Steve learned early on in his career that he had a passion for helping people with their personal finances. As an accounting professional, he was frequently approached by clients with questions related to their financial well-being, and he felt restricted by the CPA service model — he wanted to do more. Ultimately, ACP provided the methodology he needed to transition to a career as a tax-focused, comprehensive, fee-only financial planner.
Growing up in New Zealand, Steve enjoyed a laid-back, “barefoot” lifestyle. He moved back to the United States in his late teens and later enrolled at Bob Jones University in South Carolina to study accounting. Upon graduation, he entered the corporate world, working for Deloitte & Touche from 2008-12 before taking a position at Athene USA in Des Moines, where he spent five years as a finance consultant on company acquisitions, reinsurance, and other special transactions.
“I grew curious about how these financial products I was dealing with affected individuals,” Steve said. “I spent my days reviewing complicated contracts and had to read things two or three times to understand them. I began to wonder how our clients (with no industry training) could read and understand all of this. I realized that I wanted to work with consumers — not within the corporate structure.”
Steve’s “calling” to help individuals motivated him to research the ins and outs of working as a financial advisor, and this led him to ACP. “ACP seemed like the answer to all my questions. The ACP System™ offered me the chance to do exactly what I wanted to do,” he said.
Steve was a bit intimidated at first, but soon found the welcoming spirit of ACP members, who were more than happy to help lead him to achieve his professional goals. “My initial impression was that ACP was for people who had businesses and I didn’t think I could do that,” Steve said. “But I spoke with founding ACP member Ed Fulbright and others to figure out: Where do I go from here? Based on my background as a CPA, I began to understand that it wouldn’t be crazy for me to start my own practice,” he said. “With ACP you have a team of members around you to support you; and it has a process and the key is to just take the process and run with it.”
Steve completed the process for becoming a Certified Financial Planner Professional while working at Athene USA. He became an ACP member in January 2017, and completed the ACP Success Program that summer, making connections along the way while training.
Because his wife had family in Colorado, the family moved there, to the suburb Littleton, a bit southwest of Denver, and settled. “With ACP, really, you can work from anywhere, so we found that to be the best situation for us,” he said.
Steve then reached out to ACP members who were within an hour of Denver, a decision that proved extremely valuable. “I highly recommend that anyone who joins ACP reach out to other members in their geographic area. I started, of course, with no clients, but I was able to get out and meet with people and gain clients. I was able to form relationships and was given referrals. For established ACP members, they can become more selective about their clients, so if one approaches them and they feel it’s not a great fit for them, it can become a great fit for someone like me.”
Steve took a slow-and-steady approach to growing his business, Simply Steward, LLC.
“I’m a plodder when it comes to client acquisitions,” he said. “But after Year 1, my business became profitable. After Year 2, I was earning a good salary. By Years 3 and 4, our income transitioned to a position that allowed my wife (an ICU nurse) to cut back her hours a bit and really become a business rather than a start-up.”
This allowed Steve to spend more time with his four young children, now ages 1 through 8. “They are great, very energetic kids,” he said. “They are constantly going with swimming, sports, trail life. I also have some free time to work with our church.”
After practicing as an ACP financial advisor for about five years, Steve merged firms with long-time ACP member Mary Alpers and they launched their new firm, Three Points Financial, in 2021.
Steve believes in making time to give back as a volunteer for ACP. He’s done a lot in a short period of time — from sharing his ACP story to attract new members for the organization, to serving as a member of the Technology Committee, to chairing ACP’s first-ever Solo Advisor Retreat. “I belong to other financial-based organizations, but I’m not involved in them. I owe my business to ACP, so if there’s any way I can give back to this great group, I will.”