Broker Check

Gordon's Annual Message

The past few years have been a good example of the saying, “the only thing constant is change.” Many events were highly unusual and required all of us to regroup and pivot in response to unforeseeable challenges. We faced a global pandemic, volatile financial markets, political and social unrest, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the loss of Britain’s familiar face of royalty just to name a few.

Over the years, I’ve learned that change can be good. Reading good books has changed my perspective. Traveling and exposure to different cultures has changed my worldview and I have found that seeking information and differing opinions allows me to continually evaluate and adjust to get the most out of life.

We can’t predict what will happen, but we know we can plan. After such significant events, I want to thank you for placing your trust in us.

With the benefit of over 140 years combined team experience and 30 years in business, if there was one word to sum up who we are and what we believe in at Cornerstone, it’s possibilities. Starting as a one-man shop in 1993 it’s hard to believe we now have two offices and 17 team members!

We won the lottery with new team members this year. I’m hopeful that you’ve had a chance to meet them. Shelby Bierema, who, by the way, just earned her FPQP™ {Financial Paraplanner Qualified Professional} designation and Emily Thein are Client Relationship Managers in our Sioux Falls office. Alyssa Kirk wears many hats in our Huron office, but you should know she is a lifelong learner! Alyssa holds a Series 7, Series 66, and insurance licenses. Sarah Micek is our Business Development Associate and Debby Enstad is our Director of 1st Impressions, both in our Sioux Falls office.

In addition, we were blessed with the best this summer during our 1st Internship Program. Elizabeth Braley and Jory Flannery, both from South Dakota State University, spent the summer with us in the Wealth Management Department. Elizabeth graduated in December and has accepted a full-time position in our Sioux Falls office and is busy studying for her licenses.

As I reflect on the last year, I’m also thankful for the Cornerstone Leadership team. They have been with me through thick and thin for many years and are true servant-leaders who create a collaborative atmosphere and encourage the best from our entire team.

Michelle Stahl, VP of Operations and Cornerstone Partner, is the Chief Operating Officer at Cornerstone (a huge responsibility!). She has been with Cornerstone since August of 2000, leads our organization and the Client Service team. She knows our company inside and out and is someone that other companies dream of having on their team.

Jill Mollner, Wealth Advisor and Branch Operations Manager, has been in the financial industry since 2005. She came to us from another practice in town and leads our Wealth Management Department. Jill holds a vital role in our company and is always working to raise the bar on the level of service we provide you.

Shelli Carlson, Chief Experience Officer, first started with me in 1998 in our Huron office. At that time, we had a total of 3 or 4 team members, so she has been with me through a lot of change. Shelli leads our Marketing/Experience Team. Our goal is to provide you with an experience that few people get, especially when it’s hard to get someone to answer the phone at some companies. Her passion and her commitment to the Cornerstone mission positively influences our team and is something I truly admire.

While I serve as CEO, lead the vision and direction for Cornerstone, and am responsible for the culture, as a leadership team, we meet on a weekly basis to address any issues that need to be solved and to work on goals set during our 2-day quarterly meetings. We utilize a fantastic coach during our quarterlies who helps us set direction for our vision, provides feedback, tools, guidance, and perspective. In addition to daily responsibilities, we find time to read many books, attend and participate in professional development and leadership programs all designed so that we improve and can serve you better. These three leaders are instrumental in the day-to-day operations at our offices and while they take their positions seriously, they are also fun to work with.

Being on the team at Cornerstone doesn’t come easy. We have a rigorous onboarding process, and our expectations are high. We hire, fire, and reward our team around five core values and the definitions associated with each:

We don’t believe in making excuses, we believe in making change.

We believe that communication is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.

We commit ourselves to continuously improving our performance and pushing through our comfort barriers. We are honest about our mistakes, and we learn from them.

We are all about providing great service to clients, to each other, to our communities, and to our world. Relationships drive our success.

We work smart. In a world of fierce competition, there is no value in simply conducting activities.

In addition to these standards, the wealth advisors at Cornerstone Financial are required to hold the CFP® {CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER} designation or be working to complete the rigorous certification process. The CFP® designation is considered the standard of excellence in financial planning. I earned my CFP® certification on September 11, 2000, Jill Mollner, one of the most highly educated advisors we’ve ever had on our team, not only earned her CFP® certification in 2006 but also earned her MBA from the University of Sioux Falls after completing her college education at South Dakota State University, and Andrew Ulvestad a graduate from South Dakota State University, with a degree in business economics, is working to complete the CFP® testing, a process that typically takes 18-24 months.

