Advisers Giving Back: 401k Plan Professionals

Like many of their industry peers, the close-knit team at 401k Plan Professionals understands the importance of giving back and paying forward the good fortune enjoyed by advisory industry professionals.

From left to right: Gina Buchholz, Kristen Karlin, Jessica Ballin, Jenna Witherbee and Kelly Pannek

The PLANADVISER Advisers Giving Back profile series will reach its second anniversary in July, at which point we will have profiled the charitable efforts of more than 40 retirement-focused advisory firms.

During the course of the series, a few things have become abundantly clear. For example, most advisers are called to give back and invest in their local community, though some are compelled to go farther afield. In fact, this dynamic can play out within the same firm, as is the case with brothers and business partners Brad and Grant Arends, whom we profiled last year. For his part, Brad has dedicated significant time and energy to addressing the plight of his local community health care system in Albert Lea, Minnesota. Grant, on the other hand, has repeatedly traveled to Africa to help build sustainable water wells in some of its remotest regions.

What is common to all of the profile subjects is a deep understanding of the importance of giving back and paying forward the good fortune enjoyed by advisory industry professionals. This awareness is certainly in place at 401k Plan Professionals, a women-owned advisory firm in the Minneapolis suburb of Edina. According to Jenna Witherbee, an investment adviser representative with the practice, the firm’s giving efforts have evolved over time, but they are rooted in a sense of shared social responsibility and a desire to engage with great causes.

“Giving back has really come more to the forefront, in an organized way, over the last three to five years,” Witherbee says. “We had supported causes before, but this new focus came when we started working with more nonprofit clients and learning about what they do. For example, we handle the plans for Greater Twin Cities United Way and the Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity. These two organizations and others have inspired us.”

Witherbee says working with these clients has driven her and her colleagues to do more and more, and the proof is in the pudding—and ballpoint pens. The firm’s LinkedIn page is stocked with posts showing the team working together to prepare food packages and school supply care kits for kids. At other times, the team has served food to the needy on National Volunteer Day or gone into the schools to teach basic financial literacy.

Art by A Richard Allen

“It’s such a great way to give back to our clients and our community—getting engaged in their causes and events,” she says. “We all feel so blessed to be able to do what we do and to take some of our success and pay it forward. We’re lucky, too, because a lot of these opportunities are coming to us through our clients. We hear about so many great events and causes through them. There are so many creative ideas out there right now that deserve support. Our role as a trusted advisory firm in the business community also helps us bring greater visibility to these causes.”

Like pretty much every person and business around the world, 401k Plan Professionals had much on the agenda for 2020 that didn’t exactly work out as planned. For example, the firm, a few years ago, started an initiative to present financial literacy information to high school classes, in collaboration with an organization known as Best Prep.

“We had so far mostly spoken to business and economics classes about general finance and financial wellness, and we wanted to expand on this,” Witherbee says. “With the pandemic, we’ve obviously not been able to do the in-person teaching that we wanted to in 2020 and 2021. So, we’re hoping to do a lot more of that in the next school year and beyond. We truly believe that financial education should start in the schools, as it will help shape students’ financial future.”