Jacob Kuebler, CFP®, EA, Bluestem Financial Advisors, LLC
In some ways, Jake Kuebler fell into the profession of financial planning by accident. Signing up for a personal finance class as a college student, he thought he was taking a course on how to best manage his own finances. He was interested in gaining the skills to make confident decisions about his financial future. However, he ended up finding the profession of personal financial management rather than just some life skills. Even though it wasn’t what he expected, Jake found himself drawn to a career with a mixture of technical and personal work.
Being introduced to financial planning in the classroom had its benefits—the academic perspective took a client-centric approach. Planning with life stages and client values in mind made sense to Jake. He was discouraged to find that the real industry focus was on brokerage and insurance. He thought he’d be stuck in a sales role. “I was frustrated thinking I’d have to sell products for years before I would get an opportunity to engage in real financial planning,” he says.
Luckily, Jake discovered another route. Before the end of the semester, a former professor visited the class to talk about her practice. That former professor was ACP member Karen Folk. Discussing the fee-only practice, Karen revealed the potential of the ACP model. For Jake, meeting Karen led to an internship in her practice. When some of Karen’s part-time employees left, Jake stepped into a full-time role.
When Jake graduated in 2008, Karen offered him a job with the possibility of a succession plan. In the first couple of years, he spent time learning the ropes and enrolled in a CFP program. Soon, he began to take on a larger role with existing clients and a lead advisor role with new clients. In 2011, Jake and Karen formalized their partnership and he became an equal owner. Stepping in with a succession plan put Jake in a unique position. “Usually the founder is the firm leader and the one who sets the course for the future, but Karen was really open to my vision,” he says.
Jake’s ideal model was heavily influenced by the ACP community. He believes in growing an ensemble-style practice, working collaboratively, and bringing on additional partners. “Having additional partners lets everyone focus on the areas they’re good at, it allows us to leverage everyone’s different strengths,” he says.
At the beginning of his career, the ACP training gave Jake a cohort of advisors to lean on for advice. Though he had a great mentor in Karen, he appreciated hearing outside perspectives and connecting with other new planners. When it was important to bring in new clients, ACP was essential. It provided the tools to serve clients well, and it gave the Jake the confidence to trust his investment strategy.
Over the years, Karen has reduced her role, eventually stepping into an emeritus position. The staff has expanded. They are about to hire their sixth team member. The sense of community in ACP is mirrored in the firm’s culture. They’ve built a practice around that collaborative ethos. Joining this practice in his mid-20s has encouraged Jake to consider a succession plan for himself. He has enjoyed the changing roles and challenges of growing the firm, but he knows the firm and clients are better served by having the backing of a team made up of other leaders as well. In an effort to future-proof, he’s been looking ahead as he helps plot the course for the company. Recently, ACP member Josh Cutler joined the firm, coming on as an equity partner. This has allowed Jake to appreciate the process of succession from the other side.
Jake is a strong believer in ACP—he wants to support the profession and advance the knowledge base. He served on the ACP Board of Directors as the organization searched for new leadership. Although volunteering can be a challenge while running a practice, Jake sees this as a benefit of ACP. “We are stronger because every leader understands the real-life application of the ACP model. We know what affects advisors and what affects clients and we can act accordingly.” Over the years Jake has helped move the organization forward, participating in conferences and helping to re-launch the Advanced Planners Retreat. He also served on the PR and Marketing Committee, bringing with him his enthusiasm for ACP and his dynamic approach to long-term planning.