A major milestone in any relational setting, last year Laura Chiesman celebrated 15 years with FirstWave Financial, one of Central Florida’s most innovative and trusted names in wealth management and financial planning. This anniversary was even more significant as she also took the reins of FirstWave as president and owner in January of 2016.
Protecting and pursuing the future dreams and aspirations of individuals and families is a high calling. In FirstWave Financial’s case, this is a fiduciary responsibility, defined as the requirement to put the client’s needs before their own. Having a dedicated team of experts offers peace of mind and hope for an enjoyable future and meaningful life. Striving to deliver on those desires, for her clients and the team at FirstWave Financial, is second nature to Laura Chiesman. She brings this commitment and passion to her clients, team and community.
Growing up on the Space Coast in quite a large family, she reflects back on her parents’ influence as they taught the significance of facing challenges head on, hard work and community involvement. “Dad, a successful developer and entrepreneur, and mom a licensed mental health counselor who, 40 years ago, founded Genesis House – three homes providing shelter and support for homeless women and children – have both always been very positive and hardworking ‘doers’.”
Chiesman and her husband Paul are 20-year residents of Satellite Beach where son Stuart and daughter Lea grew up, and they love the area. They continue the family tradition of community involvement through their support of charitable organizations, including Chiesman’s position on the Genesis House board.
Coast to Coast and an Internal Journey
Chiesman graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in finance after which she moved to California. Over a period of several years she made her way back to Florida, working for several large investment firms before finding the perfect fit at FirstWave Financial in 2001. During those early years she came to appreciate the concept of lifelong learning. In 2006, she completed the rigorous Certified Financial PlannerTM program and became a CFP® professional while also balancing her time between job and family.
“I didn’t understand the availability of resources and support that could have made a difference for me then,” she said, referring to the organizations of like-minded business professionals that are willing to share experiences, mistakes and successes.
“Finding out about this kind of networking was a game changer,” Chiesman added, noting her involvement in several local organizations. She joined the American Business Woman’s Association Oceanside Charter Chapter seven years ago where she continues to grow and learn from members and informative guest speakers. More recently she became a charter member of the League of Extraordinary Women – a group of 70 high-profile, women business executives, entrepreneurs and philanthropists supporting each other and mentoring women as they grow in their careers and business enterprises.
Participation with both groups has provided a space for Chiesman and other professionals to share confidence, explore ideas and passions while learning from the careers and experiences of trusted colleagues.
“It really opened my eyes and increased my confidence,” she said. “And now, I enjoy sharing that experience with other women.”
Chiesman is also passionate about her role in the Knowledge College for Aging (KCA). This group of professionals have joined together to bring information and resources to the elderly, their families and caregivers. Areas of expertise include financial management, estate planning, real estate solutions, assisted living options, and health and wellness options. KCA makes presentations to churches and business organizations, helping their members and employees to understand, prepare for and respond to the needs of seniors.
“This is especially close to my heart, and I love being a part of such an important mission,” she said. On February 18th, The Knowledge College for Aging joins the Health First Healthy Living seminar series. “We are very excited to partner with Health First on this event!”
In 2001, Chiesman joined the family at FirstWave Financial and began tutelage and mentorship under then-owner Tom Kirk, an out-of-box thinker. Over the years they have worked tirelessly to redefine the client experience and reshape the role of traditional financial advisor to private WealthCoach.
These days, it’s not enough to just hone in on the money side of things. Industry-wide, data shows that client expectations are rooted in a broader scope that includes generational considerations, health concerns, aging in place and more.
From the beginning, Kirk’s philosophies focused the company on minimizing the complexities and anxieties of investing, retirement, asset protection and estate planning, and those ideas meshed seamlessly with what Chiesman envisioned the job should be. “Coming to work here was like coming home,” she said.
Entering into the FirstWave offices in Satellite Beach certainly feels more like home than institution. The bright yellow walls display local art provided by the Brevard Cultural Alliance’s Art in Public Places program. The furniture is dark honey, with tropical accents creating a space that is open, light and invites a sense of calm.
Chiesman leads her team of twelve enthusiastic, experienced professionals. Together they are all dedicated to providing high-level, personalized solutions and what they have coined as “extreme client service” to successful individuals, families and businesses.
Kirk remains onboard as Chairman of the Board, WealthCoach, mentor and friend. His innovative work in the financial planning sector continues, with the full participation and support of FirstWave. Recently he developed a new tool, Your WealthConfidence Scorecard, to help identify personal mindsets and the effect these have on wealth and wealth confidence.
“We provide tools and solutions to help our clients optimize their financial situations,” she said. Two of these processes are The WealthCare SolutionTM and The RetirementPlan Optimizer.TM
- The WealthCare SolutionTM is a distinctive process, exclusively for successful individuals and families who are facing the complexities that wealth brings. “Our goal is to help increase our clients’ confidence that they can achieve their goals and live the great life they have in mind for themselves and their families.”
- ▶The RetirementPlan OptimizerTM outlined in “The Brighter Future 401k,” one of FirstWave’s WealthBook series, helps companies attract and retain employees who are present, focused and energized. “Courageous Plan Design, Gap Statements, Employee Education and Retirement Readiness Reports are a few tools that can help create more informed and engaged employees,” Chiesman explains. Engaged employees are happier and more productive, which is key to increased performance, improved business results and higher levels of client satisfaction.
The forward momentum of FirstWave Financial is undeniable, and Chiesman is equally optimistic about the future of finance and business in Brevard.
“There’s an explosion of growth impacting this county in such positive ways – from the growth of the commercial space program and expansions at Harris and Northrup Grumman, to the infrastructure upgrades happening all over the county and the growth at the hospitals and medical organizations,” she said.
“We believe all of this translates to a bright future for Brevardians and circles back to our company mission: Helping people we care about create the life they dream about.”
Chiesman shares, “I’m grateful for so much in life – my wonderful family, especially my husband who always loves and supports me; the team here at FirstWave and all our great clients, members of our community and business leaders. This an exciting and very fulfilling journey!”