Owner, LHDretirement; Indianapolis
FUN FACT: As a sophomore at Iowa State University, where he majored in agriculture business finance, Ludwig moonlighted as a registered rep for a brokerage firm.
As a wholesaler for 19 years, John Ludwig pitched retirement plans to hundreds of financial advisors across four states. Today, he does much the same thing — only now he’s the advisor.
In an unusual mid-career U-turn, Ludwig gave up wholesaling to start from scratch an advisory firm that specializes in retirement plans. He wishes he had done it sooner. And no wonder: In just five years, the 45-year-old Ludwig has gone from zero to $195 million in assets under management.
“I had a midlife crisis. What it boiled down to is I wanted to own something. You don’t own it when you’re a wholesaler,” says Ludwig, whose Indianapolis-based firm LHDretirement is associated with Raymond James Financial Services. “But it’s always, always, been about retirement plans.”
Ludwig’s intention when he began selling retirement plans for American United Life Insurance in the mid-1980s was to give it three years. As it turned out, his nearly two-decade run, culminating with a regional director’s position with ING Aetna Financial Services, served as an unexpected warm-up for a second career as a financial advisor.
Today, three-quarters of Ludwig’s revenue comes from retirement plans in both the for-profit and not-for-profit space. Industry niches include dental practices, banking and construction. The average plan ranges from $3 million to $5 million. As an advisor working with more than a dozen vendors, Ludwig helps pick and manage the funds — as well as keeps the plans compliant.
Not surprisingly, the rest of Ludwig’s clients are individuals — primarily business owners. “My entire practice runs off of retirement plans,” he says. His wholesaling contacts haven’t hurt either.
As the human-relations manager for a roofing company and then a liquid transportation firm, Christine Jeschke worked with Ludwig first as a wholesaler, then an advisor. She liked what she saw.
“When he became an advisor, the general topic was the same but this time he wasn’t speaking for a corporation. I knew he was always looking for my company’s and my employees’ best interest,” she says. “This just sealed it.”
Ludwig also has a talent for explaining the nuances of a retirement plan to everyone from warehouse workers to boardroom executives. “I had to deal with all levels of staffing — that’s a huge asset,” says Jeschke. “He could, in a heartbeat, tailor the conversation to apply to everyone.”
Jeschke, now an individual client of Ludwig’s, turned to him after another advisory relationship went bad. “I had to ask myself: What am I doing? I trust him with a $10 million 401(k) plan,” she says. “Why wouldn’t I have him help me?”