Caissa Takes an Innovative Approach to Wealth Management, Financial Planning

Kelly Pedersen (from left); Julie Betchwars, Denise Thornburgh and Merissa Perkins of Caissa Wealth Strategies.

The doldrums of an economic recession might not seem like the best time or place in which to launch a wealth management company, but for certified financial planner and certified divorce financial analyst Kelly Pedersen, it fit.

By 2009, Pedersen had a decade of experience in the financial services industry. She looked around at how most advising relationships were handled in large accounting firms and thought she could improve on the model by developing more high-touch, forward-thinking relationships with clients. “It was actually helpful to open in the midst of a financial downturn,” she says. “Either people are prepared for a crash, or they didn’t have a solid plan in place. And a recession really proves that.”

She built a team of like-minded financial planners and launched Caissa Wealth Strategies, which takes an innovative and highly customized approach that begins by doing a deep dive with clients, looking for the “torpedoes” that could sabotage their long-term financial health. “You could have a large investment portfolio, but if there’s an oversight on your liability insurance, you could lose it all. All of a sudden, your rate of return doesn’t matter!” she explains.

Caissa is an entirely female-run company, which is unique in an industry historically dominated by men. According to Pedersen, staffing Caissa that way wasn’t intentional but happened organically with recent shifts in financial philosophies. “We have an unmatched level of personal attention. Companies have CFOs, and we’re more like PFOs: personal financial officers,” says Pedersen. “The industry has evolved a lot, and it’s not just about picking hot stocks anymore. It’s about building relationships and making decisions for the long term. Both men and women gravitate to our team, first and foremost, because of our deep experience and knowledge. Plus 51 percent of the country’s wealth is now held by women, so our make-up certainly hasn’t hindered our business.”

Caissa is named for the Roman goddess of chess identified in Renaissance poetry, and that was  a non-negotiable element from the beginning. “I always used a chess analogy with clients. People have lots of complicated financial pieces in their game of life—some are more important than others, but they’re all important,” says Pedersen, explaining how the character Caissa embodies the company’s philosophy. “You have to know how those pieces interact together in order to strategize and think 10 steps ahead,” she says.

Most clients have the option to meet quarterly with Caissa staff, whether face-to-face or virtually, with a long-term goal of setting up tranches of income with specific goals and assets in mind. A tranche is a segment or installment of a whole, and Pedersen and her team believe firmly in developing tiered phases of income for the short term, mid term and long term.
 
“After the recession, people were incredibly fearful; now greed is creeping back in,” Pedersen says, explaining that in society as a whole, people tend to pay close attention to the economy and follow a pendulum swing between conservative and aggressive financial approaches. “Here we try to manage that. We project clients’ cash flows through age 90. We plan for good times and bad and figure out how they can completely live off short-term assets—in the case of a downturn—and let longer-term investments heal. Clients’ anxiety has decreased immensely because of this approach,” she says.