As the Chief Investment Officer and Chief Compliance Officer for PDS Planning, Kurt Brown helps navigate the economic landscape to make sound investment decisions for the firm’s clients. As a principal, Kurt oversees all compliance efforts to maintain the firm’s strong culture of compliance. He also is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA®) Charterholder, one of the highest distinctions in the investment management profession, based on his completion of the CFA® program and extensive work experience.
Earning his BSBA in Business, specializing in Finance, Risk Management and Insurance from The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business, Kurt actually began his career with PDS as an intern. He ultimately worked his way to become a principal of the firm and notes, “I was very fortunate to find an incredible company with great people, great culture, and great clients.”
While Kurt acknowledges that as an advisor it is important to be personable, approachable, and a good listener, he also says that his “go-getter” mentality has really helped him be successful in his role at PDS. Growing up in a rural community in Northwest Ohio, Kurt says he was fortunate to learn a great work ethic from his father and his work in his family business. “I still maintain that work ethic today,” he says. “I am thankful for the experiences that I have had through my father.”
At PDS, we are proud to have a team of forward thinking leaders, and to count Kurt among them. Learn more about Kurt’s journey with PDS, as well as about how he spends his time away from work.
How do you think PDS is different from other financial planning firms?
PDS has a truly client-first attitude and takes the fiduciary standard to the next level to ensure that everything we do is in our clients’ best interest. Our transparent, fee-only structure removes some potential conflicts of interest and allows us to provide truly objective advice.
It is important to us that we are very transparent and that our clients know exactly what they are paying. Because our unique flat fee structure is not based on assets under management, we are able to provide unbiased advice tailored to the specific clients’ needs.
What is your favorite aspect of working at PDS?
I feel very fortunate to be at a great company with people that I love to work with. One of my favorite parts is helping a client achieve their lifelong dream that they have planned for many years.
Did life at PDS change significantly during the pandemic?
Compared to a lot of firms we were very fortunate, as we didn’t have to cut staff or shut the doors. We made the change to work from home for about three months, which admittedly was difficult for me but fortunately, we had the technology in place to make it happen. While we missed the camaraderie and seeing everyone in the office and the ability to pop your head into a colleague’s office to chat, we didn’t miss a beat in servicing our clients.
Working from home helped me to realize how much of a saint my wife is for taking care of our two kids all day, every day. I always knew it was challenging, but I had no idea how much she handled throughout a regular day!
Personally and/or professionally, what are some lessons learned during the pandemic? How is your new normal different?
As a result of the pandemic, I forced myself and trained myself to work from home, which I didn’t do previously. Now I make it a part of my weekly routine to work a few hours from home, which I have really come to enjoy. The challenge, of course, is to teach my four-year-old and two-year-old to understand when dad is working and not working. On a related note, I apologize if any clients have heard kids in the background of phone conversations or Zoom meetings.
Do you see anything new on the horizon of the financial planning industry?
The world is becoming much more digital, so it is important to have a strong digital presence and digital offering for our clients. Also, I see direct indexing or index replication becoming much more prevalent. Many large asset managers are bringing this to market as an offering for advisors. Even Vanguard recently announced the acquisition of Just Invest as an addition to their platform. We believe in low-cost index funds, but I feel this is the next iteration of indexing. It allows for tailored, custom indexes for the clients’ specific preferences and enhanced tax efficiency for high-net worth individuals and families.
Tell us about your family
I am blessed with my wife, Megan, and two kids, Luca (4 yrs) and Olivia (almost 2 yrs). It is amazing to watch them grow and to see life through their eyes. It also is incredible to see how different their personalities are, with Luca being more reserved and shy and Olivia being very much outspoken. We may have our hands full with her in a few years! My family is very important to me and I love experiencing life with them.
When you are not working, how do you like to spend your free time?
It is important to me to spend much of my free time with my family and friends. Because I am inside so much with work, we really enjoy spending time outdoors, whether it is walking, riding bikes or scooters, working in the yard, or spending time on the patio or at the lake. We all love to be outside.
Sports are also a passion of mine, and I am a fan of the Ohio State Buckeyes, Cincinnati Reds, and the Cleveland Browns. I love to golf, and though it’s hard while we are raising two little ones, I try to get on the course as much as possible. If you see my game, you will quickly realize I need all the practice I can get!
What are you reading/watching/listening to?
Honestly, right now it’s a lot of Dr. Seuss, Sesame Street and Paw Patrol.
I do love to read the Wall Street Journal and to keep up with current events, but with a young family it can be difficult to read much home. I’ve found that audiobooks and podcasts are a great way to get through more content. I enjoy listening to these in the car or while doing yard work, and my recent favorites include Talking to Goats that provides unbelievable behind-the-scenes look at some of the greatest athletes and The Boys in the Boat about a 1936 crew team that won a gold medal at the Olympics, shocking the world against all odds, and Red Notice about the first hedge fund manager that took on the Russian oligarchs in the 1990’s.
I also enjoy the podcast, How I Built This with Guy Raz that has fascinating stories about successful businesses and the obstacles that owners had to overcome in the early stages.
What are your words to live by?
“Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, and others make it happen.” – Michael Jordan
The message is that wishful thinking doesn’t get you anything, you have to put in the hard work to make it happen.
Tell us about your involvement with PDS Cares
In 2015, PDS established PDS Cares, which is a charitable fund with the Columbus Foundation. Our employees’ financial contributions to organizations of their choice are matched by PDS to increase the well-being of the communities we serve. I think it is great that each employee is empowered to give to their own specific causes and I think our clients appreciate that.
Personally, my family has chosen to contribute to a variety of organizations, including Neighborhood Services Inc., the Dublin Food Pantry, MedVet Foundation, and Columbus Humane. While I was always fortunate to have food on the table, serving on the board of NSI was truly eye-opening for me to realize that many people right in our community are in need of food.
Our support of animal-related organizations is because we know personally just how important pets can be. Our family was heartbroken by the unexpected loss of our Golden Retriever, Benson, and so our support is in honor of him.
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