Deerfield Financial Acquires Chicago Planning Firm

Former NAPFA Chair Dick Bellmer's Indianapolis firm to expand into Chicago area with Bowyer, Weydert buy

In a move that helps Indianapolis-based Deerfield Financial Advisors expand into the Chicago area, the fee-only firm has acquired Bowyer, Weydert Wealth Planning Partners of Park Ridge, Illinois, the firm announced in a news release Tuesday, June 1.

The addition of Bowyer Weydert, with $160 million of AUM, will bring Deerfield Financial Advisors' firm assets to more than $460 million, Deerfield partner Susie Steel said in a telephone interview. The office in Park Ridge, a suburb of Chicago, numbers three employees and the Indianapolis office, which serves clients in two countries and 19 states, numbers 11 employees.

"We believe the acquisition of Wealth Planning Partners creates a firm where the sum of the two firms is greater than either firm on their own," said Deerfield CEO Dick Bellmer, who served as 2007-8 chairman of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA), in the release. "We believe it is mandatory to help our clients meet their goals in an objective and un-biased manner."

Deerfield's acquisition also provides Bowyer Weydert with a succession plan so clients' transition to a new advisory team will be seamless when Gary Bowyer, 63, retires, Steel said.

As part of the agreement, Bowyer, a CFP, will become executive VP of Deerfield's new Illinois office. Benjamin Hockema, 22, has joined the Deerfield team as a financial planner in the Park Ridge office, and he is currently studying for his CFP tests, Steel said. Partner Steve Weydert is leaving the firm to pursue other opportunities, she added.

This marks the first acquisition for Deerfield, which usually grows its business through its "centers of influence and normal referral sources," Steel noted. But the firm, which has three partners in its Indianapolis office, was eager to take advantage of the opportunity to expand with Bowyer, who met Bellmer 15 years ago when he first joined NAPFA.

"Because of our involvement in NAPFA early on, we formed a smaller group in the Midwest, called Q, and we agreed to act as one another's board of directors, so to speak, and we were about seven firms and 11 people in Q, including Gary Bowyer," Steel said. "We approached him about a year ago and began our talks that resulted in us making some decisions by the end of 2009."

Bowyer spoke to all his clients this spring, testing the waters about the potential acquisition, and once they gave him the go-ahead, he sent out a formal letter them about the deal closing.

"The real bonus in this entire transaction is that we are able to have Gary join the Deerfield team," Bellmer said in the release. "Gary's reputation in financial planning is tremendous and his impact will not only be felt by our clients, but on the business as well. We are lucky to have his talents, knowledge, and experience."

Deerfield Financial Advisors, founded in 1985, provides services to individuals and families with investable assets of more than $1 million.

The Wall Street Journal surveyed Dick Bellmer most recently in April 2010 about Deerfield's approach to portfolio construction, along with four other NAPFA advisor members.

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