An interview with Daniel Willie, CFP®
I’m eager to share my background because it explains why I am passionate about my career and serving my clients:
How did your upbringing prepare you for a career supporting client’s financial lives?
My parents grew up in the tiny town I was raised in. They dated in high school and were married immediately thereafter.
My grandparents were welders, mill workers, store clerks and nursing home workers. Everyone had spent time on a farm and knew how to split wood.
I remember my sister and I scratching our names into the frost growing on the bedroom walls in our trailer house during the winter. My parents had absolutely nothing, but a ton of grit.
When I was 10 years old, my parents bought a few acres on a little lake they dreamed of living on when they were young and built the house they live in today. While my upbringing was blissful compared to the generations before me, I witnessed firsthand the virtues of doing what you say you’re going to do and treating others with respect.
Where did you attend college?
Through the will of my mother and some minor success in football, I went to college. Nobody in my family had an undergrad degree so this was unfamiliar territory for all of us.
I attended Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN. Now that I live in Texas, most people I meet have never heard of it. It’s a small Swedish-Lutheran liberal arts college, and it was the perfect fit for me coming from a rural town where the world dropped off at the county line.
At the time I had no idea what my major should be, so I took the advice from some older peers that I trusted, and I majored in organizational management. It was a diverse, versatile path that exposed me to career choices I didn’t know existed.
How did you end up working as a financial advisor?
Prior to my senior year of college, I was fortunate enough to have an internship at a financial services corporate HQ.
It was an incredible experience and completely different than anything I grew up around. However, it was very well known in the HQ who the people were that made things happen—the financial professionals in offices throughout the country who were working with clients. To use a sports analogy, the financial professionals were the starters on the varsity team. I wanted to be a part of that group.
Who has been the most influential person in your life (outside of family)?
In elementary school I was shy, scrawny, and very insecure.
Then, when I was 12, a football coach entered my life who changed everything. He was also my beginning math teacher. He introduced me to the weight room, setting goals and believing in myself. He even helped me accelerate to the advanced math class.
Coach literally changed my life and perception of what I was capable of in ways I cannot put into words. His influence drives me to be a transformational presence whenever the opportunity presents itself.
How would you describe your typical client?
When new clients ask me who I work with, I tell them I built my practice working with specialty physicians. I feel I have a lot to offer a physician who is ready to have a conversation about financial planning. Even if I never took on another physician client, the majority of my clients would be physicians.
With that said, I work with clients from all walks of life. When you think about “who” someone refers to their financial professional, it’s obviously someone within their network. To boil it down a little further, my clients refer me their retired parents and children when they land their first job, their coworkers who asked my client if they’re saving for their children’s education, other physicians they interact with every day in the OR, and their neighbors and old friends from college who chose a completely different career path. These are all examples of clients I interact with every day.
What do you believe is the most important piece to a successful financial services relationship?
Creating a successful financial planning practice comes with a long list of filters, obstacles, and challenges. Any financial professional who earns the trust of enough clients to make a living probably has some good advice. I conduct business with honesty and responsiveness constantly at the forefront of my mind because there is nothing more important when dealing with people’s money.
What can your clients expect in the next 20 years of your practice?
I’ve been a financial planner for over 20 years, and I love what I do more every day. I’m enormously thankful to have found a career out of college that makes me excited to wake up early every morning.
My professional objectives are broad. I strive to have a very low turnover practice and to see it grow each year. I’ve seen financial professionals who spend way too much time dealing with unhappy clients and under-appreciated staff, and there is no way I could operate in that manner. I believe I can control the tone of each day by doing right by my clients and showing appreciation to the people in our firm.
Dan is a registered representative and investment advisor representative of CRI Securities, LLC and Securian Financial Services, Inc.