How do numbers speak to you?
It’s a deceptively simple question, asked of the eight recipients of this year’s CPA and Financial Advisor Awards. Presented by the Westchester and Fairfield County Business Journals at Whitby Castle in Rye on Nov. 7, the awards recognized finance professionals in “most trusted,” “most generous,” “ahead of the curve” and “under 40” categories.
Bill Winters, a senior vice president and managing director at Tompkins Financial Advisors in White Plains, said that for him, numbers indicate time, whether it be the Great Depression or a Trump rally.
Winters was named “Most Generous” financial advisor. He said, “We operate under a pretty simple mathematical formula. We take local deposits in, and loan them right back out to the customers we serve.” He said that in the Hudson Valley alone, Tompkins had contributed “countless hours” and “thousands of dollars” to local causes.
Steve Gagnon, cited as “Most Generous” CPA, said that numbers create order out of chaos. The assurance partner at Reynolds & Rowella in New Canaan also got laughs by saying that numbers of particular significance to him were 14 (the age of his daughter, in attendance), 31 (his birthday), and 29, “which as we all know is the age of our wives.”
The “Ahead of the Curve” group was composed of Adam Nalewajek, a director of wealth planning at Altium Wealth in Purchase, and Davide DiGenova, a partner at the Hudson Valley’s RBT CPAs LLP. In answering the question, the former said that it was “more a question of when they speak to me” – usually in the wee hours, he half-joked.
Nalewajek then said that the number five plays an important role in his job, representing five key questions he asks of clients, surrounding the whys and wherefores of their investments and strategies.
“Figures never lie, and liars never figure,” was DiGenova’s opening statement, quoting one of his father’s favorite sayings. “Numbers always tell a story,” he added, saying that a finance professional’s job is to “help our clients understand the story that the numbers are telling.”
Sharing “Most Trusted Advisor” awards were John P. Genn III, vice president and senior trust officer at Tompkins, and Jeffrey W. Rossi, CPA and office managing partner of CohnReznick’s Stamford office.
Saying that numbers had always “worked well for me” starting in high school, Genn said, “Numbers help translate what a client wants to do into what they can do.”
Rossi said that numbers sometimes speak “the right way … the wrong way … or not at all.” The latter, he jested, usually occurs when “Powerball is up at around $300 million,” and he’s trying to guess the winning numerical combination.
The “Under 40” cohort was composed of Laurie Stefanowicz, a senior vice president and managing partner at Catamount Wealth Management in Westport, and Michael P. Jordan, managing director of Andersen Tax LLC in Greenwich.
Stefanowicz noted that she spends a lot of her time advocating for financial education among women. Regarding numbers, she cited 1 as indicative of her being the sole female being honored, and the “under 40” tag, remarking that “we need more and more women leaving college and other jobs to help people achieve financial success.”
Jordan said he often wondered why numbers were a mystery to so many people. “I work with a lot of attorneys and, no offense, but a lot of them know nothing about numbers,” he said to general laughter. He also said he works to maximize after-tax numbers for clients, and that he’s “real good at maximizing my golf score.”
Bronze sponsors at this year’s event were Tompkins Financial Advisors, the Wilson Elser law firm in Stamford, Val’s Putnam Wines & Liquors in Greenwich and APS Payroll in Mount Kisco.