Meet the Sponsors – Mary Ellen Krueger, Aspiriant
by Molly Barnes
June 4, 2021
The Wisconsin Family Business Center sponsors are an invaluable resource to FBC members. They are experts in the areas of finance, law, insurance, and investment, and they recognize the importance of family businesses to the health and well-being of the economy, the community, and of society in general. In the latest Meet the Sponsors feature, you’ll meet Mary Ellen Krueger from Aspiriant.
Tell us about your role at Aspiriant. What do you enjoy most about it?
I serve as a lead wealth advisor to about 30 families across the country. I get to spend my days helping people make smart financial decisions. Our clients run companies, give generously to their communities and families, and raise terrific kids. They do meaningful work, climb mountains, and run marathons. They allow us into their lives and it’s a privilege to serve them. Every day is different. On any given day I might help a woman acclimate to her ‘new normal’ after the death of a spouse or divorce or new job. On another day, I might help a business owner craft a succession plan or host a family meeting to discuss asset allocation, investment strategy, or philanthropy. Our clients often have a team of trusted advisors and it’s fun to collaborate with other professionals from different disciplines to help solve an issue or brainstorm planning opportunities for a family. I learn something new every day in this profession.
I also serve on the editorial committee at Aspiriant, helping to write and edit articles for our blog, Fathom. In addition, you’ll often hear me on our quarterly investment webinars, moderating conversations between our clients and guests and our chief investment officer and members of our investment strategy and research team.
The best days are the ones spent helping a client achieve a financial goal that was particularly difficult or challenging or one they’ve put off for a long time. It’s a fun and rewarding career.
Do you have a specialty or area of focus in your role that our community would find helpful?
I’ve had the opportunity to help clients succeed their business several times over my career and been able to continue to serve those families for many years post-transaction. This experience has allowed me to witness the full cycle of the transaction and all the emotions and decisions that go into it. Without giving away the ending, I’ve found most are enjoying the next chapter of their lives post-sale and feel content and fulfilled. Sometimes it’s helpful to hear how other families have navigated through the process and are living fulfilling lives post-transaction.
For families with younger kids and grandkids, I also enjoy having conversations with young people about money and investing as well as the opportunities for careers in the finance industry.
Please tell us about your time as a sponsor of the Wisconsin Family Business Center. What have you enjoyed most? What value have you received from being a part of the FBC community?
We’re approaching our third year of sponsorship. We’ve met so many hard-working and tenacious business owners, family members, and non-family employees making a difference in their communities. Some of the sessions this year were so inspiring, like the Vermeer family story and Tim, Scott, and Mark sharing stories about how their businesses survived and thrived during COVID. My favorite sessions are the ones where FBC members generously share their personal stories, especially when they share both their struggles and successes. The recent session with Brendan Wall and Jeff Adee was a great example of members’ willingness to share deeply and selflessly to help other members.
I’ve also appreciated the opportunity to collaborate with the other sponsors to serve members. The FBC sponsors are a fun, smart, and genuine group of professionals.
What the biggest challenge you see family businesses face?
I think it’s simply getting started on succession planning. It can be overwhelming and daunting to think about it but once you get started, with a clear process and goals, you gain momentum and just getting started relieves anxiety. It’s never too early to start, you can always pivot along the way.
What is your all-time favorite book?
To Kill a Mockingbird I loved it the first time I read it and I discover a new nugget of wisdom each time I pick it up. Unfortunately, my middle school daughter didn’t share in my love of the book when she read it this year in school.
For a finance read, it’s Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel. It’s a short but powerful book and I’ll be buying several copies for high school and college graduation gifts this year. I highly recommend it.
What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?
It was neat to be recognized as a “Top Wealth Advisor Mom” by Working Mother Magazine. Although my daughters made sure to let me know they weren’t consulted in the decision-making process.
I’m also proud to have been elected chair of the TEMPO foundation board. TEMPO’s mission is to further the impact of women leaders in our community and the foundation furthers this mission through the gift of scholarships and continuing education grants to women across Wisconsin.
What do you want business owners and family business leaders to know about your industry?
We live life with our clients. It’s about so much more than managing a portfolio, it’s deep thoughtful conversations about what really matters so we can partner with you to help you achieve your dreams and aspirations.
Please tell us about yourself, your education, and background.
I grew up in the Fox Valley and now live in Hartland with my husband and our two teenage daughters. They both play multiple sports so on any given weekend, you can find us cheering them on at golf, softball, basketball, or volleyball. We also love to attend Packers, Badgers, Marquette, and Brewer games and our whole family enjoys golfing together.
I attended Saint Mary’s College at Notre Dame and graduated with a major in finance and communications. Combining finance and communication perfectly prepared me for this career. I earned the CIMA designation and have over 20 years of experience in the industry.
Is there anything else you would like to tell us?
Aspiriant is 100% employee-owned, committed to remaining employee-owned for the long-term. As one of 65 owners, I find FBC’s content particularly valuable. We’re members to learn and grow as individuals and as a company as much as we’re members to share our experience helping family business owners succeed in meeting their goals.