How Yeske Buie groomed new millennial equity owners

Dave Yeske, 61, and Elissa Buie, 58, are planning for the day when their firm can run without them.

Back in 2010, the husband-and-wife co-founders of their eponymous RIA, set out to make themselves “dispensable” to the firm they’d created through the merger of their separate practices two years earlier. The plan was to do so by 2020.

“Being dispensable doesn’t mean we’d be gone, but it does mean that we’d built a firm that could run without us,” Yeske says. Staff turnover during the early years made the objective challenging. “We despaired of achieving anything like our goal by 2020,” he adds.

RIA co-founders Dave Yeske and Elissa Buie in Antartica last month. Three new partners keep the couples eponymous firm running in their absence.

RIA co-founders Dave Yeske and Elissa Buie in Antartica last month. Three new partners keep the couple’s eponymous firm running in their absence.

Today, Yeske Buie, with offices in San Francisco and Vienna, Virginia, is on track to hit that goal. It required solving a conundrum that bedevils many other firms: How to generate enough equity to fund their retirement without being forced to sell to an aggregator or a bank? The couple decided to find and groom the next generation of firm leaders in-house instead.

“We came to the realization that what worked best for us was hiring new college grads out of undergraduate programs and training them in the Yeske Buie way, as opposed to hiring staff with prior work experience in financial planning,” Yeske says.

Two of the firm’s new partners, Yusuf Abugideiri, 32, and Lauren Stansell, 28, are graduates of Virginia Tech’s financial planning program. The third, 27-year-old Lauren Mireles, works in client relationship management and graduated with a business degree from California University of Pennsylvania.

Yeske Buies new millennial partners (left to right) Yusuf Abugideiri, 32, Lauren Stansell, 28, and Lauren Mireles, 27.

Yeske Buie’s new millennial partners (left to right) Yusuf Abugideiri, 32, Lauren Stansell, 28, and Lauren Mireles, 27.

“Our three new owners are young because we hired them young,” he says, “but also because they emerged as a natural leadership team within the firm sooner than we originally thought possible.”

So quickly, in fact, that by 2012 the couple planned a test of sorts: a month-long trip to the Caribbean and Alaska in which they planned to be unplugged the entire time. They left the firm in the hands of their employees, who were all in their early- to mid-twenties at the time.

The team took a year to prepare for what became known as the co-founders’ “Dispensability Tour 2012,” Yeske says.

The vacation was a success. The team reached out to the founders just once on a matter that was quickly resolved.

While Yeskie and Buie still own 94% of their firm, they envision the day, maybe in a decade or so, when their ownership will drop to 50%, and then farther.

To that end, Yeske Buie also has an in-house planning residency program for recent college graduates that is modeled on those in the medical profession. The firm recently hired two graduates of the three-year program for permanent positions. They are not yet partners.

In an interview, the firm’s newest partners expressed no small degree of astonishment at finding themselves at the day-to-day helm of a firm like Yeske Buie.

“We are equity partners at a firm that serves over 250 clients and families and manages around $700 million” in client assets, Abugidieri says. “We lead and manage a team of 15 individuals.”

“Given our respective ages,” he says, contemplating these figures “can be staggering.”

Which is why Abugideiri has no intention of leaving.

“This is it for me,” he says. “It would be the ultimate blessing if working at Yeske Buie could be my first and last job.”

That’s good news for Yeske and Buie, who are reaping the benefits of having worked hard to build a bench of new leaders in whom they feel confident.

“Last August we spent nearly a month in Africa and didn’t feel the need for any special preparation, asking the team if they needed anything from us only days before our departure,” Yeske says. “They didn’t. And everything ran smoothly during our absence. As you might imagine, it felt good.”

The couple now owns an apartment in Cape Town, South Africa, after Buie spoke at a 2007 financial planning conference there. They currently rent the place out, but eventually plan to keep it open for friends and to visit the city more frequently themselves.

“Elissa has already planned at least five vacations for 2019,” Yeske say, adding that it will be some time yet before the pair fully step away from their work as planners.

“We’ll likely be around annoying the young people for many years,” he says.

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