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Discovery Financial reaches multiple milestones

Discovery Financial employees are celebrating their 25th anniversary in 2017. Employees, from left, are: Cody Buck, Pat Borgen, Michele Carlson, Tim Kelly, Katie Bakke, Katie Johnson, Doug Ritter and Matt Hardyman. Not pictured are David Ritter and Linda Wiebusch. Samantha Bengs / RiverTown Multimedia

2017 marks the 25th anniversary of Discovery Financial. The financial planning company also recently hit another large milestone — $1 billion of assets under Discovery's management.

President and CEO Doug Ritter said the billion dollar mark was originally penned to be hit by 2020.

"The goal was set in 2012 when we were near $350 million in assets, so we knew it was lofty," Ritter said. "As we were attracting more advisers and acquiring buildings, however, it started to look real."

Initial investments

Discovery Financial was formed in 1992. Ritter left the chief financial officer role at Goodhue County National Bank and joined in partnership with Bill Hardyman, who had a long career in investment and insurance business.

"It was a change, but I had an entrepreneurial spirit," Ritter said.

Initially, Discovery was working strictly with commercial clients, selling annuity products to community banks throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin.

"Truth be told, we fell flat on our face doing that," Ritter said. "We had a very modest level of success."

They quickly redirected their efforts toward working with individual clients for financial planning, investments and insurance.

"Failure leads to new opportunities," Ritter said.

In 1994, Bill's son, Matt Hardyman, joined the business followed by Tim Kelly in 1995. Kelly and Hardyman today both fill vice president roles for Discovery.

Educational focus

A key to Discovery's success, Ritter said, was an early focus on financial education. Discovery offered four-week financial strategy courses through Red Wing Community Education.

"We showed people how to have the building blocks of looking at their own financial information," Matt Hardyman said. "It helped us build trust."

Kelly said Discovery's educational focus drew him to work for the company.

"People saw we were committed to financial education and their best needs before they even became clients," Kelly said. "It was such a non-intrusive way to begin those financial relationships."

As their client base began to grow from course students and their referrals, Discovery expanded its reach. Today, Discovery has nine locations throughout the metro, suburbs, Red Wing and Rochester.

Maintaining relationships

While technology has changed the way critical information to planning can be accessed, Discovery has seen some aspects of the industry remain the same.

"The thing that has stayed consistent is the relationships," Kelly said. "With the amount of information that is available out there, having someone you can trust has become even more important."

One of the biggest factors in the increased demand for financial planning services stems from employers offering fewer such benefits to employees, Ritter said.

"Today, employees are more responsible than they've ever been for their own retirement planning whether they know that or not," he said.

"Nothing is more gratifying than being able to tell people they are in the position to have a happy retirement and have the lifestyle they expect for themselves. Alternatively, however, we have to have tough conversations and explain to clients here are the things you need to do in the next 10 to 15 years to prepare to have that secure, comfortable retirement that you're really looking for."

For the next generation of financial planning customers, time is the key factor, Kelly said.

"Make the commitment to start saving as early as you can."

Rooted in Red Wing

Rightfully proud of Discovery's growth and accomplishments, Ritter, Kelly and Hardyman are quick to turn gratitude toward their hometown.

"We certainly have appreciated this whole atmosphere of community, longevity and trust," Kelly said.

"We wouldn't be here with this community," Hardyman added.

The family roots within Discovery are also growing, from Bill to Matt Hardyman, and more recently with Ritter's son David joining the company.

"We've enjoyed the first 25 years here and are looking forward to the next 25 years in Red Wing," Ritter said.