I am very excited to announce that our team was recently named to the Forbes Best-in-State Wealth Management Teams 2023. This recognition is a testament to the team’s commitment to excellence in everything they do.*

Backing our great team, is the Cornerstone Advisory Board. These individuals provide us with specialized skills, talent, and critical thinking to gain new insights, solve issues and increase the confidence of the decision-makers who represent Cornerstone.

Great teams are a treasure, and this is the best team we’ve ever had. They are uniquely talented, expertly skilled, and passionately dedicated. They have that ‘something extra’ that can only be described as “heart.” They care – deeply and passionately about their work, our mission, each other and most importantly you. Take a minute to visit our website,, to learn more about these wonderful
human beings.

With a large team of professionals in place we can say, “This is how we are going to take care of you,” so that you have comfort and reassurance even if someone you normally work with is out of the office. Team-based wealth advice offers many advantages over a solo-advisor approach:

• More advisors and team members mean having access to a broader scope of knowledge, expertise, capabilities, and service offerings.

• With a team, you won’t lose years and years of valuable planning to someone you don’t know.

• Cornerstone’s Investment Committee establishes and implements investment strategy and policy. - Our internal Investment Committee meets quarterly and consults with external Chartered Financial Analysts from Vanguard and T. Rowe Price to gain insight and other opinions regarding asset allocation and investment strategy. This internal structure ensures that whatever is supposed to happen with your investments will still happen even if your primary advisor is out of the office.

• There is a built-in succession plan so the transition will be smooth when your primary financial advisor retires.

We know you’ve worked hard for your money and our team of wealth advisors have a deep understanding of financial planning which allows us to give you the highest quality of service there is. While some advisors only offer basic investment planning, we cover all 5 areas of wealth management, so nothing falls through the cracks. Those 5 areas include:

• Investment Management
• Risk Management
• Retirement Planning
• Estate Planning
• Tax Planning Strategies

We network with several CPA’s and attorneys and collaborate with your personal CPA/attorney so we can provide better holistic advice to you.

Because it’s important to review your wealth management plan and stay informed of issues that might affect you, we also work hard to proactively provide you with:

• Regularly Scheduled Reviews
• Weekly Market Updates via email
• Quarterly Newsletters and Tax Reports
• Educational Workshops
• Small Group Events – because, sometimes, we just like to have fun!

So that we can better serve you and provide you with simple and secure access to your account information, we offer a number of online tools.

Client Access

Track Your Asset Allocation
View Fund Sections
See How Funds are Performing
Access Market Information
Utilize Mobile Check Deposit
Vault - A great collaboration tool that allows you to upload, store and organize digital copies of vital documents. 

eSignature - Conduct safe and secure business without having to leave home! You can review, sign and return important financial documents to our office quickly and easily.

Riskalyze - A quantitative way to pinpoint how much risk you want, how much risk you need to take to reach your goals, and how much risk you actually have in your portfolio.

Account Aggregation - See a holistic view of your financial life by connecting your accounts from outside financial institutions such as banks, credit card companies and brokerage firms.

eMoney - Helps us provide you with foundational and advanced planning including cash flow, retirement income, comprehensive tax calculations and robust what-if scenarios.

Goal Planning and Monitoring - This software helps navigate complex issues such as year-end tax planning, investment allocation, Social Security analysis, estate planning, long-term care, and health care solutions. We also look at how changes might impact your plan’s probability of success while performing stress-tests so that you can feel confident, even during times of change.

Salesforce - Internal software used to track every little detail.

Our services should not be viewed as one-off events but as individual elements to a holistic, unified wealth plan. Each element is more powerfully presented in a wealth plan created to help achieve your goals and dreams. If you know someone who would benefit from our services or if you aren’t receiving these materials, please contact our office. These are must haves!

Every year as I reflect on the past year, I’m reminded of the tremendous responsibility that comes with your trust. We don’t take that responsibility lightly.

For those of you with whom we have an advisory relationship, we want to remind you of our fiduciary responsibility and commitment to you. You should know that advice from our advisors is conflict-free and is never related to the possibility of earning a potential commission. As fiduciary advisors, we don’t offer products designed to generate unnecessary or excessive fees. Our advisors offer comprehensive financial planning and make investments that are consistent with your risk tolerance and goals.

We believe in full transparency and full disclosure – especially when it comes to fees. As independent fee-based financial advisors, we offer brokerage and advisory services through Raymond James Financial Services. That means that we have an open platform which gives you options to engage with us in the most cost-effective manner.

