For Lee Baker, part of the job of being a financial planner is getting involved in the world around him.
This article originally appeared in the December/January 2013 issue of MorningstarAdvisor magazine. To subscribe, please call 1-800-384-4000.
Growing up as a minister’s son in Jacksonville, Fla., Lee Baker developed a sense of service to his community.
“My father’s philosophy was: You don’t just come to church and sit in pews. You get involved, whether that’s singing in the choir or being an usher or something else,” he says.
Baker, who runs Tucker, Ga.-based Apex Financial Services, got involved in industry associations soon after launching his practice in the late 1990s. He is active in the Financial Planning Association on the state and national levels. He served as president of the group’s Georgia chapter and was a member of the national board.
Finding a Path
Althought he’s well established in the financial planning community today, Baker did not take the typical wirehouse path. He left Jacksonville at age 17 to study industrial engineering at Georgia Tech. His freshman year, he took an off-campus job with insurance agent Jeff Lindaman in Atlanta. Three years later, when Baker’s classmates were interviewing for jobs in the automotive and high-tech industries, he signed on full time with Lindaman.
Baker says that the decision to join the agency full time was a slam dunk. “I never really had any desire to be an engineer. My thought process going into college was, ‘If I get an engineering degree, I’ll always be able to get a job.’ I knew I didn’t want to be a minister or a lawyer, but other than that, it was wide open.”
Lindaman specialized in group health insurance. Baker says that Lindaman had a strong work ethic and emphasized customer service. But over time, Baker grew frustrated with aspects of the health-insurance business. He repeatedly found himself doing research to find the best group plan for a small business, only to get a letter from the carrier a few months later informing him that rates were going up. As a result, through no fault of his own or Lindaman’s, he would bring bad news to his clients year after year, something neither he nor his clients relished.
Meanwhile, insurance clients were calling the office, asking for advice on other financial matters. Baker took it upon himself to look into questions regarding 401(k) or deferred compensation plans, and he enjoyed the extra level of service he was able to provide. “This was the early ’90s,” he says. “I was oblivious to the concept of a Certified Financial Planner, but I thought there ought to be somebody out there who does this kind of thing.”