Before he could launch the financial planning firm he envisioned, Mike Converse had to convince his younger brother, Brandon, to come aboard. Problem was, Brandon already had a good job, as an engineer with Garmin in Olathe.
“I think the big sell was, although he had a great job, he wasn’t having the ability to impact as many people as he wanted to,” Mike Converse said. “There’s never a good time but he took a leap of faith.”
“I think he just wanted someone he could count on,” Brandon Converse said. “And he knows I’m kind of process-oriented.”
Seven years later, The Converse Team is one of the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce’s 2019 Small Business Award finalists in Tier 1 — for businesses with one to five full-time employees — along with Affinity Automotive and Paint the Towne. The firm won’t qualify for Tier 1 much longer. Its sixth full-time employee is due to start work in July.
The Converse Team offers financial planning and wealth management. About half of its work is on retirement plans for companies in the Wichita area and half is for individual clients.
“We do about 100 company retirement plans in the Wichita area,” said Mike Converse, who’s a wealth manager and the company president. “We serve as fiduciary advisers to those plans and work with their executive committee to design a plan to fit with the company’s goals and objectives. We also do meetings with employees – education, enrollment and management of investments.”
With individual clients, he said, “We do holistic planning. Not only wealth management, but we get involved in their overall planning – where income is going to come from, life insurance, long-term disability insurance. Pretty much everything surrounding that.”
The Converse brothers grew up in Manhattan. Mike played baseball for two years at Butler Community College before returning home to graduate from Kansas State University. He credits the friend network he established at Butler for his decision to move to Wichita.
“I saw Wichita as full of entrepreneurial businesses and I knew I wanted to work with people who owned their own companies,” he said.
Converse started his career in 2003 as an independent contractor with Keating and Associates, a financial services firm started in Manhattan in 1975 that has expanded to four more Kansas cities, plus Chicago and Tumwater, Wash. He formed his own firm in 2008 and rebranded it as The Converse Team when his brother joined it. The Converse Team operates as an independent contractor under Keating, which provides it with “a lot of administrative services,” Converse said.
The company serves a lot of businesses in the medical and manufacturing fields, ranging in size from one person up to 500 employees, and several nonprofit organizations as well. Just about every employer is different in the kind of retirement plan they offer, varying in terms of matching contributions, years to become vested and other factors, Converse said.
“You tell us what your ideal plan looks like and we’ll work with you to try to make that work,” Converse said.
Once a plan is in place, he said, “The first big challenge I have is to get people to put money into the plans. For a lot of folks, retirement (planning) is very foreign.”
One way Converse has tried to make retirement saving more appealing is by creating videos in English and Spanish on various subjects. “During enrollment, as we’re meeting with (employees), they can go home and show their spouse the video. That’s been an advantage.”
The Converse brothers both market the firm and handle clients, but Brandon said his older brother probably “likes that sale side” a little more than he does.
In that regard, Mike said he’s learned plenty from experience.
“It’s one thing to know the product but you’ve got to learn the people,” he said. “When I started, I was hardly (old enough) to buy a beer, trying to talk to people about retirement. But persistence pays. I tell that to a lot of young folks in the industry. You’ve got to be around, do the right things and continue to show up.”
The Converse Team
Address: 3500 N. Rock Road, Building 200
Owners: Mike and Brandon Converse