Strategic Wealth Partners
As far back as junior high school, David Copeland’s friends and family recognized him as being good with money. In fact, he recalls a time in ninth grade when, randomly and offhandedly, his buddy mentioned that he wanted him to manage his money someday.
While Copeland quips that it was “presumptuous that he would have money to manage,” his friend recognized his diligence and caution, and knew that he wouldn’t take “excessive risk.”
“I always kept it in the back of my mind,” he says.
Now, more than four decades later, Copeland can reflect on a long career in investment management. Strategic Wealth Partners, the independent wealth management firm he co-conceived and co-founded, is going 10 years strong and seems poised for many more decades of success.
“I’m in the best position that I’ve been in after 37 years in the industry,” Copeland says. “It provides me with a lot of satisfaction that I can talk to people and feel confident that what we’re doing is always in their best interest.”
A Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) established in 2008 by Copeland and business partner Neal Price, Strategic Wealth Partners sets itself apart by offering independent advice and a risk-adjusted approach to investing. As a fiduciary, the company has a legal obligation to put the client’s best interests first.
Stressing collaboration among its team of three dozen principals, financial planners, advisors, managers, analysts and associates, the firm—with offices in Deerfield, Illinois and Milwaukee—seeks out clients who appreciate and share its mission and who keep an open mind about the investing process.
This allows Strategic Wealth Partners to establish “non-traditional” investments that are tailored to clients based on their unique circumstances, wants and needs.
Examples of these “idiosyncratic” options include custom-designed structured notes and a conservatively-designed hedge fund that is exclusive to the firm. Strategic Wealth Partners also has relationships with like-minded corporate bond managers who specifically seek out “limited, reasonably-sized independent firms.”
“We focus on specific attributes and client behaviors and develop investments skewed toward those,” Copeland says. “We’re able to use traditional and nontraditional strategies with the common theme of reducing risk. It’s a different kind of investing.”
A cultivated approach
Copeland shaped this approach after earning his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and his MBA from Northwestern University’s JL Kellogg Graduate School of Management combined with several years at Mesirow Financial, Merrill Lynch and Harris Bank.
Over the years, he couldn’t help but notice how conflicts of interest seemed to crop up almost everywhere. They are inevitable with conglomerates that cover many sectors and have multiple divisions, and people within the companies often don’t realize they exist, he notes.
“That made it difficult for me to be able to provide advice that was as objective as I would like it to be,” says Copeland, who, in his spare time guides philanthropic endeavors, including the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago and the La Rabida Children’s Hospital.
Today, with no broker-dealers or competing divisions, Strategic Wealth Partners “truly can act as fiduciaries,” he adds. “I like to be able to look in the mirror and know that there’s nothing tainting any advice I give to people.”
Investing in the future
Now that it’s a decade strong with a cadre of in-house experts and an established base of clients, Strategic Wealth Partners is constantly focused on the future, according to Copeland.
To that end, in 2014, the firm joined forces with Focus Financial Partners. As Copeland stresses, this has allowed Strategic Wealth Partners to tap into Focus Financial’s resources and to seek guidance and strategy for inorganic growth, such as through mergers and acquisitions.
With growth in mind, Strategic Wealth is developing a “plan-to-partnership” that encourages younger people to become principals in the firm.
“We encourage everyone to think like an owner,” he says. “We want to cultivate people who are going to be here for an extended period of time, who show initiative, who roll up their sleeves and help the organization grow.”
In return, they are “amply rewarded.” Indeed, Strategic Wealth Partners recently advanced two of its longtime Certified Financial Planners, Ashley Bebeau and Andrew Denenberg, to principal status.
“As the industry evolves, we’ll evolve,” summarizes Copeland. “We’re able to evolve faster because we’re an independent firm. We’re able to provide much better service to clients over time because we’re an independent firm.”
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