Like many of the firms thus far featured in the Advisers Giving Back profile series, Peak Financial Group has a history of charitable engagement that goes back some years.
Janine Moore, co-founder of Peak Financial Group, who served as a principal until the firm’s acquisition by HUB International last year, recalls that Peak’s efforts began with an annual three-hour event held in collaboration with an organization that prepared and distributed meals for children around the world.
“We did that several years in a row. We would get together and make these packs of rice, beans and vegetables to be distributed to children in need,” Moore says. “It felt great to be giving back in the workplace context, so we looked for opportunities to expand our efforts.”
Darrell Ellisor, one of Moore’s partners at Peak Financial Group, helped source another avenue for giving with help from his wife, Dina, who is a client service professional with the firm, and their son. This is how Peak’s ongoing collaboration with the Houston-based charity Kids’ Meals came to be established.
“Through their church, they were doing a similar thing—meal preparation—but it was for preschoolers here within the Houston area,” Moore says. “She actually had the idea to ask our clients to get involved with us as well. We sent out an invitation and got an incredible response from our clients. The second year, we also invited our strategic partners to get involved, so for example our DCIO [defined contribution investment only] partner. Like us, they are so busy, but they showed up anyway.”
Coordinating Giving Efforts
In terms of lessons to share with other advisers who are thinking about participating in charitable activities, Moore says getting involved is actually not very complicated. What it takes is a real commitment in terms of dollars and staff time.
“Our events didn’t go perfectly from the start, let me be frank,” Moore says. “It took several tries to get our formula worked out. For example, we have found that early November works well for us to organize our events. This past year, though, we did the HUB acquisition and were so busy that we pushed our event to January. And turnout was great, so we’re thinking again of going biannual.”
When Peak’s employees are planning an event, they first looks at the company’s list of plan sponsor clients and which DCIO folks to invite.
“We select a charitable organization and put together an invitation—it’s really pretty simple, but you have to be diligent in your planning,” Moore explains. “For example, if you are working with an organization that is serving children, you will need to have people RSVP in advance so they can be background checked.”
On the day of an event, the staff and guests gather about 30 minutes prior. Moore and her colleagues make sure to do a greeting with everyone to set the right tone for the day’s work.
“We give everyone a baseball hat or a shirt to wear, and a thank-you gift for participating,” Moore says. “And you want to organize these events so that everyone can contribute. In our case, we might have people packing lunches at a table while others are out in a warehouse lugging around bulk food items. After the event, we typically do a lunch and invite people to stay and talk about the fun of the day. It’s nothing really that hard—again it’s making the time.”
A Giving Vision
As noted, HUB International last year acquired Peak Financial Group as part of a much broader series of acquisitions of well-established retirement plan advisory firms across the United States. Moore says HUB International has already proved to be a fantastic partner in terms of giving back.
“Now that we are part of HUB International, we can work with their existing program, called HUB GIVES,” Moore says. “They applaud these types of initiatives. In fact, we have asked the HUB offices in Houston to participate with us in our events. That was part of our due diligence effort, actually. They have allowed us to donate our time and continue our entrepreneurial spirit.”
Moore says her firm’s giving efforts are 100% a team effort—and that any successful and sustainable giving program will require the dedication of a team of caring people.
“Tracey Brundrett, our former third partner, deserves recognition, as does our newest adviser Joe Conzelman,” Moore says. “Again, we also have Dina Ellisor supporting us, along with our operations manager Michelle Lawrence and all our staff. Everyone values being able to participate in these giving efforts.”