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20 UNDER 40: Spreads wealth of resources back into NWI, abroad

20 UNDER 40: Spreads wealth of resources back into NWI, abroad

Wesley Kotys, The Kotys Group: Private Wealth Management

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Wesley Kotys knows that his true love of financial planning is a rare hobby to have.

But as the financial industry has taken a turn for the poignant since the recession, Kotys has tried to create positive change in his community for at-risk youth through his financial expertise and his heart.

After attending Purdue University, Kotys worked for 10 years as a financial adviser at Prudential Financial and then later at Edward Jones. While at Edward Jones, he opened the company's Valparaiso branch from scratch and earned several awards, including the Pacesetter Award, an exclusive honor bestowed upon those showing outstanding performance in their first three years of business.

But Kotys wanted to be able to provide completely unbiased guidance to the people he worked with, which is a difficult challenge at a bigger company. So when he opened his own independent, boutique financial planning firm in Valparaiso in 2007, he says there were no skewed thoughts about how to run his business.

"I've always had good mentors in the financial planning industry, and I didn't have a glamorous picture of what financial planning was because of them," Kotys says. "I was more interested in helping people and companies to plan their next generations. I wanted to help them live out all of their goals and dreams."

Kotys' passion for his work and smart business plan has served his company well. The Kotys Group was featured in the April edition of Forbes magazine under the Indiana Financial section, and Kotys is currently a member of the exclusive LPL Financial Director's Club, which is a distinction reserved for only the top 15 percent of the more than 12,000 LPL financial advisers nationwide.

Kotys truly loves what he does for a living, so any chance to help people in the community through his financial expertise is inspiring for him. He often organizes free educational workshops and seminars for local companies, such as NiSource, ArcelorMittal and NIPSCO, as well as nonprofits, and the general public.

The seminars he opens up to the public are usually 2-1/2 comprehensive sessions that have been held at Strongbow Inn, which tackle all aspects of financial planning, including investment, retirement, estate, education and tax planning.

"We're in a very critical moment in our country, and I believe education is very important to our success," Kotys says. "We need to be a more critical thinking society, not an easy–thinking one, and my goal is to bring really close–to–center information to people so they can see how they can positively impact their own lives directly."

Kotys Group Operations Manager Jennifer Reed says that while nationally, everyone is on pins and needles with the financial market's current volatility, Kotys is doing a lot to promote pragmatic thinking and positive action.

"The thing about Wes is that he is such an honest person," Reed says. "He addresses problems head–on, and he's very good at communication."

Aside from lending his talents in the financial sector to people in the community, Kotys says he and his wife, Sarah, who also works at Kotys Group as the company's team leader, try to dedicate their time and resources to both international and local efforts they find important. One effort they've identified strongly with and invested deeply in is helping kids at risk.

Kotys is an advocate for Heroes of the Nation, a nonprofit organization based in Africa that brings in orphaned children of AIDS victims and sets them on a path to become leaders in their communities by developing their education and work skills.

Through microenterprise development, Heroes of the Nation is helping hundreds of children excel in their own lives and cultivate their communities of self–sufficient people. And while Africa is halfway around the world, Kotys says he believes there is a place for similar programs a little closer to home.

"These kids are thriving, and I'd love to see that type of strength–based entity in the United States," Kotys says.

Good for his word, Kotys is helping start a similar program locally by becoming an advocate for LegacyNowUSA, which runs a project called Heroes. Heroes aims to help kids in grades six through 12 develop a healthy self–image through an educational development program grounded in problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, and mentoring.

As an advocate for LegacyNowUSA, Kotys has provided financial support, financial planning advice, such as helping the organization file for nonprofit status, and getting the attention of those in the community who can help bring the program to its full potential.

"He loves being a connector of people," Sarah Kotys says. "He loves when he can connect people that have come into our lives to their dreams and passions. What gives him the most joy is helping make their goals happen in any way he can."

The Kotyses also attend local philanthropic events and support local nonprofits as much as possible, such as Meals on Wheels of Northwest Indiana. Kotys has been a Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce board member since January, and he's eager to become even more involved there in the next 12 months.L

"I want to make my time there meaningful," Kotys says. "I want to help provide the infrastructure that would make our community a sought–after place for businesses. I would like to see a more educated workforce and more mid to large companies coming from Chicago. But I think we're doing the right things."

"He strongly believes in the people behind building this community, in the people who are creating things in the community," Sarah Kotys says.

Kotys says faith has also always been important to him and Sarah. He sits on the advisory team and financial board at Bethel Church in Valparaiso, where he has been active in many of the church's religious programs, such as leading small groups in biblical studies and daily Christian living and community projects.

In the interim of his church's search for a new youth minister two years ago, he and Sarah both stepped up to serve as youth ministers for over a year.

"My belief system is one where you do pour out," Kotys says. "You don't just maintain your life. You grow and you give back. It's a revolving door."





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