This annual release names three individuals from two separate organizations in Cartersville. Susan Simonton of Simonton Financial Associates was placed on the list for the first time this year, as was Gene Lee of Peachtree Planning along with associate Chuck Nida who was named for the third consecutive year.
Nominations made by clients are paired with additional customer satisfaction polls as well as ratings from other professionals and financial institutions.
"It's very humbling but it's very much justification that I'm doing the right thing," Simonton said. "It means we've been recognized by the clients we serve and I consider it a real honor to be recognized."
Simonton, a Register Investment Advisor, is relatively new with 16 years in finance coming originally from a background in the field of education. Simonton arrived in Bartow County to act as the first principal at South Central Middle School before becoming director of personnel for the Bartow County School System. When her position was eliminated, she was forced to switch gears and start in another direction.
"I really felt like it was time to make a change in my career. Tenure didn't mean anything, I had a doctorate, that wasn't enough to save me," Simonton said. "So, I totally changed what I was doing. I realized that I didn't understand my own financial situation. I didn't understand employee benefits that I had, I didn't understand choices that I had made. But learning this profession has helped me feel very strongly that we don't teach basic financial literacy to kids in school or young people in college and I think there's a real need for that."
Founding Simonton Financial Associates in 2005, now located at 217 S. Erwin St., she feels that her varied career path has given her a different perspective in her work with clients.
For Lee, a Chartered Financial Consultant and RIA, receiving the title of FIVE STAR Wealth Manager comes after more than two decades in the profession. As a senior partner and Vice President of Peachtree Planning, he also emphasized the importance of customer satisfaction and the role it plays in business.
"I consider it an honor because hopefully it reflects the feelings of our clients as far as how we treat them and the work we do for them. That's our benchmark as far as whether we're doing our job or not. Are we taking care of the folks and do they feel like they can trust us to do the right thing for them?" Lee said.
Having opened the Cartersville Peachtree Planning office in 1989, now at 111 Leake St., Lee has seen a lot of changes over that course of time.
"It's been fun to see the area grow, I feel like the community has had good leadership so we've had the good kind of economic growth you'd like to see and it's been fun to be a part of that. Now, we're working with people that we started working with when they were in their 40s and now they're ready to retire. And knowing that they can, partially because of what we've helped them do, is very rewarding," he said.
Celebrating his third year of recognition as a FIVE STAR Wealth Manager, Nida, a RIA with Peachtree Planning, also spoke of the high importance he places on receiving feedback based on customer reviews.
"For me, this is an incredible accomplishment because it speaks primarily to how my clients feel, because it's my understanding through the FIVE STAR, 50 percent of the voting comes in through customer satisfaction," Nida said. "For me to have this now, my third year, it's just an encouragement to me to know that I'm on track doing what's right for my clients and they appreciate the work that I do."
For Nida, customer satisfaction has a lot to do with success. He continued by adding that becoming familiar with a client's family and personal life helps to better understand a client's goals and instill trust.
"To build a successful business, especially in a community like Cartersville, client satisfaction is of the utmost importance because that's how you derive your business," Nida said. "As a matter of fact, 90 percent of my business comes from referrals."
Although these recognized professionals are not all from the same organization, and many other notable advisors call Cartersville home, Simonton commented on the atmosphere among them.
"There are several people in this county that do the same kind of work. I'm not saying by any means any of us do it the same way, but there are several of us in this profession and there's room for all of us. And I love the fact that we're not competitive and nobody's out trying to take away someone else's clients all the time," Simonton said. "Anyone in Bartow County who needs some financial advice, can find someone that they'll be comfortable working with because there's enough variety in how we work."