A life-long resident of Chicago, Mike Stanton grew up about a mile from his current home on the city’s south side. He went to a Chicago Archdiocesan high school seminary where he explored the possibility of becoming a priest. While not pursuing that as a career, he believes the listening skills and understanding of people that he learned in high school are skills that he benefited from his whole career.
Mike earned a degree in political science from the University of Illinois and started his career at a large local bank in Chicago. He spent more than thirty years working in the industry, doing everything from mortgage and commercial lending to operations management and wealth management.
While working for the bank Mike earned his CFP. “The bank was committed to providing financial planning expertise to their high net-worth clientele along with investment management, so they paid for me and many others to go through DePaul University’s CFP training program,” he said. Mike really enjoyed the financial planning aspect of his work and always thought he might get to the point where he would retire from banking and go out on his own and start a financial planning practice.
Those plans were accelerated when a new management team came into the bank and after twenty-one years at the same bank, he found himself out of a job. “I was fired,” he said. “I was shocked. One day I was working, the next day I wasn't.” Luckily, Mike was offered a good severance package that allowed him the time to consider his options. While he received job offers from other banks, his heart wasn’t really into starting with a new bank. Luckily, his family encouraged him to try something different.
ACP member Sheila Padden and Mike live within a few blocks of one another. About a year before he left the bank Mike ran into Sheila at a community event and she told him she had started her own financial planning practice. Following that conversation Mike thought Sheila was somebody he needed to keep in touch with. “Within two or three days of leaving the bank I called her up and said, ‘I want to talk to you about this financial planning thing.’”
And so they talked. Mike lost his job in mid-November, and he joined ACP in mid-January. He says he joined ACP because he knew the “what” of financial planning, but he didn’t know the “how”. “I had enough knowledge that I had a sense of what to do,” he said. “ACP was the reason I was able to figure out how to provide financial planning to people and earn a living.” ACP provided him the processes and the structure he needed to start his own practice.
Mike had the good fortune to have many former clients he could reach out to when he launched his practice. “I had three clients within a couple of months and that was enough to give me the confidence that I could do this. I didn't make a lot that first year, but it was enough to make it worth my while.”
The ACP community offers Mike the peace of mind that he is supported by a group of like-minded professionals. He likes being able to tell his clients that although he is an independent, “there are 180 different planners who are ‘part of my firm’ that I can call upon if I ever need any help. I think I'd feel helpless without being a part of something like ACP.”
Fortunately for ACP, Mike enjoys volunteering and sharing his expertise with the ACP community. He serves on the Compensation Committee and System Committee, and is an ACP Success Program instructor. “The great benefit of ACP is the training,” he said. “And I want to be a part of that and see if I can help others who are starting out on their own.”
Mike’s journey has had a number of twists and turns, but in many ways, he feels he’s still on the same road he was on when he explored the priesthood. “I've always told people that while I didn’t become a priest, what I do now is very much what I always thought a priest provided. While I’m not helping them spiritually, I think the financial guidance and services that we as planners provide is of significant benefit and comfort. There's so much we do to improve people’s lives – I love being able to help.”
In a business that is driven by referrals, it is gratifying when Mike’s clients refer him to their friends. He is proud of the trust they place in him. “I guess it's because I'm honest and because of the quality of work that I have provided to my clients that I get referrals,” he said. “And I’ve never lost a client, so I must be doing something right!”