Different people have different needs and we’ve created an accessible model that allows us to serve you in a way that best suits you. To put it simply, compensation works in one of the following ways:

1. For investment and portfolio management clients, we charge an annual percentage based on the amount of assets we’re managing. The advisory fee comes out of your investment account automatically, which makes it simple, trackable, and transparent.


2. For clients who don’t utilize our investment management services, we have created a Fee for Advice Service platform where we work together to create, maintain, and review financial plans. Call our office for fees and more information regarding this platform.

At Cornerstone, we offer mostly fee-based planning. Simply put, we are on the same side of the table as you, we participate in the gains, and we participate in the losses. When you do well, we do well. Monthly statements detail your fees, so your standing is always clear. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.

One of things I love most about our team is that together, we are always looking for opportunities to become better. We offer a Cornerstone Book Club to encourage critical thinking and provide new perspectives, we have coaches and mentors in place to help increase our performance, self-confidence, skills, and knowledge and we meet every 90 days to set new goals that will have a positive impact on the service we provide to you. Some of the things we are working on are:

• Events that are educational and motivational

• Enhanced technology to provide you with text reminders for upcoming appointments

• Cornerstone Podcasts

After providing the best possible service to you, we strive to make a difference in the lives of others. In addition to the regular support Cornerstone provides to causes and organization we began two new programs in 2022:

1. A partnership with World Hope committing to fund physical therapy and occupational therapy services to children living with disabilities in Sierra Leone

2. A charitable incentive match where team members earn and direct charity dollars in conjunction with performance bonuses.

Every action we take enables others to make a bigger impact on the world.

I am so excited to celebrate our 30 years in business with you on Saturday, February 4th! We are dependent on you, and without you, none of this would be possible. Be on the lookout for your invitation or call our office for more information.

I am hopeful that my first book, Falling Forward, will be available that day as a gift to you. I set out to write about personal and professional development for entrepreneurs and other professionals, using my experiences and the lessons I’ve learned as examples. The finished book is a deep, honest look at those experiences, and how my personal philosophy of falling forward has helped me come out of each experience better.

Speaking of books, I’ve had several clients ask me for my list of favorite books. Here is this year’s list:

The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy
Atomic Habits by James Clear
Good to Great by Jim Collins
Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
Essentialism by Greg McKeown
Halftime by Bob Buford
High Performance Habits by Brendon Burchard
The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
The One Thing by Gary Keller
Make Your Bed by Admiral William H. McRaven

In addition to the books I read each year I personally have 5 mentors/consultants that help me improve my leadership and technical skills. I hold a strong belief that we should always walk-through life as if there is always something new to learn.

My hope is that you can see why Cornerstone is different from other financial advisor practices – client first practices, extraordinary relationships, and making the complex simple. We believe that you don’t have to settle for the status quo and when your life and wealth are built on a cornerstone, you can pursue greater dreams and make the impact you’re truly capable of making.

As I reflect on what’s important to me - you (our clients), my family, and a team dedicated to excellence, I am filled with optimism and great excitement for the coming year.

One thing that I have learned over the years is to be grateful for everything we have each day and that there are some things that just can’t be changed, and those, we need to accept. I end each day in the way I will end my letter to you, with the Serenity Prayer:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to
change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

I wish you all the best in the coming year.


Gordon Wollman
MS-Financial Planning, CFP®

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*The 2023 Forbes ranking of America’s Top Wealth Management Teams Best-In-State, developed by SHOOK Research, is based on an algorithm of qualitative criteria, mostly gained through telephone and in-person due diligence interviews, and quantitative data. This ranking is based upon the period from 4/1/2021 to 3/31/2022 and was released on 01/12/2023. Advisor teams that are considered must have one advisor with a minimum of seven years of experience, have been in existence as a team for at least one year, have at least 5 team members, and have been nominated by their firm. The algorithm weights factors like revenue trends, assets under management, compliance records, industry experience and those that encompass best practices in their practices and approach to working with clients. Portfolio performance is not a criteria due to varying client objectives and lack of audited data. Out of approximately 8,000 team nominations, 2,860 advisor teams received the award based on thresholds. This ranking is not indicative of an advisor’s future performance, is not an endorsement, and may not be representative of individual clients’ experience. Neither Raymond James nor any of its Financial Advisors or RIA firms pay a fee in exchange for this award/rating. Raymond James is not affiliated with Forbes or Shook Research, LLC. Please see for more info.