AUBURN — An Auburn company ranks as Indiana’s third-best wealth-advising firm, according to Forbes.
The business magazine rates David Hefty and Credent Wealth Management No. 3 in the state, in its annual list of Best-In-State Wealth Advisors.
Although Credent CEO Hefty’s name appears in the ranking, he quickly makes clear that the rating takes the whole company into account.
Forbes said it bases the rankings on in-person interviews, industry experience, compliance records, revenue produced and assets under management.
“There’s a lot that goes into the ranking. It’s not just size,” Hefty said Friday from his office in downtown Auburn. “We do tend to do well in all those categories.”
Credent first broke into the Forbes rankings three years ago, Hefty said. Last year it ranked as No. 4 in the state before edging higher this time.
Because the two advisors rated above Credent Wealth are brothers from the same company — Brian Cooke and Chris Cooke of Indianapolis, Credent would seem to actually rank as No. 2.
“I agree that technically we should be No. 2. The listing says No. 3,” Hefty said with a laugh.
The firms on either side of Credent in the Indiana rankings are roughly twice as large and based in Indianapolis.
Size and geography are not all that make Credent stand apart. The Cookes’ top-ranked firm requires at least $2 million in assets to become a client. The minimum Forbes lists for Credent is $5,000.
“The reality is: We have households with less than $5,000. We’ve never had a minimum. We still don’t. We have clients that have net worths well in excess of $100 million,” Hefty said.
Hefty takes pride in bringing financial services to the middle class. Credent counts more than 300 customers using its financial coaching services for clients with less than $250,000 in management.
“It does exist,” Hefty said about services for customers with lower assets. “There are firms out there. There’s just not very many. It’s hard to find.”
Hefty and his wife, Stacey, Credent’s president, started small themselves, 20 years ago.
After graduating from Purdue University, with no experience in finances, they began their careers with an Indianapolis firm in 1999.
“I literally sold stocks and bonds out of the trunk of my car … 22 years old,” David Hefty said. He soon told himself, “There’s got to be a better way. … I like to think of better ways.”
At age 23, the couple moved to Auburn and launched Hefty Wealth Management in the summer of 2000.
By 2017, their firm had grown to around a dozen employees, but mergers with other advisors have brought the roster to 50 today. About 30 team members are based in Auburn, with others in Portage and Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Plano and Waco, Texas.
The company has succeeded by following eight core beliefs, Hefty said.
Among them, “We do believe that all Americans benefit from setting financial goals, developing a written plan and working with a partner toward those goals,” he said.
Credent follows the credo: “Put the interests of clients ahead of your own, be proactive, just work,” he said.
Then, “As you do well, you’ve got to find team members who share in those core beliefs. … So we run a very good culture of high-energy, highly motivated people that absolutely love client experience.”
Hefty added, “It doesn’t matter if their life savings are $200,000 or $20 million, they’re attracted to us for the exact same reason, and our teams work just as hard.”
Hefty divides Credent’s services into the categories of financial coaching, financial advising and wealth management. He sees them as “cousins … they’re not even in the same household.”
Credent offers financial coaching for clients with fewer than $250,000 in assets under its management. The firm charges less than 1% of assets and provides 15-minute videoconferences over smartphones, on topics such as preparing for retirement and risk management.
“It’s very affordable, and it’s exactly what they need,” he said. Someone with a $20,000 account does not need — nor need to pay for — a large team of managers.
Financial advisers do more extensive consulting with clients ranging from $250,000 to $4 million. Despite the wide range in assets, they tend to face the same issues, Hefty said.
“Were not going to allow you to fail here,” Hefty said. From their experience with many clients, advisors know the pitfalls investors could encounter.
“If they’re prepared, they don’t make reactive, poor decisions,” he said about clients.
Wealth management is provided to customers with more than $4 million under management. Credit works with several clients who have more than $50 million on deposit, Hefty said.
“For clients that have the most complex situations … we may have seven or eight team members just dig in and spend hours,” Hefty said.
“We find that group to be very charitably inclined,” he said about wealth management clients. Helping them plan charitable contributions provides “an absolute joy” for Hefty. For those leaving their money to charity, Credent offers “absolutely our lowest fee.”
Regardless of asset size, “Your money’s being managed by the same group of people,” Hefty said. “We don’t need to leave anybody behind.”
Credent began actively seeking smaller investors in 2016, after spending 18 months building a platform for the service.
“We’re proud to be in that space. We’re proud to be a leader in that space,” Hefty said. “We have several million dollars invested in technology to make that happen. … I’m very proud of how we do that.”
Although Forbes lists Credent with $805 million under management, Hefty said that number dates back to six months ago. Today, Credent’s managed assets total $988 million, plus $185 million of funds it holds for clients without actively managing the investments.
“It’s been a great 20 years,” Hefty said, adding, “I love every aspect of what I do.”
He and his wife started the business because it was “a natural fit,” he said. “You help people for a living, and I do love finance, so it’s that blend of my passions. — people and finance.”
Looking forward, he said, “We’re going to continue to hold true our mission — our core beliefs — and we’re going to work diligently to propagate the mission. We’ll continue to attract and train good talent that shares our core beliefs and serve investors who are attracted by that. We have no plans on slowing down.”