Conestoga Wealth Partners just celebrated a decade helping clients succeed. Rather than my typical moralizing financial post, perhaps it is timely to share the story of how and why Conestoga came to be. Some might say it was a story of David beating Goliath. Others say it resembled the flight to freedom of settlers in America. Some would even knock us down a few pegs and compare it to Johnny Paycheck’s opening lines: “Take this job and shove it. I ain’t working here no more.”
The problem was that AJ and Jim’s previous firm, a large firm who shall remain nameless, had problems with their culture and management. Like so many other large brokerages, they managed to the lowest common denominator—they needed to keep competent and questionable advisors alike from making mistakes. They were also focused more on the company’s profits than on what was best for clients. The result was a difficult environment. Advisors competed against one another instead of collaborating. It was almost impossible to give advice around tax planning, estate planning, or accounts held elsewhere because the company wanted to limit the liability of advisors providing bad advice. Advisors could not work with clients on an hourly basis, and upper-level management pushed advisors towards investment solutions that made the firm more money. Even writing a blog post was prohibited.
With that backdrop, AJ and Jim struck out on their own to found Conestoga. Like any business venture, there was a substantial amount of risk. Clients might not follow them to their new company. It is a leap of faith to leave an established company with one’s life savings for a startup.
Starting a new company is also expensive, and it meant an exhausting amount of work. Late nights and early mornings were a necessity. Mountains of paperwork were par for the course. The grass may be greener on the other side of the fence, but at what point is the fence so tall that it doesn’t matter what the grass looks like? For many advisors, it proves too intimidating a fence to scale.
Fortunately, AJ and Jim persevered as men of both vision and action. By the time I arrived, Conestoga was three years young. Perry had just joined Conestoga as well. Every advisor was extremely experienced and had overseen other advisors in addition to helping clients. They were also frankly great people who cared about others first, not just the bottom line. With that kind of talent and character as the backdrop, more independence is perfect. It did not just attract clients; it was a culture I wanted to be part of myself.
I became an intern while still in college and never looked back; the company was different and refreshing. It was a place that felt worthy of energy and passion. We wanted each other to succeed and were committed to helping one another—we still feel that way. Everyone gladly mentored me, and I will always be grateful for their help.
We have also been able to give back through Conestoga, feeding children and supporting local businesses and non-profits over the years. We support scholarships for students, donate time and money to charities, and even volunteer on non-profit boards. We believe in serving others, and I am proud of the progress we have made.
For several years, Conestoga partnered independently with Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network. It worked well for a while; they provided services that an independent company like Conestoga needs. In 2019, Conestoga decided to partner with Commonwealth, which has thus far been an amazing experience. Their technology, thoughtful infrastructure, and excellent service trickles down to provide better, faster service to our clients even as we have grown.
Shortly afterwards, we welcomed Susan and Stephanie to the team. Both have elevated our client service and quickly become important parts of our Conestoga family. They take pride in their work and, like everyone else here, are kind, thoughtful people.
Most recently we welcomed Klaudia to our team. She provides a wealth of experience and shares our commitment to being dependable for clients. More than that, she lightens the office with her presence; her infectious laugh will bring a smile to your face.
We are grateful, as always, to everyone who trusts us with their financial success. With all the experience, flexibility, moral fiber, and technology we might have, Conestoga would be nothing without you, our clients. Looking forward, we continue to ask ourselves the same questions: “How can we be better? How can we create more value for our clients?” We believe the answers to those questions show us the path forward.
Looking back, it is amazing how much has changed here for the better. It excites me to think of the growth and improvement yet to come. As the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once said, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” Cheers to the future, your continued financial success, and living forward.