ANGELA GIBONEY'S first client was someone from her church. The Washington state investment adviser has been building a practice based in large part on people of faith ever since.
Ms. Giboney, 45, owner of AFG Financial in Mill Creek, estimates that 55% of her 370 clients share her Christian beliefs.
“That was a natural market for me,” Ms. Giboney said. “They want to be good stewards of what God's provided. They want to make wise choices” with their money, she said.
Ms. Giboney and her clients click because they have similar priorities, such as family. “You know that the most important things are the same,” she said.
For instance, a client, in order to better provide for her children, might want to trade in an expensive car for a modest one, eat out less or cancel cable television. It's easier to persuade clients to make those decisions if they're aligning their daily lives with their faith.
"LIVING WHAT YOU BELIEVE'
“They recognize they should be living out their values, because that's what faith is — living what you believe,” said Ms. Giboney, who has about $6 million in assets under management.
The Bible can serve as a good guide to financial planning, she said.
The Book of Proverbs encourages people to save when they are doing well, because they will need the reserves in difficult times. In the parable of the talents, the father is pleased with the child who makes the most of his inheritance.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells an audience that where they put their treasure, their hearts will follow. Verses in II Corinthians encourage generosity.
“If you're a wise steward, you have the opportunity to be more generous to people, and in doing so, you're reflecting God,” Ms. Giboney said.
The Bible also warns that the borrower is a slave to the lender. “It brings so much peace and joy when you're not under the burden of debt,” she said.
Attending church is a spiritual discipline that also makes an impact on Ms. Giboney's business. For the past 15 years, she has worshiped at Mars Hill Church, in a Seattle suburb. During that time, the nondenominational congregation has grown from 70 people gathering at one location to a network of 14 churches in a multistate area.
Since 2007, she has used her money management skills in the financial-coaching ministry at Mars Hill, and has led the program at the Shoreline, Wash., campus since 2010.
There's a strict policy prohibiting the solicitation of clients in the sessions, which range from large gatherings to one-on-one meetings. But the sessions can generate favorable word-of-mouth for Ms. Giboney.
“Those [in] the ministry recognize what you do and that you volunteer your time,” she said. “They're more than happy to recommend you to others. [Referrals] are a byproduct of being known.”
Church is not the only source for faith-based clients and inspiration. Ms. Giboney also meets prospects on the sidelines of her son's basketball games in the Northwest Christian Sports League. And agreeing with investment adviser and radio personality Dave Ramsey's investing philosophy, Ms. Giboney completed his Financial Peace University program.
LAYOFF A BLESSING
A rough patch in her career demonstrates Ms. Giboney's faith. Returning to work at Bank of America Corp. after maternity leave Sept. 10, 2001, she lost her job in the wake of the next day's terrorist attacks.
“I was laid off, which was a complete blessing because I was eligible for unemployment and received a severance package that allowed me to look for the ideal position, where I could be a full-time mom working from home as a financial planner,” Ms. Giboney said.
She landed at HBW Insurance & Financial Services Inc. In August 2012, she established AFG Financial, affiliated with Financial Services International Corp.
Her religious niche has been populated mostly by younger families.
“There hasn't been a lot of wealth, but I can see it building,” she said.
Ms. Giboney emphasizes that she welcomes all clients, regardless of whether they believe in God. She always lets potential clients initiate a faith conversation. She has found that whether someone is Christian, a member of another religion or agnostic, they are reassured by her faith.
“They're more comfortable with someone who has a belief system, even if it's not shared with them, because they know you have character,” Ms. Giboney said.
Mom benefits spiritually from adviser's financial direction
IN 2011, LAURA LIND and her husband were feeling the pressure of having two of their five children in college — and another one headed there in two years.
Ms. Lind, 61, a freelance writer and stay-at-home mom, was contemplating a return to full-time employment. She changed her mind after talking about her family's finances with Angela Giboney, owner of AFG Financial.
Ms. Giboney persuaded Ms. Lind to wait until her daughter graduated from high school before getting a full-time job. More than a financial calculation, it was guidance influenced by Ms. Giboney's faith.
“She helped us prioritize family over an increased bank account,” Ms. Lind said. “I'm not sure a non-Christian would have done that.”
With her daughter starting Grove City College this fall, Ms. Lind is confident she made a good decision.
“My husband and I are doing better than ever before financially,” Ms. Lind said. “I treasured the two years I spent with my daughter.”
A significant portion of Ms. Giboney's practice is built on faith-based clients. Their conversations about money management often are grounded in their religious beliefs.
When Ms. Lind recently described the high costs of care for her 99-year-old mother in terms of the estate losing funds, Ms. Giboney stopped her and reframed it as “using,” not “losing,” the money.
“What a gracious way for God, through Angela, to expose my joy- robbing negative thinking and affirm our good and loving choices,” Ms. Lind said. “I can't tell you how much joy and peace and spiritual insight our financial discussions generate.”
Ms. Lind met Ms. Giboney about six years ago on the first day that Ms. Lind attended Mars Hill Church in suburban Seattle. Ms. Giboney was the first member of the congregation to greet Ms. Lind. The encounter left a lasting impression.
“There's a certain kind of calm reserve about her,” Ms. Lind said. “There was a genuine warmth and friendliness, but not the effusiveness that can be a turnoff. She put me at ease.”
A few years later, during volunteer introductions at a children's ministry program, Ms. Lind learned that Ms. Giboney was an investment adviser.
Ms. Lind says Ms. Giboney's faith animates her day job.
“She operates her business and treats her clients in a way that surely pleases the Lord and represents Him well,” Ms. Lind said.