It is with gratitude, respect, and genuine warmth that Abacus announces co-founder and longtime CEO Brent Kessel will step down effective February 1, 2022. In a significant and historic milestone for Abacus, he will be succeeded by Mary Beth Storjohann and Neela Hummel as co-CEOs.
Mary Beth and Neela, each accomplished CFPs® and partners at the firm, have previously served as Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Advisory Officer of Abacus, respectively. They will now lead the $4.4B company on its mission of expanding what’s possible with money and leaving the world in a better place while doing it.
Brent will remain full-time with the firm to continue Abacus’ mission of providing financial planning to both underserved populations and high net-worth clients, while also serving on the Board of Directors.
The appointment of Mary Beth and Neela as co-CEOs is a welcome and natural development as the company looks to refine its strategic growth centered around diversity, equity, and inclusion at every level of leadership.
Mary Beth will primarily lead strategic business growth and communications, while Neela will focus on advisor development and client service. Together they will help Abacus continue to evolve and innovate in the ever-changing financial services industry, all while retaining the core values and superior levels of service clients have come to expect from the company.
Mary Beth has served as Abacus’ Chief Marketing Officer for nearly three years, reenergizing the company’s brand while developing and leading the firm’s robust communications team through a period of exponential growth and digitization of client engagement. She brings 18 years of industry experience to her new role and is known for sparking conversation and change in the industry in key areas such as virtual team and client management, women’s financial literacy and empowerment, and serving millennials and GenX clientele.
“Abacus is a team of compassionate, purpose-driven relationship builders and I am incredibly honored to co-lead this amazing group of people alongside Neela,” says Mary Beth. “Our skill sets and focus areas have always complemented one another, and we know Abacus can accomplish so much more by having the versatility of our combined experience, expertise, and perspective in the CEO seat. Big successes require big ideas, and we’re excited to show the industry what we have in store for our team, our clients, and all those who deserve access to financial advice.”
Neela has spent 12 years with Abacus, starting as an intern and working her way up the ranks to financial advisor, partner, and most recently the firm’s Chief Advisory Officer. She has worked closely with the firm’s 40-plus advisors across seven offices to build systems and processes around client service. This includes a teammate development program where new advisors are paired with (and mentored by) seasoned advisors to become senior leaders. During her time at Abacus, Neela has served two terms on its Board of Directors, developed its industry-leading parental leave policy (six months paid time off), and launched the company’s women’s initiative, the Abacus Sisterhood.
“Having two women lead a $4.4 billion firm is a big deal for our industry, and I’m humbled by the opportunity,” says Neela. “Abacus is a special place full of truly incredible people. We plan on leading by putting our people first – clients and team members – all while focusing on company culture. Brent and other leaders of Abacus have set the bar for what the industry needs more of – not just mentorship of the next generation of leaders, but advocacy and sponsorship.”
Once Brent transitions out of his current CEO role, he will continue leading broader impact investment initiatives with the company. These include focusing on a large and growing market segment who desire meaning and purpose from their wealth, the aforementioned board of directors service, and shepherding the continued diversification of team members and clients.
“I never could have imagined that Abacus would grow to over 70 employees and $4.4 billion – but once we began wearing our values on our sleeves, our growth took off,” says Brent. “Neela and Mary Beth really are servant leaders who know how to bring the best out of our people, out of our company, and frankly, out of our industry. I’m inspired they believe so strongly in this vision that they’ve stepped into this role to execute it, and I cannot wait to see where they take the company.”
The selection of Mary Beth and Neela as co-CEOs came after an extensive internal search and interview process led by Abacus’ Board of Directors. Partner Gabe Brenner adds, “It is a testament to Abacus that we had such a deep bench of talent to consider for the role of CEO. In many ways, selecting Mary Beth and Neela to share this role was a natural progression of the entrepreneurial and values-aligned company culture. Together as a unit, they are truly ‘superhuman’ and it is so important to have their voices at the helm of an influential company like Abacus.”
Like any cycle of living, growth and change often create meaningful new opportunities and hopes. Significant transitions can also carry with them feelings of loss and tinges of uncertainty. These are natural, valid feelings that Abacus recognizes and honors, and we are here for all of our clients to answer any questions you might have.
Ultimately, the family that Abacus has grown into – dedicated employees and loyal clients alike – remains the treasured foundation on which the company is built. As planners, we can never know exactly what the future looks like, but we do know that what brought us here works.
We work for you. And we cannot wait to mindfully continue serving you to expand what’s possible with money.