Business

United Iowa Financial wealth management company passes $1 billion in assets

Feat reached less than two years after opening

Starting United Iowa Financial, says Eli Wynes, #x201c;really allowed us to stay focused on our existing clients and the
Starting United Iowa Financial, says Eli Wynes, “really allowed us to stay focused on our existing clients and the communities that we’re involved in. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

Less than two years after opening, an Iowa City-based wealth management company has surpassed the $1 billion mark for assets under management.

United Iowa Financial, started in April 2019, is up to about 2,700 customers, most of whom are in the Corridor.

While the company is relatively new, some of its 14 employees have been working together at other financial organizations for more than two decades.

“It’s one of the things that makes our team so unique,” said Eli Wynes, United Iowa’s president and chief financial officer.

That history allowed United Iowa to start with $800 million in assets under management when first opening in April 2019.

“We’ve been really lucky to have a lot of clients that have been with us for five, 10, 15, 20 years,” Wynes said. “That’s a testament to the relationships we’ve created.”

Those relationships started with two employees — Mark Law and Michael Lehman — working together in 1997. Then others “joined the team along the way” with careers at MidWestOne Bank and GreenState Credit Union.

Wynes, for example, started working at MidWestOne Bank in 2002.

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“Once people start working together, wherever we were located, they really stuck with it,” Wynes said.

He said they “knew something was different about the professional chemistry” back in 2002.

“But I don’t think any of us would’ve at that time expected or planned on it having been able to reach this many people,” Wynes said.

The employees moved in 2008 to GreenState Credit Union, then under the name University of Iowa Community Credit Union.

“As the credit union’s membership really exploded at that time, they were really looking to add that service,” Wynes recalled.

The group started United Iowa in April 2019. As GreenState, the largest Iowa-based financial institution — currently reporting more than 200,000 customers and $5.5 billion in assets — continued to expand, Wynes and others wanted to remain working principally with Eastern Iowa customers.

“The strong majority of our clients are right here in the Corridor, and our families are here,” Wynes said.

“It really allowed us to stay focused on our existing clients and the communities that we’re involved in. For us, it’s where we thought we could make the biggest impact.”

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Wynes said being an independent company allows advisers to “objectively and independently” refer customers to other financial businesses for services United Iowa does not provide.

“We’re not incentivized or encouraged to use anyone specific.”

United Iowa does not require a minimum portfolio balance to remain “accessible” to the whole community, which Wynes said is a “really important part” of the company’s identity.

“Whether you have a dollar or $10 million, we’re here to help you. We’re here to answer your questions,” Wynes said.

While many other sectors of the economy have faced major disruptions because of coronavirus, wealth management companies have been able to operate as normal — albeit sometimes from home instead of the office.

“We’ve had that question asked a lot,” Wynes said. “At no point, whether we were working from home or in the office, did we ever lose the ability to manage clients’ money or be in contact with them.”

If anything, customers may be seeing a renewed need for wealth management.

“In a year like 2019 when everything in the market is doing so well, the do-it-yourself approach is a lot easier to participate in,” Wynes said.

“You get into a year like 2020 where volatility hits this is a year where we do get a lot of people saying, ‘I thought I could do this.’”

Comments: (319) 398-8394; john.steppe@thegazette.com

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