Like many entrepreneurs, Tom Kirk founded First Wave Financial because he wanted to address a need, and in his case, it was right in his family. When is father, a local physician, passed away, Kirk was trying to help his mother deal with her wealth management issues. “I wasn’t able to find the kind of financial services and advocacy I was looking for to assist my mother and other clients,” Kirk said.
With a background as a CPA, in the 1980’s he was one of the first in the country to be certified as a Personal Financial Specialists, a designation reserved for accountants. Then he became a Registered Investment Advisor and in 1995 opened First Wave Financial. The startup experience he had with the CPA firm he launched with Chas Hoyman and Barbara Oswalt, along with that client base, informed the First Wave venture. That CPA firm is now a part of Carr, Riggs and Ingram.
According to Kirk, there is no lack of opinion out there about investment strategies. Now, with the internet, those voices are infinitely louder and more diverse. His observation is that the complexities and cacophony of voices, often produces confusion. Addressing this and other challenges they articulated a mission that drives the firm, “For people we care about, to create the future they dream about.” It is a philosophy that resonates and is meant both for their clients and their staff.
The care, the future and the dream that is at the core of First Wave continues to expand, though like many businesses, the Great Recession hit his company especially hard. “Our success is completely tied to the success of our clients, when the market tanked it was challenging,” he said. “But we encourage our clients to live within their means and so, that is how we operate First Wave. Because of that, we had the reserves to survive that trough.”
Following the type of strategy Kirk articulated in his WealthCoach books and materials, his transition to new leadership at First Wave followed the same kind of care and planning, to create a positive future for clients and staff. That succession plan centered on Laura Chiesman, who is now owner and president of First Wave.
Chiesman joined the firm in 2001 and grew her responsibilities as the firm expanded. “Tom was a great mentor, who never hesitated to give me opportunities and challenges, right up until he approached me to buy the firm. We had a thorough and well-defined roadmap, that we were able to work through together,” Chiesman said.