Class of 2010
At the time he was recognized, Kurt Durrwachter was juggling a new financial planning business as well as volunteer roles in St. Cloud YMCA, Tri-County Humane Society, Boys & Girls Clubs and Executive Interaction Group.
What are you doing now?
Same thing — just finished Year 5 running the firm that I had just started when I was in the 5 Under 40 Class of 2010. We are now a team of four and run a boutique investment management firm in Sartell.
How did the 5 Under 40 award affect your life?
It was humbling to think that other community members even thought enough of me to nominate me in the first place. The award was great timing for me professionally as well; I was in the midst of leaving a reputable firm to start my own.
Other big changes since you received the award?
Our firm has grown. We are a team of four now. Personally, we moved out of town a bit to get some peace and quiet on some acreage on the north side of Sartell.
What will make the St. Cloud area greater in coming years?
I believe continued collaboration from business and nonprofit leaders in the community will strengthen us. Our community changes are mostly positive, from my point of view.
Originally ran: January 7, 2011
Money management expertise is essential, but Kurt Durrwachter believes enduring success as a financial planner simply comes down to putting the client first.
Durrwachter need only glance at the desktop of family photos in his office at Sauk Rapids for a reminder of why he started his own financial planning business this year.
The son of a stockbroker father and tax consultant mother, you could say Durrwachter was destined to enter a career involving figures and finance.
However, the 37-year-old said his desire to become a certified financial planner in 2000, and to start the firm Ledge Wealth Management in June, was based less on a love of money than a desire for the freedom to "control your own destiny."
For him, that freedom is focused on being able to build a prosperous future with his wife of nine years, Krista, and their three young children, as well as taking the time to enjoy it with them. The firm's title, Ledge, is a composite of the names of his children, Lyla, 1; Eddie, 5; and George, 4, reflecting the company's values.
As CEO of Ledge Wealth Management, Durrwachter applies the same approach to clients, first identifying what they want out of life, and then planning to achieve it — rather than focusing on "beating the market."
"We talk a lot in this office about using money to create freedom, and that's really what it's for," Durrwachter says. He adds: "Understanding what my clients' expectations of their money and of me are ... that's probably the most important part of whether a relationship will last or not."
Along with core values including integrity, continuing education, innovation and giving back, serving the client's interests is paramount to Durrwachter, even if his advice is not always what they want to hear.
"Being able to say once in awhile, ‘I'm really sorry, but I think your expectations are unrealistic' ... it's not fun, it's not easy, but I think it's the right thing to do, and I think it helps the client walk away and reassess their situation."
Krista says that being "absolutely honest" is among her husband's greatest strengths. "He's going to do what's best for (clients) even if it's not what's best for him."
Durrwachter says his firm negotiates fees up-front and tries to avoid recommending investments that raise potential conflicts of interest, such as adviser commissions.
Instead of simply selling financial products, Durrwachter strives to offer holistic guidance and support. For example, he recently helped a client negotiate a car purchase.
He's also developed strategies that challenge some of the traditional investment models that failed to protect people's wealth during the financial meltdown.
As an avid adopter of technology, Durrwachter is reviewing the use of Internet-based video systems to improve communication with clients.
Three years ago, he founded the Executive Interaction Group, which provides a monthly forum for St. Cloud business leaders to connect and share ideas.
Jeff Gau, CEO of technology company Marco, said Durrwachter's efforts in recruiting high-level executives for EIG showed impressive leadership.
"Here he is a young guy, and he goes out and recruits us veterans and CEOs from various industries, and pulled us together in a consistent manner," Gau said. He met Durrwachter in 2007 when he hired him to manage Marco's corporate retirement fund.
"It's way easier to go be a part of something than it is to start it. I thought it was commendable."
Durrwachter said the support of his family has been vital to launching the new enterprise.
"I never had any doubt that he could do it on his own," said Krista, who quit her career as a lawyer in February to care full-time for the children. "At the same time, he assured me every step of the way that our family came first … and that has not faltered one bit."
JOB: Certified financial planner; owner, CEO of Ledge Wealth Management.
RESIDENCE: Sartell; hometown is Green Bay, Wis.
EDUCATION: Bachelor of arts from the University of Minnesota; certification in financial planning from College for Financial Planning.
INVOLVEMENT: Board member or volunteer consultant with organizations such as St. Cloud YMCA, Tri-County Humane
Society and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Minnesota. Active in St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce. Founder of Executive Interaction Group.
HOW HE LEADS: "With family, I hope to lead by showing my children how to respect other human beings and live life with honesty and integrity in all dealings with others. At work and with clients, I hope to help spread optimism and realism at the same time. By encouraging those around me ... I hope not so much to lead but to inspire, calm and motivate others."