Cultivating Next-Gen Talent: Foster Group Adds Six New Shareholders

The Exit Planning Institute reports that 62% of Nebraska business owners have given “little to no attention to [an] exit plan.” 

Forty-three percent have done “no planning at all.” 

Foster Group, founded in 1989 by Jerry Foster, is an investment management and consulting firm that is, naturally, not leaving its future to chance. In May, Foster Group announced the recent addition of six new shareholders, including Omaha’s Stacie Neussendorfer, a senior lead advisor who brought 20 years of estate planning and wealth management expertise with her when joining the organization in 2018.

There are 24 shareholders spanning over three generations.

“Turnover is a distractor for employees as well as clients,” said Ross Polking, lead advisor – business development in Omaha, when asked about the significance of multi-generational leadership. 

“Clients want long-term relationships with their financial advisory team. We have structured our leadership and employee ownership to span multiple generations. So our clients can feel confident in our commitment to continuity.”

As Polking put it, Foster’s vision from the very beginning was to build an organization that would thrive perpetually and not be beholden to third-party influences or short-term financial performance.

“We wanted to be built on the shoulders of great people,” Polking explained. “We have long believed in the mantra of ‘hiring people smarter than ourselves.’ That’s served our firm really well … we hire great people and let them thrive in their role.”

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Its people are based out of offices in Omaha and west Des Moines.

“[Our offices] were never meant to operate independently from one another,” Polking remarked. “We intentionally create dependencies across our offices. We think of Interstate 80 as a long hallway between our front doors.”

When a great fit in Foster Group’s communities is identified, Polking said, every effort is made to bring them onboard regardless of location.

“And remote work has made it easier to think more creatively about a team members’ physical location, which fosters even more collaboration between offices,” he added. 

Polking indicated its talent-oriented journey, culminating recently in new shareholders, is built on a visionary and cultural foundation of care, competence and character that informs both engagement and a sense of shared ownership.

“We are very clear in our interview process about ‘The Foster Group Way,’” he said. “We offer accountability along the way. Team members stick around because they see congruence between what we say and how we behave.”

The best way to foster next-generation talent is to develop and keep good people, Polking emphasized.

“Mentoring, open communication and incredible trust among team members are all catalysts to continually elevating our talent level,” he said. “People outside our organization see this and want to be part of it, which … leads to next-generation talent.”

More than Buzzwords

There are real results and performance to be had from living its values, according to Polking.

“We have a very ‘flat’ organization where everyone’s role has a significant contribution to the client experience,” he said. “Our team just genuinely enjoys co-laboring together to serve each other and to serve clients.”

Polking pointed to Gallup recognizing Foster Group repeatedly for its high level of team member engagement (via its Q12 employee engagement survey). Additionally, Polking said it has not experienced the slowdown in new clients that is commonly seen when financial markets are not working in investors’ favor.

“This industry is all about trust,” he explained. “No one is going to engage you to help with their financial life unless they have complete trust and confidence in you.

“The market and our economy present a lot of uncertainties and unsettledness right now. People recognize that they need help in making objective decisions, while preserving and growing wealth.”

Perhaps further validation of its trust-inspiring team, Polking alluded to Foster Group being ranked among the top advisory firms in west Des Moines and Iowa by AdvisoryHQ, a global organization that independently reviews firms from around the globe.

Such recognition, Polking said, creates the credibility that further draws prospective clients.

Future Forward

When asked about current initiatives and priorities, Polking said that the rapid change associated with technologies means it always has initiatives around how to do things more consistently, effectively and efficiently.

“We continue to expand our offerings for both individuals and organizations,” he said. “People we serve are asking us to do more for them, and we are trying to meet these needs in smart ways.”

Polking stressed that it’s important to never lose the firm’s “boutique” feel.

“We want our clients to feel known, understood and cared for, no matter how many team members we have,” he said.

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