Prospective clients always ask me, “What sets your firm apart from other wealth managers?”. My answer is simple, the people. One of my favorite things about working at RWM is being part of a team of elite financial advisors. These are the rock stars behind the scenes. The ones you don’t see as often on TV, radio, podcasts, or Youtube. Every day, this team is on the front lines with our clients, preparing financial plans, searching for solutions, and explaining our investment strategies. I am proud to be among them. This is my tribute to them.
Joey Fishman – Joey’s my first call when I have a question or need help. He often backs me up when I take a day off, even helping a new client come onboard when I was on maternity leave. Part therapist, part friend, part co-worker, Joey always makes time for my call. He is the champion of our firm’s sustainable investing capabilities. We dove deep together into ESG (environmental, social, and governance) screens earlier this year. It’s amazing to be able to be able to offer this level of customization for clients who care deeply about aligning their investments with their values.
Bill Sweet – It’s no secret that Bill is a tax ninja. Anytime a new client comes on board, Bill reviews the financial plan I created, the client’s tax return, and any unrealized capital gains in their portfolio. He has a list of suggestions that the client can implement now to try to reduce tax, both this year and decades in the future. What you may not know about Bill is that he’s a deep thinker. I’ve gone down the rabbit hole of thought with him on everything from the healthcare system to student loans. We also share a similar family structure with three-year-old boys and baby girls.
Jonathan Novy – I never thought I could get excited about life insurance, but Jonathan has taught me how to use it properly, for the right reasons. He helped me analyze two horrendous examples of people sold a bag of expensive garbage by life insurance agents this year. Those experiences caused me to write a second diatribe about the awful incentives and sales practices in the life insurance industry. Using life insurance the right way will be a big focus of mine next year. Cheers to my birthday twin, have a bourbon on me.
Paul Zodtner – Someone called him Father Paul on a conference call this year. I’m not exactly sure what it means, but it feels right. Known for his extensive vocabulary, Paul has a gift for using the English language to describe what we do and how we do it. When we were going through a challenging upgrade from goals-based to cash flow based financial planning software this year, Paul took the lead. Anytime I messaged him about a problem I was having, he offered to immediately hop on a screen share to try and solve it. That’s a true teammate.
Dan McConologue – Dan and I are the two client facing advisors serving on the investment committee. When I look back at my career in a few decades, I have no doubt that the work we did on the investment committee this year will stand out as one of the toughest but most rewarding experiences. Dan was with me in the trenches, questioning beliefs we’ve held for over a decade and holding on to our core philosophy. He is, in all aspects, an OG.
Nick Sapienza – Who would have thought there would be two Louisiana based advisors at RWM? Although I have failed miserably to set up a socially distant meet-up in New Orleans this year, it’s comforting to know Nick is a few hours west on I-10. Plus, Nick is a television star on his local Fox affiliate network. Thanks for making the RWM South team look strong, Nick. I enjoy celebrating your news clients with alligator emojis.
Alex Palumbo – Believe it or not, I never had a younger co-worker until I started working at RWM. That says a lot about the advisory workforce and it’s lack of youth. Alex may be younger, but I look up to him as a more experienced RWM advisor. He has taken on the task of teaching those who come behind him, and no one is more generous with his time. Even though I don’t participate in fantasy football, I know that Alex also brings a lot of joy to that communal experience. He makes everyone feel welcome.
Brian Rosen – I consider Brian to be the Jedi of our advisor squad. His words are few but carefully chosen. When Brian chimes in on a topic, everyone listens as wisdom rains out of his mouth. He’s humble almost to a fault. Brian’s clients are some of the luckiest families in America. I don’t think we have an advisor more dedicated to improving his/her craft. Every team needs a quiet master, and ours is Brian.
Dina Isola – Dina a literally a saint. Did you see her slay in front of the House of Representatives Finance Committee last year? She spoke up about the terrible incentives caused by a commission driven sales culture. They didn’t want to hear it. But Dina won’t stop. She and Tony have dedicated their practice to helping teachers, one of the most valuable professions in our country and also the most egregiously underpaid. It’s a honor to call her a team member.
Dan LaRosa – I work with several clients who are independent consultants. Dan helped me establish Solo 401(k)s for these clients, each with features tailored to their own desires and tax strategies. Whether it’s tax deferral and maximizing ROTH contributions, Dan took the lead on helping set up these plans. Every time I talk to Dan about 401(k)s and other retirement plans, I learn something new.
Matt Lohrius – Is there anything Matt wouldn’t do for this team? In addition to his full-time duties as a wealth management advisor, Matt leads our Liftoff Investments offering for clients with less than $1 million to invest. We don’t want to have a minimum and limit who we help, and Liftoff is our answer. Matt is always ready and willing to help these investors. Since I’ve joined the firm, Matt has passed the CFP exam and gotten married. It’s awesome to be a witness to his success.
Emily Johnson – In the middle of a pandemic, we welcomed a new team member, sight unseen. I am especially happy that we added another woman to our crew. Emily immediately felt like family, even though we haven’t met in person yet. She brings a new skill set to our quiver, advising clients through divorce. Even though I hope I never end up in that arena, statistically, a client may need her help someday. It’s been a joy watching Emily and her teenage daughter trek across the country in camper this year.
Patrick Haley – Patrick may lead the trading team, but he is also an advisor. That means he is looking at our trading instructions from both an advisor and a trading mindset. He often suggests changes to my trading timetable or even a different approach to implementing the same investment strategy. His responsibilities are literally the lifeblood of our business; trading, billing, and performance measurement. I am grateful every day for what he (and now Dylan) do to help me be more efficient with my time.
Gary Pulford – This year, we learned that Gary has the best Zoom background in the firm, the utopian paradise of palm trees that is Southern California. He’s a wealth of knowledge in the area and trusts and estates. These the are the conversations that every one tries to avoid, but they are so important. Gary helps demystify trust language and figure out what is most important to a client. He encouraged me to have my first bite of uni last year, a delicacy I might never have tried. Who else would let me know that Veuve Clicquot released an “Extra Brut, Extra Old” champagne this year and where to buy it?
Tony Isola – Tony’s my go to on saving and paying for college. He knows the details about filing the FAFSA and and CSS profile, and he’s a pro on student loans. Tony and Dina have dedicated their work to saving teachers from terrible, expensive retirement plans. When Covid hindered their ability to visit schools and meet teachers in person, they started a private Facebook group just for teachers. The group has over 1,500 members today.
Ben Coulthard – The newest member to our crew brings the most energy and enthusiasm about financial planning I’ve ever seen. He’s willing to get his hands dirty moving financial plans from one piece of software to another. He is listening to all of us on client and prospect calls, soaking it all as part of his training regimen. I expect big things from Ben in 2021.
Kris Venne – Last but not least, Kris is our fearless leader. In the early days, he was the only client facing advisor doing financial plans and bringing clients on board. He built our processes for onboarding and servicing clients from scratch, and they are genius. Joining the firm was super easy because all I had to do was follow Kris’ instructions. Somehow he does the work of five super humans and still has time to listen to me vent about Covid lockdown with two little kids for 30 minutes on the phone.
One day I won’t be able to address every member of this team individually. Maybe that day is already here. If you’ve read this far, you know how lucky I am to work with these talented financial planners. We suited up in our armor this year and went to bat for our clients. Although the market appears to be ending the year on a high note, the ride was rough and bumpy. Here’s to seeing each other in the flesh next year. Until then, I’ll see you all in your Zoom squares.