Local investment firms merge as Else moves toward retirement

The new team at Tama County Investment Services posed for a photo along with the former owner of The Investment Center of Tama Jeff Else who is transitioning into retirement over the next few months. Pictured are, from left, Brian Sokol, CFP/Financial Advisor; Wes Upah, Pre-Licensed Registered Representative; Darcy Lamb, Administrative Assistant; Holly Henry, Administrative Assistant and Jeff Else, Licensed Financial Advisor. – Photo by Darvin Graham

One of Tama’s longest-tenured financial professionals recently announced his intent to retire from the industry after 33 years.

Over the past couple months Jeff Else and his investment firm, The Investment Center of Tama, have been working toward a merger with Tama County Investment Services as Else moves toward retirement.

Tama County Investment Services has been located at the State Bank of Toledo since 1994 and is managed by Certified Financial Planner and Financial Advisor Brian Sokol. Sokol has been at the head of the investment subsidiary in Toledo since 2009.

“From the bank side, we felt comfortable with acquiring the business because the product mix is very similar to what we offer,” Sokol said. “The customer base is also very similar. In fact we’ve had several mutual clients over the years and that’s really helped the transition I think.”

The acquisition was finalized in late December and since Jan. 28 the employees have all been working under the same roof in Toledo.

Although Else is transitioning away from the business, two former employees at The Investment Center of Tama, Holly Henry and Darcy Lamb, have been retained by Tama County Investment Services and will continue in their roles as Administrative Assistants alongside Sokol in Toledo.

Wes Upah will also be assisting Sokol and the team at Tama County Investment services. Upah currently is a pre-licensed registered representative and is on track to obtain his securities licenses in the coming year.

Else said he felt his business and Tama County Investment Services were a good match and that he was confident his customers would continue to be served in the same way under Sokol’s leadership as they were for many years in Tama.

“I’ve truly enjoyed the opportunity my clients have provided me to work with them over the last 33 years,” Else said. “It’s my hope that our mutual relationship has helped them attain their financial goals.”

Local career

Else is a native to the Tama-Toledo community and in the late 80s became the securities specialist for Tama State Bank until the bank moved its charter to Marshalltown in 1996 to become what is now Pinnacle Bank.

Around that time Else struck out on his own and began The Investment Center of Tama that’s held an office on W 3rd Street in Tama for several years.

Else said the biggest change in the industry he’s noted over his 33-year career are the financial regulations and compliance issues that have taken hold during the most recent decade.

“When I started, I’m guessing that my assistants and I spent maybe 10 percent of our time on compliance issues, things that we have to do to stay compliant with regulators like the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and the Securities and Exchange Commission,” Else said. “I would guess that now we spend closer to 30 or 40 percent of our time on those same issues. And I’d rather devote that time to my clients, rather than doing paperwork for compliance issues in an environment that’s continuously changing.”

Both Else and Sokol said one of the benefits of working with a local investment firm, particularly in today’s technological era, is that customers are able to deal directly with people they know but still have nearly all of the same financial tools available to them as if they were living in Des Moines or in Chicago.

“What’s nice, in my opinion, about a small community is that our reputation is everything,” Sokol said. “Not only at work, but we see our customers at the grocery store and out on the street, where in a bigger city like Des Moines, you might not have that as much.”

“It’s people that I’ve grown up with,” Else said. “I don’t want to have to turn my head when I walk down Main Street because these are people I’ve lived with my whole life and care about what happens to them.”

Else said one of the more rewarding parts of his job has been being able to see some of his clients reach the financial goals they’ve been working toward together over a period of time.

“You’ve enabled clients to maintain a standard of living that maybe at one time they didn’t know they’d be able to maintain. Because of what you’ve done for them over the last 25 years. And people don’t forget that,” Else said.

For Sokol the rewarding part of his work is the relationships and trust he’s built with people and families around something as critical as their future financial security.

“We’re dealing with people’s life savings,” Sokol said. “So it’s not like if we make a mistake it’s just ‘sorry’. I mean, it could change their life forever. Our clients trust us with their life savings and it’s our job to make sure that their objectives are met, whether it’s growth or income. But there’s no second chances.”

As Else looks toward retirement in the coming weeks he expects to devote more time to many of the traditional trappings of a well-earned retirement like golfing, fishing, working on personal projects that have been sidelined due to work as well as spending time at his family’s cabin.

Else said there are no immediate plans for the commercial building that previously housed the Investment Center of Tama.

Tama County Investment Services is located inside the State Bank of Toledo drive-up branch at 1003 S County Rd. in Toledo and can be reached at 641-484-2980.