TOPEKA (KSNT) – Advisors Excel was founded in 2005 by Cody Foster, David Callanan, and Derek Thompson. Their goal was to provide a service to independent financial professionals and provide access to a vast array of financial products, training, marketing and support, as well as a culture that many of the nation’s top independent financial professionals look for.
From those humble beginnings, Foster and Callanan have grown Advisors Excel into a budding giant in the financial and investment services industry — employing nearly 900 people, working with more than 500 independent financial advisors, and managing over $19 billion in assets. Advisors Excel has appeared on Fortune Magazine’s Top 100 Best Small and Medium Workplaces for Millennials list and is the only Kansas company to appear on the list.
In 2015, Foster launched AIM Strategies, a private equity company focused on developing downtown Topeka and named Seth Wagoner, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Executive Officer of AIM Strategies.
Foster is a graduate of Washburn University with a degree in mass media with an emphasis in public relations and a minor in marketing.
Davis Callinan holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Washburn University.
Seth Wagoner holds a degree in accounting from Washburn University and an MBA from the University of Kansas.
27 News recently caught up with Foster and Wagoner to discuss their business ventures and their impact on the Topeka community. Below are the questions we asked,
Explain what Advisors Excel does:
“We are coming up on our 20-year anniversary. A lot of people did not know of us for the first five years. We wholesale insurance and investment products to investment advisors. It’s hard to explain but the simplest business in the world,” Foster said.
Where do you see the future of Advisor Excel:
“I tell our team; we have a very bright future. Demographically speaking, there are 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day that work with the type of advisors we support,” Foster said.
How is the current economy affecting Advisors Excel?
“We had our best year we’ve ever had last year, and we are going to set another record this year. We are recruiting new advisors and there are really good opportunities out there and we added a new investment component last year,” Foster said.
Is your industry recession proof?
“The markets were off some last year with interest rates and the volatility has increased but it’s making the insurance side of our business increase in value. We are having a record year on the annuity side of the business because of higher interest rates, but the investment side of our business was off a little bit,” Foster said.
How did your business model change during COVID?
“We literally had to pivot our business model in a weekend. Our Controller, in February 2020, had set us up with Doordash, Uber Eats, and all the delivery services. We were just looking for ways to drive revenue and that became our business model in a weekend. It was extremely tough, but honestly it was a great thing that happened because we learned how to run our businesses better,” Seth Wagoner.
You bought the Gage Center a few years ago, how is the construction coming along?
“It’s pretty much complete, we have about 150 employees now in the center that we moved from our McClure office site. Our original intent was to turn that center into retail space, but we realized we were going to need that for our own growth,” Foster said.
You established AIM Strategies in 2015, can you explain what that company does?
“Aim Strategies is a family-owned private equity company. Our biggest task has been to develop downtown Topeka. We’ve invested well over $60 million in the Cyrus Hotel, The Pennant, Iron Rail and other commercial office properties. We have another restaurant we are constructing at the corner of 8th and Kansas Ave. We are shifting our focus downtown, to housing and other needs. We start businesses, develop new businesses and look to attract some of the best people Topeka has in the hospitality industry,” Wagoner said.
You recently purchased Westridge Mall, what are your plans for the mall?
“First of all, breath some life back into it. Fix the things that need fixed. There’s been a lack of investment in this mall. Relatively speaking, it is in pretty good shape. It’s not rundown. There are some things, the escalators don’t work, the air conditioning is hit or miss, so there are some things we are going to fix. Then, shore up the tenants that are here, give them some certainty on what we are trying to do, create some activity that drives people back into the mall. Be very aggressive in recruiting tenants back into the mall and we want to create some corporate office space here. We have this idea that if we have 500 to 1,000 employees on this campus full-time, it’s very attractive to the retail tenants here,” Foster said.
How do you balance downtown business with the mall business?
“I think malls have killed a lot of downtowns, but I think people are figuring out, there is a place for both. If you look at what we have done downtown and what we want to do here, I don’t think there is a huge conflict with what we want to do here at the mall,” Foster said.
“I know we can support a strong downtown and a strong west side at the same time. What we are going to create are options for people. Maybe they don’t need to go to Lawrence or Kansas City, they can find everything they need here in Topeka. We will be very thoughtful and strategic in what we put in both locations,” Wagoner said.
Giving back to their community:
Advisors Excel continues to give back to their community making annual donations of school supplies to Topeka Public Schools.
Advisors Excel’s ‘Season of Sharing program’, gives back to those in need to help make the holiday season a little brighter. “Season of Sharing is a wonderful opportunity for us to give back to those in need in our community and to help make their holiday season a little brighter.”Tracy Khounsavanh Killough, Director of Community Engagement.
Each quarter, every member of Advisors Excel spends one afternoon volunteering in the community, helping to advance the causes and organizations dedicated to the five key pillars that make up our community engagement efforts, Children and Education, Poverty, Hunger, Financial Literacy and Mental Health.
They have donated to the V Foundation to help combat pediatric cancer. “Advisors Excel headed by Cody Foster and David Callanan, gave us at The V Foundation a golden opportunity to help youngsters in their battle vs. cancer,” said Dick Vitale, legendary sports commentator. “They blew us away with their generosity from their annual event by donating an incredible 1 million dollars that will go for pediatric cancer research through The V Foundation. I simply say the clients and staff of Advisors Excel are awesome baby with a capital A.”
Washburn University has received a gift from Advisors Excel to renovate Henderson Learning Resources Center. “Developing career-ready graduates is vital to a strong workforce in Topeka,” said Foster. “Washburn graduates play an immense role in our success at Advisors Excel. A substantial number of our staff have Washburn degrees, including our Chief Financial Officer, Chief Strategy Officer, President of Advisor Development, Director of Employee Initiatives, Chief Technology Officer, President of Annuity Marketing and General Counsel. We know firsthand how important Washburn University is to the continued growth of Topeka. Making this investment is important to us because we believe it will help attract the brightest and best students to Washburn.”
“Washburn University is the heart of Topeka, and it’s given us the foundation to be successful,” said Co-Founder David Callanan. “We want to ensure that future Ichabods have the building blocks needed to thrive professionally. It is our hope that businesses in the area, including ours, will benefit from this project for years to come.”