Kyle Brownlee, the CEO of Wymer Brownlee Wealth Strategies, is in the finance industry because he cares. With an emphasis on family, he’s turned something he loves into a career. We sat down with Kyle for a chat about work, life and the lessons he’s discovered along the way. And perhaps the most revealing thing from this conversation is Kyle’s devotion to family — not just his own, but his clients’ families as well.
This passion to serve families stems from Kyle’s own hometown hero origins. He’s a native of Enid, Oklahoma, a heavy agricultural community with rural roots. Kyle describes his upbringing as “traditional, in a good way.” He was raised by his stay-at-home mother and successful CPA father, along with his older sister and younger brother. And, although their family was not without problems, Kyle always felt loved and encouraged because he had the support of people around him who cared.
Kyle describes his father as a man of few words, but impactful action. And although he was extremely busy around tax season, (which is where Kyle gets his own diligence from), he always made time for his family. This devotion to both work and family made Kyle admire his father a great deal. His father is also responsible for some of the most powerful teaching moments Kyle can remember.
Finance has obviously been an important part of Kyle’s life (it’s an occupational hazard). But most people might not know exactly how far back Kyle’s experience goes. In his early youth, Kyle learned a powerful lesson about financing from his father. A young Kyle had found a bicycle he wanted, and after many weeks of saving for half of it, finally convinced his father to help him purchase it. His father finally relented, and Kyle was treated to a glorious 30 minute bike session, before meeting with his father to discuss the terms of repayment. “At the time I thought it was tough,” Kyle said. “And now I know why — because he cared enough to be tough.” Perhaps this life lesson was the beginning of Kyle’s strong work ethic. From the age of 12, he began working mowing lawns, and his young entrepreneur mind turned it into a small business with 62 yards, employees, trucks and more. And that was before he graduated high school! “I learned how to do what I say I’m going to do,” Kyle said. But he also learned about the nuances of managing employees and working with others.
The finance skills he acquired from his father shaped him into a responsible teenager. “Maybe it was something I was blessed with, but I’d sit there until I figured it out. And before college, I knew how to reconcile a bank account by longhand.” None of his friends understood anything about financial responsibility, but Kyle was ahead of the game. When it came time to financially plan for college, his father once again stepped in with another lesson. Kyle would have to present his college budget to his father, justifying and substantiating every request. And in return, his father would pay half of his expenses. It was great practice for Kyle’s future, and he learned how to be financially responsible.
Impactful Learning Years
Throughout his life, Kyle attended public school, and upon graduating was able to enroll in a private Christian college, which was important to him, as faith is an essential aspect of his life. He finished his core work, and earned a scholarship to Oklahoma State University, where he pursued accounting and finance. His work ethic was still growing strong, because while in college he maintained three jobs.
In addition to his studies, Kyle learned a fair amount about business outside of the classroom. He had managed to procure a full-time job in his field with promising pay while his peers were still interviewing. It was one less thing to worry about. But when spring came, it turned out the company was using him for tax season, and had no intention of bringing him on after all. Kyle hadn’t done any additional interviews because he already had a position, so he suddenly found himself without a full-time job in his field. After he became a degreed accountant, he returned to what he had done throughout high school: mowing yards.
A few months later, Kyle was picked up by a CPA firm. Being a part of something big was an experience for Kyle, and it provided him with great technical training. However, he found the culture to be very challenging and learned a lot of lessons on how not to build a firm. In fact, his management style today is a direct result of those lessons. He saw the company as simply providing a product, not changing lives. “I don’t want to be a commodity. I want it to be relational and life changing,” Kyle said. The “chew ’em up, spit ’em out” mentality made Kyle realize that what he wanted was a deep client relationship. He wanted the opportunity to have a positive effect on his clients’ lives. There was a holistic need that needed to be met with a solution that just wasn’t there.
I don’t want to be a commodity. I want it to be relational and life changing.
So, in October of 1999, Kyle moved to Fairview, Oklahoma, to join Deane Wymer’s firm — a move that would end up being life changing. Fairview is a small rural town of 2,700 people, and at the time, no one there was providing financial advice. There were limited solutions, and Kyle saw an opportunity to change people’s lives by working with Deane, who Kyle describes as a pillar of the community. Deane had spent between 30 and 40 years earning the town’s trust, and he had a reputation for being a man of integrity. Even though Kyle and Deane are 40 years apart in age, Kyle remarks that “We’re from the same place. If I could be as much like him as possible, it’d be tremendous.” Two years later, Kyle became a partner, where he leveraged his background in tax and accounting to help families in the area.
