CEO Insights

Build It and They Will Come

G. Ward Keever Builds the Firm of His Dreams

“I bought my first stock when I was seven. My father set me up with a Janney Montgomery Scott brokerage account and we bought American Cyanamid, a chemical company – and the love affair was on,” said G. Ward Keever IV, president and CEO of Covenant Wealth Strategies, LLC.

Keever’s interest in all things financial emerged early in his youth, and so did his entrepreneurial spirit. When the woman who lived next door to Keever’s family home in Ocean City, New Jersey, lost her husband, Keever started mowing her lawn for her. He grew that job into a thriving landscape business that he ran throughout college. In fact, after graduating Cum Laude from the University of Delaware with a degree in finance and marketing, he took a pay cut from his landscaping income when he started his first “real job,” as his father called it.

Trading in his grass-stained t-shirt and jeans for a suit and tie, Keever started his professional career at a local financial planning company. Later, he came to realize that it was a general agency for an insurance company.

Within four years, Keever earned professional designations in the financial industry including that of Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) and Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC). Since then, he’s added to the list with other prestigious industry credentials including Accredited Investment Fiduciary (AIF).

After 10 years with the insurance company, Keever knew that he wasn’t where he was meant to be professionally, but he wasn’t sure of where to go next.

“I set out to find what I wanted, and I interviewed with a large number of other firms and kept finding sales contests and proprietary products. What I wanted to do was be an advocate for my clients, to work in my clients’ best interests, and to help them pursue their goals and objectives,” he said.

“You can have anything in life you want as long as you help enough other people get what they want first,” he continued, referencing famed motivational speaker and sales trainer Zig Zigler’s philosophy for success. “That’s what I wanted to do, and quite frankly, I couldn’t find it, so I set out to build it.”

Covenant Wealth Strategies launched in 1999. Today, the ten-person firm plans to double in staff over the next decade.

“I believe there’s a need for what we do, how we do it, and why we do it,” said Keever.

Firm’s Strategies Benefit Clients and Society

Keever believes that Americans today are less educated about financial matters more now than ever before. So, this year Covenant Wealth Strategies is joining the Junior Achievement organization in their large-scale effort to promote financial literacy in grammar, middle, and high schools across the country – the goal is to better prepare youth to make financial decisions both now and in the future.

Often, when hiring a financial planner to help navigate their retirement planning, “people don’t know what they don’t know” suggests Keever. Many planners simply operate as an asset manager by placing the client’s money in mutual funds or with a third party, and then charge the client a percentage to review their portfolio annually or semiannually.

“Clients need way more than that, and this is where Covenant Wealth Strategies differentiates itself. We provide a proactive concierge service,” he said. “We tell our clients that things are going to happen in life – hard things like the loss of a job, or the death of a family member – and great things will happen like weddings, babies, promotions, and retirement. We want to be one of the first five phone calls a client makes – whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing – because there’s likely a financial implication to whatever just happened.”

Many financial advisory firms set criteria for the clients they take on, but Covenant Wealth Strategies keeps it simple. While there are no minimum fees, they do charge a one-time financial planning fee of $2,500.

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“We actually manage our clients’ money in-house. So now, you’re paying us a fee to manage the money, and we’re not simply putting you into a portfolio of mutual funds. We’re building portfolios that have individual stocks, ETF’s, and where we do use mutual funds we use institutional share pricing which gives our clients access to mutual funds that have expense ratios that are commonly a third to a half of what retail funds charge for the same share class,” Keever said.

Keever services $125 million advisory assets of the over $200 million total brokerage and advisory assets through LPL Financial using three broad investment strategies.

The first is a mutual fund model using conventional wisdom and asset allocation with active share pricing. The second model is for clients who prefer low-expense passive management which Keever describes as asset allocation modern portfolio theory with ETF’s. The third model is their most popular.

“The majority of money we manage, is in a portfolio of individual stocks with some ETF’s and a few mutual funds for thematic exposure and diversification. We call this model our Protect and Advance Series,” said Keever.

Rounding out Covenant Wealth Strategies’ comprehensive approach includes conferring with their clients’ tax advisors, estate planning attorneys, and other related professionals.

“This industry is full of so many conflicts of interest, it’s a shame and it’s sad. Much of the bad reputation of the industry is well deserved because some people view clients as a mechanism to make money rather than as people to serve. We genuinely view our clients as people to serve. They make a commitment to us, we make a commitment to them,” said Keever.

One of the ways Covenant Wealth serves is through proprietary innovative programs like the one set to launch this year to help clients save on the cost of college, not just save for the cost of college. They’ll be working with their clients’ children and grandchildren to help identify grants and scholarships.

“Every dollar that we help our clients get in grants and scholarships is less money that our clients will pull from our management, and it is more money they will entrust to us to manage for them,” said Keever.

Covenant Wealth Strategies operates from the premise that the success of one’s financial independence late in life is not based on the size of their nest egg, but on the amount of guaranteed income that they have, including Social Security, pensions and annuities.

“We talk to our clients about this and help them with cash flow planning and projections for retirement, explained Keever, adding that the cost of long-term care is also a challenge that the firm discusses with clients."*

Sentiment Outshine Impressive Stats

Since Covenant Wealth Management launched 18 years ago in Wilmington, Delaware, they boast a client retention rate of 98 percent or better each year. **

“I think that there is only one industry that surpasses that and that’s the graveyard industry, they keep 100 percent of their clients,” quipped Keever, who’s proud of this achievement within such a volatile industry.

He’s also proud of the multigenerational relationships his firm enjoys with clients and their families. Keever and his wife Debbie attended the wedding reception of a client’s daughter. The bride came over to their table and said, “Hi Mr. Keever, we’ve never met before, but my parents talk about you all the time, thank you for attending our beautiful wedding.”

For more information on Covenant Wealth Strategies, LLC visit: covenantwealthstrategies.com

*Guarantees are based on the paying ability of the issuing institution.

**Client retention may not be representative of any future experience of our clients, nor considered a recommendation of the advisor’s services or abilities or indicate a favorable client experience. Individual results will vary

Securities and Advisory services offered through LPL Financial, A Registered Investment Adviser. Member FINRA/SIPC
Copyright © 2015 Covenant Wealth Strategies, LLC. All rights reserved.

 

 

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