15 transformational advisers: David Yeske and Elissa Buie

A bit of a statistical oddity: Two reknowned advisers who also happen to be husband-and-wife

Jun 14, 2013 @ 10:10 am

By Andrew Osterland

David Yeske is known in the advisory world for his efforts to bring scientific rigor to the financial planning process.

But it was his heart that won over Elissa Buie.

“He's one of the best brains in the business, but he lives with his heart first,” said Ms. Buie, who married Mr. Yeske in 2006 and formed the Yeske Buie advisory firm with him two years later.

The two financial advisers, whose firm has offices in Vienna, Va., and San Francisco, are well-known in the financial planning profession for their work at the industry's major trade group — the Financial Planning Association — as well as their roles as educators at Golden Gate University and their contributions to the academic literature of the financial advice field.

“David has one foot in academia and one foot in the practice world,” said Lance Ritchlin, director of practitioner knowledge and content at the FPA. “We've seen a lot of people in one area or the other, but both David and Elissa have bridged the gap between the two.”

The two advisers met while serving on the board of the Institute of Certified Financial Planners, a predecessor to the FPA, in the late 1990s, and both have continued to be active in various capacities at the FPA.

PHOTO GALLERY 15 transformational advisers

Ms. Buie, 52, is a former chairwoman of the FPA and serves as dean of the organization's residency program.

Mr. Yeske, 56, worked on the FPA's academic advisory council last year, and served as president and chairman of the organization in 2003 and 2004. During his presidency, the FPA spun off its broker-dealer division.

“It allowed us to focus on our mission to advance the financial planning profession,” Mr. Yeske said.

Beyond their involvement with the FPA, he and Ms. Buie have worked to identify and communicate best practices in the planning field. Both are committed to applying a more scientific approach to determining what constitutes good planning.

“There's a notion that financial planning is part art, part science. We crunch numbers, and yet we do things by the seat of our pants,” Mr. Yeske said.

“I think financial planning should be the artful application of the best available science,” he said. “If we're going to be a true profession, we need to gather data on what works and find the best possible evidence to inform our approaches to working with clients.”

Mr. Yeske's and Ms. Buie's most important contribution to the academic literature was a paper published in the Journal of Financial Planning that they co-authored in 2006 on policy-based planning. In it, they argued that just as advisers use investment policies in managing assets, they also should draft policies to guide their planning with clients.

Explicit policies have two great advantages for advisers and their clients, Mr. Yeske said: They enable more rapid decision making in uncertain environments and they help keep clients committed to a course of action because they feel that they own the policy. Those advantages are all the more useful in today's volatile investing climate.

“In a chaotic environment, the best alternative for financial advisers and their clients is to draft compact statements that give guidance when conditions change rapidly,” Mr. Yeske said.

The policies can apply to everything from a client's withdrawal rates from retirement portfolios, to the use of debt to fund purchases, and to legacy and estate planning practices.

“It's difficult to get people to stick to their decisions,” Ms. Buie said. “The policies are a way to get them to stick to their guns without having to constantly revisit their financial plans.”

The simple idea has had a profound impact on the planning profession, said Kacy Gott, director of wealth management at Aspiriant LLC.

“Their policy-based financial planning ideas are some of the best academic additions to the profession in the last 20 years,” he said.

The couple's greatest contribution to the planning profession, however, may be their unflagging devotion to improving it, said Mr. Gott, who has served on the FPA board with Mr. Yeske.

“They are both so open to looking at what others are contributing to the profession and to furthering the science of financial planning,” Mr. Gott said. “They are great cheerleaders for the profession, encouraging us all to be better advisers.”

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