Local financial consulting group led by two Bills
Bill Koss and Bill Olinger have an always-growing relationship with each other and their customers
Published: Monday, November 1, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, October 31, 2004 at 9:04 p.m.
WILLIAM D. OLINGER
co-chairman of the board,
Koss-Olinger Financial Group
WILLIAM F. KOSS
co-chairman of the board,
Koss-Olinger Financial Group
No, this isn't a marriage. This is the driving force behind Koss-Olinger Financial Group, a Gainesville firm that for three decades has helped people "create wealth, accumulate wealth and preserve wealth."
It is also a good description of the business relationship between the founders and co-chairmen of the board: Bill Koss and Bill Olinger.
These two share much more than a common first name. They were both born in 1942. Their parents were from Ohio, and their fathers were in sales. They both graduated from the University of Florida as star athletes: Koss in basketball, Olinger in diving. They're both married for 40 years, credit their wives for their success, and have grown children about the same age and grandchildren. Their sons were graduates of Eastside High School's International Baccalaureate program.
Koss and Olinger both hold hard-earned professional designations: chartered life underwriter, chartered financial consultant and master of science in financial services.
They are life members of the international financial service industry's prestigious Million Dollar Round Table. And there are few charitable or community service organizations in Gainesville that don't bear their fingerprint, from Rotary and Kiwanis, American Heart Association and Council for Economic Outreach to chairing the board of Santa Fe Community College, coaching Little League and being a deacon at church.
Their continued dedication to community service began when they formed their company. Lynda Knight, executive director of the North Central Florida Division of the March of Dimes said "Bill and Bill were very instrumental in helping the March of Dimes get a strong volunteer foundation and a successful track record back in the early days. They were up-and-coming businessmen and together led the campaign in Gainesville. They provided leadership and we've been able to build on that, to grow and become something larger.
"In fact, this year, Koss-Olinger received the Golden Boot, awarded to those who raise at least $10,000 in WalkAmerica. Their whole business rallied around the (Gina and David) Sanders family (for whom the fund-raiser was dedicated). Koss-Olinger was back on board with the big hitters."
Koss and Olinger also share a vision that has endured since 1969, when the two plunked down $11,000 for a little house to turn into an office and started seeking clients, literally knocking on doors.
What they have now is a financial consulting firm with 20 employees - eight of them financial advisers - that manages millions of dollars for thousands of clients in 31 states.
These are far from the proverbial "twins separated at birth." The yin-yang is striking. Koss stands 6-foot-9 - "81 inches," he proclaims - an imposing figure even when striding through 8-foot-tall doors at the office. Olinger is closer to 6 feet.
During the interview, Koss is the talkative half, while Olinger is the more quiet, introspective one - but quick to smile and interject his opinion, expertise or a joke. Koss is from a tiny town in eastern Ohio; Olinger was born in Miami but has lived in Gainesville since 1949.
Still, it's like a longtime marriage: They finish each other's sentences, nod in agreement when the other speaks, and are equally ardent when it comes to how they treat their clients.
"Not many partnerships have lasted as long as ours. Our whole idea was to grow with our clients, to be with them through their working life," Koss said. What made the partnership further click was "the basic premise of how (Olinger) and I are: idealistic, value centered, committed to our families."
Olinger adds: "We're not sure it was predestined, but when you form relationships, the commitment to that relationship is based on what our values are. Certainly that has to be a big part of it."
The compatibility bleeds over to the other advisers, one of whom is Olinger's son, Will, who now holds a certified investment management analyst designation, one of maybe 100 in the state. The other advisers are equally trained in various aspects of asset allocation, corporate retirement, long-term health care planning and portfolio management.
Taking care of people's financial future is treated seriously here.
"The economics of human life value are really an essential element of financial and estate planning. (Olinger) and I have over the years served as a foundation to helping people create wealth, preserve wealth and transfer wealth," Koss said.
"You have be able to have a relationship (with clients). You just don't hand someone some money and say 'manage this.' You have to manage it within the context of what that person is about: their aspiration for themselves, their family, their children, how they look at life," Koss added.
At the beginning, the two rotated jobs: Olinger was doing investments, while Koss busied himself with estate planning. "You don't find many firms who can do these things together. We were looking at the client as a whole person, wanted to develop an expertise to do that," Olinger said.
"We find out what their situation is, what they have accomplished, where they want to go in life. We assess their risk tolerance; we want to give them peace of mind. We choose the financial product (investment, insurance, etc.) that will fit them the best. And then we monitor it."
Koss adds, "We strive to be objective, accountable and competent. You have to have a long-term relationship to pull that off successfully. It's a large investment in time on our end.
"We now have a well-defined process called advice-based relationship. We develop a plan with the client, then financial tools/products are needed to implement the plan. Many choose to have us implement it, they don't know how to do it, they don't look that far ahead. They have to have confidence in us. Trust. We are their advocate and we take responsibility for that role.
"It can be intimidating, those first meetings," he admits.
Clients are far-flung because they move. "People retire, they move, they travel. Wherever a person goes, you go with them. You are involved with them as people, it's not a transaction-oriented thing, it's a relationship," Koss said. "And for us, long term is not six months; it's 15, 30, 40 even 50 years."
Both men stress that their company is independent, not tied to other money managers such as Rittenhouse and Merrill Lynch.
So why do they stay in Gainesville, when business could be conducted anywhere, and particularly in larger cities where there are more clients with the resources the firm is known to handle?
"The connection to community," comes almost simultaneously from both of them.
Koss came here to play basketball. "I was 1,000 miles from home, and as a student, I didn't have any connection to community. When (Olinger) and I got to know each other, I got more involved than other students because he grew up here. I got comfortable, married and raised a family." Olinger simply felt at home here; it WAS his home.
But this doesn't mean they are provincial. "As business evolves, we begin to see opportunities. And they are not always here. They may be in Orlando, Jacksonville, Tampa, Atlanta, places where people are able to accomplish things that need our services," Koss said. While Olinger lives in Haile Plantation, Koss keeps his main home at Ponte Vedra Beach, from where he handles some Jacksonville work while still linked to the Gainesville office in the Meridien Centre, and has a second home in Kelston Lane.
Marina Blomberg can be reached at 374-5025 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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