A seminary degree isn't exactly the typical path to a career in financial services. But to David Jones, the son of a minister, the road just made sense.
"I love the ability to sit down across from people and help them solve where they are and where they want to go," says the senior investment executive with Lake City Bank in Warsaw, a town in northern Indiana. "Instead of a pulpit, I sit at a desk." (Cetera Financial Institutions is the TPM for Lake City Bank.)
Jones pursued his Master's degree at Grace Theological Seminary in Warsaw, a two-year program he undertook even though he knew he likely wouldn't follow in his father's footsteps to the pulpit. A passion for finance pulled too deeply, stemming from his father buying him an IRA when he was a college freshman. Even though Jones tried a couple of non-finance jobs including marketing and public relations for a mental health association the lure of financial services pulled too strongly.
"I just quit my job," he says. "My wife was working, we didn't have kids. I said to her, 'If I take this leap, it's a good time as any.'"
Now, 15 years later, Jones can boast of clientele with a total of $115 million in assets under management.
There are myriad ways to offer financial services assistance, of course, but Jones considers his primary mission to be retirement planning. He feels he can make more of an impact on someone closer to retirement than someone just starting out in their twenties and thirties. He prefers the challenge in the crafting a retirement planning for those who have set aside assets but still lack a strategy to achieve the next step.
People who are looking to buy a random IRA, or set up a stock trading account, are investors he doesn't typically sign. "Typically the people who are the best at what they do are much more specialized and not generalists," he says. "I want to be much more significant to my clients than be a stock jockey for them and pick the next Google."
He's also emphatic that they discover their own pathways to achieve their goal. He knows life can be quirky he could be hit by a bus one day outside his office, he says nonchalantly. What he doesn't want are his clients to then be "jerked in another direction," by the next person who steps in to wrangle their financial future.
Instead, Jones takes it upon himself to instruct families that work with him to not only grasp the nuances and details about the financial decisions they're making but also appreciate the reasons they've made these choices.
His instinct to teach comes naturally. A former instructor in public speaking at Grace College for eight years, Jones also teaches personal finance lessons to employees at Lake City Bank.
"I'm a teacher at heart," he says. "In a leadership situation, someone is farther down the road than someone else, showing the direction. I can help show them where to go, but they have to take the steps. They will live with the consequences, both positive and negative, of the decisions they make."
Even though he guides his clients to have some independence about their own financial plans, he doesn't worry that they'll leave him.
Instead, he knows clients depend on him to be up-to-date on the financial matters of the day, and continue to guide them.
He wants them to be informed, and expects them to stay abreast of the financial nuances of their own affairs. But he also knows they look upon him, in the end, for his expert advice.
"Do I think there will ever come a day when they wake up and say, 'We don't need David anymore,'" he asks rhetorically. "No. Because the world changes and no one has time to take care of everything and keep up on all of those changes."
Strategically thinking about who he wants on his client roster has helped him successfully grow as an advisor, he says. Most of his clients skew to those with assets under management of $500,000 to $1 million. And many of them are 65 and older. With 75% of his clients now coming from referrals, and with the average age of his client about 65 years old, most refer their friends who are at the same point in their lives as well.
Making sure financial details are in order is very gratifying to him and is one facet of his profession that impassions his work. But beyond those financial details, he also has a high level of empathy that is vital to working with a retirement client base.
Although just 39 years old, Jones has seen the journey his clients will travel from preparing for retirement to experiencing the death of a beloved partner.
He is able to walk them through what emotions they will experience even at the point of retirement despite not yet being in that place himself.
Jones recalls a particular couple who started working with him when they were both about 55 years old.
As he says, they were "in the corridor where retirement is looking just ahead," and they wanted to know how to prepare. While they'd been saving money, their accounts and holdings were fairly scattered. They had been sold some products, but had never worked with an advisor.
As a first step, Jones crafted a plan, and then watched over the years as they stayed closely to their strategy, enabling them to retire. Two years ago, the husband received the news he had terminal cancer, dying just a year later.
Jones continues to work with the wife, and while he knows she mourns his passing, he also knows she's aware from a financial perspective she will be fine.
"I take a lot of pride that she created that certainty," he says. "While it's difficult to lose your husband, she at least doesn't have to wonder if she will run out of money."
Recently Jones put his skills to use helping his mother embrace her next step as she entered retirement last year. He sees the full arc there as well she raised him, and now he is helping her walk through her next phase.
While weekends are often spent hiking the mountain biking trails around Winona Lake, on the edge of Warsaw, with his wife, 12-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son, the four do travel frequently to visit his parents in Colorado.
Jones knows his father understands that while his career took a different turn, his mission as a financial advisor still, in many ways, mirrors a life of ministry. He spends his days still offering guidance and assistance, but for those who seek a financial direction which can be a crucial need in his clients' lives as well.
"My father said, 'You can do a lot of the same things I am doing where you can help people,'" says Jones. "He said, 'This is a very real part of people's lives. It's their financial life and a very closely held one.' Having a window in that part of their lives gives me an opportunity to help."
Name: David Jones
Bank: Lake City Bank
Location: Warsaw, Ind.
TPM: Cetera Financial Institutions
2013 production: $2.1 million
2012 production: $1.3 million
2013 AUM: $115 million
2012 AUM: $100 million