary, we are held to a higher standard and always strive to provide advice based on what is in our client’s best interest. We don’t focus on any specific product and don’t have commission and revenue requirements often found in larger financial institutions. This also provides us with flexibility to research a wide range of solutions that will benefit our clients directly.”One industry trend Bauch sees is greater transparency around fees. “At Park Capital Management we are fully transparent,” he says. “We spend time educating our clients about their fees and what they can expect in return.” Bauch notes that another recent trend that is not as beneficial is the amount of financial information available on the Internet. “People react much more quickly and are more emotional about their investments based upon what they see in the news and through other media outlets,” he says. “This can cause people to over-react. We counsel our customers to focus on the long-term so they can achieve financial success.”
Paul M. Schmidt is an estate planning attorney at the Boardman & Clark law firm in Madison. “Estate planning is an essential part of financial and succession planning for individuals and families,” he explains. “Just as a financial advisor will help build wealth, and a CPA will minimize taxes, an estate planner will work with individuals and families to manage and preserve their assets if the individual becomes incapacitated or dies. A big part of my job is to help individuals manage their wealth for their future financial security and for the benefit of their heirs and other intended beneficiaries.”
Schmidt started practicing law in 1990, obtaining a law degree after working for the Social Security Administration. “I also have a counseling degree, so estate planning was a natural fit for me,” he says. “It allows me to work with individuals to solve problems and create a workable plan for the management of their financial assets and efficient transfer of those assets to future generations. That’s the most satisfying part of my job—finding solutions to my clients’ problems, and creating a plan that works well for them.”
His client base is broad. “I work with young couples looking to protect their minor children, help to set up trusts for their future support and education,” he says. “I also advise established professionals who have built a business and want to pass the business on to their children in a practical and tax-efficient manner. The bottom line is that everyone needs an estate plan, regardless of age or wealth. This plan is more than just a will; a good plan ensures that the management and transfer of an individual’s assets are coordinated to meet the individual’s goals, whether those goals are to manage assets during their incapacity, provide for charities, or minimize taxes for the benefit of their families.”
Schmidt is part of a larger team of estate planning attorneys at Boardman & Clark, one of the largest and oldest firms based in Madison. The firm serves individuals, businesses and local governments in a wide variety of legal areas. Boardman & Clark serves clients with the belief that a good advocate brings more than knowledge, experience and responsiveness—he or she is someone you can trust, who understands your values and goals, and will work closely with you to find your best path forward. •