A conversation with John Klaas, Jr., CEO & Founder and David Millington, President & COO, Puzzle Wealth Solutions
UBS breakaways John Klaas, Jr. and David Millington share their journey to launching independent firm Puzzle Wealth Solutions with Gladstone Wealth Partners. They discuss their decision-making and transition processes, as well as what led to their extraordinary growth to $2B in assets in year one.
About this episode…
Life is a series of experiences.
A continually changing image painted by the people we meet, the places we work, our daily activities—all of the pieces coming together to provide us with a foundation from which we develop and grow.
And it’s the same for an advisory business.
It’s a concept that’s interesting to explore when you hear the stories of different advisory teams and how they came together—and how their perspectives became complementary forces motivated by similar goals.
Take the guests on this episode, for example. John Klaas Jr. was at Morgan Stanley when David Millington was looking for a new job. David’s dad suggested he speak to John – who was his financial advisor – to see if there were opportunities at Morgan. David was hired and became a part of John’s growing team.
Fast forward 4 years later to 2007, the team transitioned to a UBS Private Wealth Management office in Chicago. Then over the next 14 years at UBS, they grew the business and expanded their offerings to high net worth and ultra-high net worth clients, adding capabilities like estate planning and alternative investments.
But they wanted to evolve further—and had a vision they couldn’t execute at the wirehouse. Including being true fiduciaries to their clients.
So they explored their options, decided that they didn’t want to build their own firm, and became intrigued by what Gladstone Wealth Partners offered.
With some $1.2B in assets under management, they opted to make the leap and build their independent practice, Puzzle Wealth Solutions, in partnership with Gladstone in June of 2021.
As of this recording, just shy of their one-year anniversary, they are managing $2B in assets for their clients—nearly 2x growth!
So in the episode, John and David join Mindy Diamond to discuss their journey, including:
- Their leap from Morgan Stanley to UBS—and what precipitated the decision to leave UBS for independence.
- The choice to go independent with Gladstone independence—and what other options they considered.
- Their extraordinary growth—and how they achieved it in such a short period of time.
- A unique perspective on retire-in-place programs—and why it was not the path John chose for himself or his team.
- And much more.
It’s a story that exemplifies how different experiences came together, much like the pieces of a puzzle, to create a clear image of the teams’ vision for the future—and extraordinary success.
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CEO & Founder
John’s career began in 1988 on the anniversary of one of the equity market’s most tumultuous days, and in the years since, he has helped clients manage their wealth through 10 market corrections and three recessions. His dedication to his clients and to always doing the right thing led him to founding Puzzle Wealth and an independent practice.
“We never forget who we work for or what is important. People value their family, faith, health and finances. We are in the position where somebody will rely on us with one of these topics.”
John believes in delivering holistic wealth management solutions to clients. He enjoys partnering with them on asset allocation and total portfolio management with a focus on charitable giving and estate planning. He believes opportunities to make a major impact in the markets are rare, but is prepared for them every day.
Before Puzzle, John was Senior Vice President of The Klaas Group at UBS for 14 years. Prior to that he spent 18 years at Morgan Stanley and a tenure at Burton and Associates. He has distinguished himself by completing the Senior Financial Advisor Program at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. In addition, he holds his Series 7, 31, 63 and 65 securities licenses through LPL Financial and insurance licenses. John lives in Barrington Hills and is happily married with three children. Passionate about child safety and children’s rights, he has been actively involved with the KlaasKids Foundation since its inception.
President & COO
David prides himself on advising clients with the intention of reducing or eliminating financial stress. David has worked with John, Karoline, and Steve since 2003. He has taken a passion to the investment world ever since he built his first stock portfolio in 7th grade. His tenacious work ethic stems back to his days as a newspaper delivery boy—his first paycheck at the age of 8 still hangs on his wall.
As a Certified Financial Planner™ David enjoys being able to offer sound advice within the advisory relationships he maintains with his clients. His experience with mergers and acquisitions makes him a vital asset to business owners as a Certified Exit Planning Advisor®.
In addition to being the President & COO, David also chairs Puzzle’s Business Development committee and serves on the Investment Committee as a Senior Portfolio Manager.
David is honored to be included in the Forbes Best-in-State list of top advisors for 2021. Prior to joining The Klaas Group, David was a Founding Partner of Arcis Trading in Chicago, IL. He graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a B.S. in finance in 1999. He and his family reside in Inverness, IL. His passions include watching his boys compete in several sports, cheering on Chicago sports teams, and working on lowering his golf handicap.