Leadership, Strategy

In a quiet office in San Antonio, Texas, a gong rings out. Staff members flood from their offices to clap and cheer, congratulating a client on his daughter’s graduation from college.

At PAX Financial Group, this mid-afternoon ceremony isn’t unusual. Companies define success in many ways, but PAX is dedicated to measuring hope. Because PAX, a financial planning firm, serves people, not investment portfolios, they praise what is praiseworthy in their clients’ lives, and each milestone is documented in the company’s system and observed by the ringing of the gong.

Today, the gong sounded for a father seeing a child graduate from college. Tomorrow, it could ring out to celebrate a business owner retiring well 50 years after launching. Last week, it marked one client paying off her mortgage and another client’s decision to donate six figures to worthy causes.

In an industry laser-focused on wealth accumulation, PAX is dedicated to celebrating every step of the stewardship journey. They recognize that more than leaving a legacy, clients are desperate to live one, finding ways to rejoice in today as well as prepare for tomorrow.

Like PAX, many financial institutions across the nation are turning notions of greed and gain upside down. Gospel-centered leaders of wealth-management companies are changing the financial climate and the public’s perception of it as they focus on building their clients’ lives, not just their profit margins.

Living a legacy

“Inheritance is what you leave to someone, but legacy is what you leave in someone,” says Darryl Lyons, co-founder and CEO of PAX. “Living a legacy is much more rewarding, and much more fun, than just accumulating money to leave behind.”

A commitment to generosity is revolutionizing the financial planning industry. According to cofounder Joseph Schuetze, inspiring generosity rather than simply pushing toward endless wealth accumulation allows companies to ensure that each client’s legacy when they’re gone—and their life now—will be richer. Schuetze credits C12, an organization that compels and equips Christian CEOs and business leaders to achieve excellence with eternal impact, as being a consistent driver behind these choices. He says, “C12 isn’t afraid to offer tough accountability and push you to live with high integrity.”

“It’s antithetical to this industry to convince clients to give more money away,” Schuetze explains. “We’re actually cutting into our own fees. But we are staking our claim to the ideals of the kingdom of God, not the ideals of the world of finance.” PAX goes beyond simply encouraging clients to give to charitable organizations by prompting them to actively engage with those organizations. As a result, clients see their generosity making a difference in the community. They get to live their legacies.

Mentorship and beyond

“Doing things together and being for one another is the ultimate way to bring about change,” says Travis Penfield, CEO of 49 Financial. He’s certainly seen this to be true in his own life. After a stint in consulting, Penfield was ready to pursue a job that allowed for less travel and more time at home and in his community. Financial advising seemed like the perfect fit—until he noticed that the job retention rates, especially for employees in his age bracket, were shockingly low.

Enter Jeff Davidson, cofounder and co-CEO of Camp Gladiator. Previously, Davidson led in AXA Austin, a provider of financial services for consumers and businesses, and in 2012 he approached Penfield with an irresistible offer. “I’ll mentor you as a financial planner for the next two years, teach you everything I know,” Davidson suggested. “Then I’ll hand over the reins to you when I step out of the industry.”

Penfield took him up on it, and soon he and Davidson shattered previous company records as they proved the value of coupling the dynamism and energy of a new hire with the trustworthiness and expertise of a seasoned investor. Penfield expanded on this innovative financial planning partnership as he founded a new firm, 49 Financial.

The mission of 49 Financial is based squarely on the principle laid out in Ecclesiastes 4:9: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor.” In an industry that is often known for a fend-for-yourself mentality, Penfield saw mentorship as the perfect way to counter that culture. His new company’s policy of rising together lifts new advisors through the ranks while giving industry veterans a chance to pass on their expertise. An abundance mindset coupled with a discipleship model is radical, simple, and, unfortunately, unusual.

A financial industry molded around mentorship may be a novel concept, but it works. Retention rates and job satisfaction have substantially increased at 49 Financial. But mentorship involves more than sharing trade secrets and hitting performance benchmarks. The 49 Financial model strives to care for the whole person, a philosophy Penfield gleaned from his C12 peer advisory group. Experienced team members teach younger hires how to separate identity from success, celebrate wins and bounce back from losses, and couple values with results. This system creates a culture of high integrity and low burnout, setting advisors up for a long, healthy future in the industry.

“When people think of financial advisors, they think of greed and ego,” Penfield says. “Gratitude is one of our main values for that reason. A grateful heart is the antidote to greed and ego.” It shows: 49 Financial is seeing growth in both their returns and their relationships, adding more than 100 team members in a single year. When advisors are able to make choices based on their values and not their bottom line, they can then shift the thinking of their clients, spurring them on to acts of gratitude and generosity in their own lives.

Investing ethically

Many Christians want to integrate their spiritual and financial lives but don’t know where to start. What practical choices can we make with our finances today that will make a difference tomorrow?

Beacon Wealth Consultants believes biblically responsible investing is the answer. The company has spent the past two decades researching how to build clients’ portfolios in alignment with their faith. Beacon Wealth Consultants seeks to protect investors from unknowingly supporting unprincipled companies by implementing a rigorous internal screening process. They’re not only on the lookout for unethical or problematic business practices but also for companies who are actively improving the world around them, finding new avenues for flourishing, and creating a safer, better tomorrow. Clients can rest assured that companies Beacon Wealth Consultants recommends have been thoroughly vetted.

As for concerns that screening based on ethics rather than profitability will counteract competitive returns, Kayleigh Kulp with U.S. News and World Report confirms that there is no negative financial impact in choosing ethically screened investing. “Over the last five years, a composite of the returns from all of the equity mutual funds within the Christian Investment Forum … outperformed the industry average by 77 basis points annually,” she wrote.

In addition, Cassandra Laymon, President of Beacon Wealth Consultants, believes that the positive gospel impact helps every penny invested go further. Clients practice a deeper form of generosity consistent with biblical principles when their investments are in companies who give to their communities.

An entire industry is being revolutionized by faith-driven, results-minded owners and CEOs who allow the gospel to shape everything from profit margins to employee practices as they run their business as a ministry. “The most exciting thing I see is the heart change among advisors and investors alike and the positive impact biblically responsible investing is beginning to have on publicly traded companies as a result,” says Rick Laymon in an online interview with Beacon Wealth Consultants. Living legacies, mentoring the new generation, investing biblically—these CEOs are part of a movement transforming the marketplace with the gospel, with the satisfaction of their employees and clients speaking for itself.