Happy Birthday, PFA!

It’s our Birthday!

June marks the end of the school year, the beginning of summer, and the anniversary of PFA becoming an advisory firm.  June of 2011 marked the birth of the company known as “Penobscot Wealth Management d/b/a Penobscot Financial Advisors”.

I know… that’s a long name.  “PFA” certainly rolls off the tongue easier.  You’re also probably thinking: “You’re TWEENS? You look much older!”

A longer history

Clients who have worked with us for over 25 years will probably attest to the fact that, in fact, we ARE quite a bit older.  PFA began in the latter years of the 20th century, as a much smaller, boutique firm called Bradley & Johndrow.  Focused primarily in working with faculty and staff at colleges and universities, “B&J” started in Connecticut, the joint effort of Jim Bradley and Lori Johndrow.  In 2001, Jim started spending a lot of time working with faculty in Maine and over the next couple years, started a second Bradley & Johndrow location in Bangor.

Between that time and 2011, B&J grew substantially.  In 2008 a B&J advisor hired a college senior named Craig Joncas to work as an intern.  Being the consummate overachiever, Craig got himself hired as an advisor in 2009.   Over the next couple years, Jim and Lori prepared to separate their now geographically dispersed company into two advisory firms.  Lori’s firm, Johndrow Wealth Management, continues to flourish to this day under the watchful eye of Lori’s daughter-in-law, Maggie.  Meanwhile, Craig started the first Portland office, a small single room in the Old Port.

A new name

Naming a firm is complicated and fun.  Ultimately, the name “Penobscot Financial Advisors” came out of a search for scope and meaning.  We sit on ancestral land of the Penobscot Indian Nation, one of the oldest continuous governments in the world.  The scope of our work primarily took place within its footprint, on either side of the river that bears its name.  Our iconic “PFA Weave” logo was the brainchild of Welch Signs and its owner, Kathy (Craig’s mom!) The logo evokes two things:  The historical role of basket weaving in the economic and daily lives of the indigenous tribes, and the role holistic financial advisors take in weaving together the various strands of life into a comprehensive whole.

The march toward independence

Armed with a new brand identity, the next key objective became independence.  Most advisory firms operate under the auspices of larger organizations, and we were no different, affiliating with a large insurance company from our early years.  In 2014, Hannah Tackett joined the team and oversaw the operational challenges of our transition to an independent advisory firm. Over the years, Hannah has re-tooled everything in our firm to the point where PFA now sits at the pinnacle of state-of-the-art operational and technological innovation. She oversaw the ‘freshening up’ of our branding to include the now-iconic “PFA Teal”, which flows through our logo, our office furnishings, our charts, and Hannah’s veins.  Julie Willette came on board in 2015, and ensured that the operational brilliance was carried out seamlessly over both the Portland and Bangor offices.

Also assisting in this transition was a wonderful firm called Mid-Atlantic Capital Group, who helped us to separate from our big insurance company overseers, while they facilitated much of the technology and regulatory oversight of our organization.

On our own

After a full year of preparation, on January 25, 2017 the US Securities Exchange Commission registered PFA as a “Registered Investment Advisor”.  We were completely on our own.  Compliance, custody of assets, and all technology were ours to manage.  No longer did we have any ‘higher affiliations.’  This is easily the biggest move we’ve made as a firm, and the results have been eye-popping.

Beyond being a completely independent entity, the firm committed to a number of other things that have brought us along so far:  Being a ‘Fee-Only’ investment advisor, placing Holistic Financial Planning in the front of our service offerings, and structuring a team-based approach to client relationships.

Sam Chaplin joined our team in 2018 and immediately began to implement the best practices he had developed in his previous role as a hedge fund accountant.  Sam has brought PFA to a level of investment and operational management unmatched amongst our peers.  The following year, Tyler Hafford departed a major US financial behemoth to join PFA as a Lead Advisor.  Tyler not only works with a full client slate, but helps to run our Marketing committee and is the face you get to see on the PFA ‘Financial Discretion Advised’ podcast.  Sam, Tyler, Hannah, Craig and Jim round out the current ownership of PFA.

PFA traditions and adaptations

Through the years, certain ‘traditions’ have developed in PFA.  One of them is called “PFA Palooza” which is a weekend tradition we’ve taken part in each year of the past six – an opportunity for us to ditch the usual work relationships, and to have fun together as friends and teammates.  Destinations have included resorts and lodges – and frequently have included a Polar Plunge, among other traditions.

In March of 2020 when we had to close our office doors, we instituted a Friday Zoom Happy Hour, which was meant to maintain team adhesion and sanity.  After a couple months, the ‘happy hour’ morphed into a Wednesday Water Cooler conversation (also over Zoom), which, to this day, happens every Wednesday at 2.

The move to big growth

We’ve been growing at a good clip, being recognized as the second ‘Fastest Growing Registered Investment Advisor in Maine’ during 2022 by a major industry publication.  We have added four Financial Advisors in that time period.  Libby McKay and Jessi Dolmage came to us from financial planning firms elsewhere in the country, both to settle in Maine!  In 2022, we took a larger leap forward with our first-ever acquisition.  We completed the purchase of Portland Integritas Advisors, and their founder, Karen-Elise Kilbride has joined our team.

And, most recently, just a couple of weeks ago, we welcomed Rebecca Schuman on as our newest associate advisor, luring the former PFA intern away from the intriguing world of hedge fund accounting.  She’s got an enthusiasm that is palpable and contagious.

Speaking of enthusiasm, it would be hard to match that of Melissa Huang, who joined us from one of the regional banks and who has taken her role as Client Success Coordinator very much to heart! And, fresh off graduating college in a VERY enthusiastic 2 ½ years, Colby Mank has joined us as a portfolio administrator. His future with this firm and the industry is very bright!

Phew – that’s a lot of history… And it barely scratches the surface of all we’ve been through in our history.  Craig’s the CEO now, Hannah the Chief Operations Officer, and our client base has grown at a faster pace each year.  If you’re reading this, whether as a client, a member of our professional network, or any other stakeholder in our organization, this is our way of sharing our gratitude for our relationships throughout the years.  TO MANY MORE!!