I’m here today with Ryan Repko, the newest addition to the Ruedi Wealth Management team, to ask him some questions and introduce him to our blog readers. For those who don’t know some of the background on Ryan, a little over 10 years ago he met my sister Kati at Miami of Ohio and the rest, as they say, is history. But, I don’t want to get too far ahead so let’s start at the beginning and let him tell you the story.
Where did you grow up?
Ryan: I grew up in the Akron, Ohio area, which is quite a bit more hilly and forested than Champaign, and it was an adjustment when I moved to Illinois! I went to Walsh Jesuit High School, which is a Catholic high school in the area, and it is where I credit my foundation, aside from my parents of course. The school’s motto is “Men and Women for Others,” and whether by choice or by submission, the Jesuit teachings of helping others took root. Following high school, I attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
Or “the promised land” as I like to call it (for those who don’t know that is where I graduated from as well). What did you study there?
Ryan: I was a Pre-Med major at Miami, as I was following in the footsteps of my Dad, who is a private practice physician in Akron, Ohio. I wanted to help people, and to make a real difference in people’s lives. About midway through college, I changed my concentration to business, all the while finishing out my Pre-Med degree so I could graduate in four years. I came to love the business classes that I was taking, and a fire was sparked. I graduated from Miami University in 2008.
And after that, you got a job at your previous employer and moved to Chicago…
Ryan: I got a job at MSDSonline (currently VelocityEHS) immediately out of college, which is a software company in downtown Chicago. I worked in sales there for nearly 9 years – three of which were in Chicago, and nearly 6 were working remotely from here in Champaign. My former company trained us in the consultative sales approach, which means having an open dialogue with the client, listening to the clients’ business problems, and connecting their needs to our solutions. They preached that finding value is unique for each client, and I took that approach with every client I worked with. This is what drove my success for nearly 9 years, and led me to become one of the company’s all-time highest performers. I think this consultative, client-focused approach is the keystone of successful financial planning, and it will be a very natural transition for me as I work with clients.
You mentioned that after three years in Chicago, you moved to Champaign – this was due to a big life change right?
Ryan: Yes, Kati and I got married in mid-2011, and we made the decision to move to Champaign so we could save money in preparation for starting our family. Shortly after we moved into a house in southwest Champaign, where we still live today, with our one-year-old son Cooper, and our chocolate lab, Sunny.
You’ve survived the first year of parenthood. What has that experience been like for you?
Ryan: It’s been the most challenging and rewarding experience of my life. My wife Kati and I are extremely thankful and appreciative new parents. My son Cooper is in the 99-100th percentile for weight and height, and as a dad, I couldn’t be more proud of this. I have already mentally committed him to earning a sports scholarship to pay his full college tuition, but just in case I’m wrong about this, I have started a college education fund. Time will tell! It’s been nothing short of amazing to become parents and to see the dynamic growth he’s gone through in such a short amount of time. I now know why my parents, and all parents for that matter, say “Wow, you’re growing up so quickly!” My wife and I have said countless times, “I can’t believe he is one” and I know we will continue to say this every year when his birthday comes around. It is funny how the things my parents said now come out of my mouth so naturally and without hesitation.
And at a certain point you decided to further your education here at the U of I… tell us a little bit about that.
Ryan: Shortly after moving to Champaign in 2011, I was accepted into the Professional MBA program at the University of Illinois. Through this program, I worked full-time while earning my degree. The U of I faculty were excellent. They challenged me to think more critically, and I graduated from the program with Honors. While in the MBA program, I gained invaluable consulting experience with IBC (Illinois Business Consulting), which is the largest student consulting organization in the US. I worked with an Italian client to investigate expansion of their business into China. We researched target cities and identified partners for possible expansion, developed a regulatory plan of action, and met in Shanghai to deliver our report to our client. Participating in IBC was such a unique advantage at the U of I, and though it was challenging, it had a significant impact on my MBA experience.
And if that wasn’t enough you decided to even further educate (aggravate) yourself by taking the coursework and studying for the CFP® after your MBA!
Ryan: Yes, after completing my MBA, I took four months off before enrolling in the CFP® education program. I remember those four months off were some of the “sweetest” months of my adult life. I spent them relaxing and reacquainting myself with my wife, who had grown accustomed to sharing me with 50 MBA classmates 3-4 days per week! But all good things must come to an end, as I knew financial planning was the career I wanted to pursue. Although the CFP® study program was only 14 months long compared to 28 months with my MBA, it was more strenuous because it required studying every day. That being said, it was worth it. I cannot stress the value of the CFP® designation enough, especially to someone who is new and starting out in the financial planning world. It allowed me to learn an incredible amount of information about financial planning, income tax, retirement planning, and estate planning, all within a highly regimented and condensed amount of time.
And I should mention – you passed the exam on your first try, correct?
Ryan: Correct, I passed the CFP® exam in November 2015. It was an enormous relief to see that preliminary pass score after I had logged 240 hours of study time over the final 2-3 months while continuing to work full-time. The victory was sweet! With the successful passing of the CFP® exam, I now have a two-year experience period before I can officially use the CFP® marks.
So with that background, you ultimately set up a transition to working at Ruedi Wealth… tell us about that. What was it that made you want to leave the corporate world for a role at a small business like ours?
Ryan: It really went back to my core desire to make a more meaningful difference in people’s lives. I had achieved a great deal of success in my prior role, but now I am in a career that will provide me a great sense of personal fulfillment. Sure, I was helping companies in my previous job, but with financial planning, I can directly help people. This is extremely important to me. I now have the opportunity to interact on a personal level with the people I help and see their success over the course of the relationship. I truly couldn’t be more excited for this next phase in my career!
So with your studies behind you, what do you do for fun (when you’re not busy being a new parent)?
Ryan: In the past six months I joined an indoor soccer team to get exercise and to do something competitive, which I was really missing. I played soccer while in high school, and I had visions in my head that I would pick up not far from where I left off. The first few games were a rude awakening, and I quickly realized how far from “grace” I had fallen. Now that I have a few seasons under my belt, I am having a lot of fun. I also enjoy playing golf casually, but with a far less competitive spirit, and almost always with a couple of spirits! I inevitably explore a lot of the lateral parts of the course, so I definitely get my money’s worth. One of my passions is college football, and given that I come from the state of Ohio, I will leave you to draw your own conclusions about where my team allegiance lies. That being said, I am an Illinois grad, so I am always cheering for Illinois’ success! Win or lose, you will likely see me enjoying Illinois football gameday in the fall, as it is my favorite time of the year.
You started at the beginning of this month and it sounds like so far so good… how has the experience been so far?
Ryan: It has been extremely exciting. Not only am I excited to be in the career that I had worked so hard for, but I’m doing so with family, which makes it so much more fun. I have really enjoyed meeting with our clients, and I have begun to put a face to names. I look forward to meeting all of our clients as time goes on.
Well Ryan, thank you for taking the time to tell everyone your story – we are extremely happy to have you on board and can’t wait to see what the future holds for both you and our company!