Kyle has a genuine raw passion for helping families. “I am called to do this to take care of families and I truly believe that,” Kyle said. “If families aren’t getting the best advice that is completely unbiased and completely in their best interest, then I think it’s an error in our industry. Families should get honorable advice with integrity that hopefully changes their lives for the good.
Throughout this interview, Kyle has stressed that providing financial services is something that just comes up organically in life. He recounts an experience of meeting a client while coaching his son’s basketball team. The client was the father of one of the other players, and the two men became friends. Through that friendship, they talked about challenges from their shared experiences such as relationships, divorce, kids, money and companies. And by having these conversations, Kyle got to know exactly what his friend needed financially. Then he became a client. Their whole mutual friendship was built on trust, so Kyle was able to help him with financial and life decisions from a genuine place. The experience was empowering for both friends, and the outcome is what gets Kyle up in the morning. He wants to be sure his clients are protected and advised. “People talk about it being sales, but it’s never really been sales,” Kyle said. “It’s just been the right thing to do. It’s like a personal blessing, but it’s only really a blessing if you share it.” And so Kyle did. He’s sharing his passion every day.
A Student of Gratitude: Connecting With Clients
Even though his schooling was officially over, Kyle would continue developing his leadership skills by reading a book each week. “You’re never done learning,” Kyle said. “You can always get better.” In addition, Kyle obtained a fair amount of coaching from his colleagues and meeting with experts in the industry. He’s never been afraid to learn and completely believes that there are people who know more, and can do it better. This type of mindset encouraged Kyle to approach his current firm’s practice in a specific way, and shape it into a direct result of client needs. “The first part of meeting our clients’ needs was in October 1999, when we added products through Avantax Wealth Management,” Kyle said. He went into Deane’s office and told him that he wanted to start an investment practice. Deane opened his desk drawer and handed Kyle a direct mailer from Avantax. Kyle called, and the rest, as Kyle says, is a “tremendous partnership.”
Kyle credits his success in part to Avantax Wealth Management’s 8 wealth management issues. Essentially, in the average person’s life, there are 8 common wealth management issues — ranging from retirement planning to investment planning. Avantax Advisors systematically guide people through each of the issues to help avoid the most common financial pitfalls:
Cashflow and debt
According to Kyle, it’s also a great way to know your client. Kyle uses it all the time when he meets new prospects. “I find if you will use that template with clients to literally go through and just ask the pertinent questions, you uncover an enormous amount of gaps in planning opportunities,” Kyle said. “It’s a very easy conversation and a great way to organize your thoughts and be holistic and be intentional.”
The Story Going Forward
Kyle encapsulates his journey in a relatable way: “My story is one of trial and error,” Kyle said. “I don’t think you’ve ever figured it out until you’ve figured it out.” And that’s what makes Kyle’s story so interesting; it’s a human experience for the sake of bettering other humans. Kyle only has two absolutes: to exceed client expectations, and to protect the culture of his firm. Both of these, unselfishly, are client focused and centered around Kyle’s personal goal of serving families.
One of the great benefits of being a trusted advisor is that you get to impact all of these great families for good, but they also impact you. It’s literally changed people’s lives. It’s changed my life.
Kyle’s advice to his peers is simple: “If you truly feel that you want to give great advice to the families you take care of, you have to add financial services. If you feel the conviction and you’re doing it for the right reason, you have an obligation to help change that client’s life trajectory.” But what about Kyle’s life? Where does he think his trajectory going? Not surprisingly, his answer involves his family. “I hope to be my kids’ hero,” he said. “I hope that they are exceedingly generous, and that it’s more about life and life experiences. And I hope that they know, no matter what, that I’m their biggest fan. No matter what, I’ll be beside them when they need me beside them, I’ll be in front of them when they need me to block, and I’ll be behind them when they need a push.”
To Kyle, this business is a lifestyle; it’s why he gets up in the morning. “I’m better because of my clients,” he says, smiling. Families are essential to Kyle, and that’s why he’s experienced so much success with Avantax Wealth Management; it’s more than a broker-dealer firm, it’s a family. “This is a unique culture in that advisors truly care about each other and they’re willing to tell their story to help somebody else,” Kyle says. “One of the great benefits of being a trusted advisor is that you get to impact all of these great families for good, but they also impact you. It’s literally changed people’s lives. It’s changed my life, it’s changed clients’ lives, it’s changed generations of good advice, help, retirements and colleges, and it’s one of the best decisions we ever made.”