Certified Public Accountant
Certified Financial Planner®
Tom lives in St. Paul with his wife and daughter. He enjoys working in the yard and, as the child of two generations of florists, growing hundreds of flowers every Spring. Tom is also a pretty good woodworker and handy enough to tackle almost any home improvement project. He enjoys following sports, spending time “up north” with his family, hiking, and canoeing (and even building a canoe). But most of the time these days he's a “crazy golf dad” following his high school daughter from course to course.
Tom Irwin brings a combination of career experience, education and professional credentials to the firm that make him uniquely suited for the role of personal wealth advisor. He is a Certified Financial Planner®, CPA, and attorney with substantial experience in all three professions placing him among a fraction of one percent of advisors nationally. Tom draws on his multidisciplinary knowledge and perspective to provide a truly integrated wealth management experience and has advised thousands of clients about countless financial, investment, legal, tax, estate, accounting and business matters over three decades.
With a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Finance, Tom began his career with 3M. He attended law school at the University of Minnesota, graduating with honors. After practicing as a general business attorney with a highly regarded Minneapolis law firm, Tom moved to a large local CPA and consulting firm to serve more long-term, rather than transactional, clients and learn the tax and business consulting business from a practical “nuts and bolts” perspective. There he worked extensively with closely owned businesses and their owners and also provided tax, estate planning, and legal and financial planning advice to a group of high net worth multi-generational St. Paul families. He left large public accounting in 1999 to pursue an opportunity with a private wealth management firm. He cofounded PrairieView Partners in 2007.
"When I was growing up, my parents owned a retail flower store. I saw firsthand, every day, the important decisions they made in their business, the impact of those decisions on our family, and how they relied on the advice of people they trusted. That's why I've built my career to draw on my skills to provide honest and competent advice to help people use their resources to achieve their dreams."
On working with clients…
One of the older CPA/advisors I worked with early in my career frequently pointed out that “…when you choose your advisor you’ve chosen your advice.” That simple truism always stuck with me and I understood it better as I witnessed the positive results of good advice and the negative implications of less than stellar advice, especially in the business context. In the legal and accounting professions there are strict licensing and educational requirements assuring a certain level of competency. But in the investment and financial planning world, it is still, unfortunately, like the “wild wild west” with a dominating “close the sale” mentality. That is why it is so important to me that PrairieView Partners was established differently. We are not sales oriented and we are committed to employing high-level professionals with the education, experience and credentials to do their job with competence, integrity, and pure objectivity.
An integrated perspective…
During my time in the legal and CPA/consulting professions, my recognition of the growing need for integrated cross-disciplinary advice was what ultimately led me to this profession. Since I began my career, huge changes have occurred in the financial/investment world. Self-directed 401(k) plans largely replaced traditional pensions forcing people to become their own "pension" managers. No-load mutual funds (and now ETFs) exploded in popularity. Now, not only must individuals try to understand the mind-boggling range of investment options, they are also responsible for saving and investing for retirement, without much help understanding and managing inter-connected investment, retirement, estate, and tax planning issues.
The financial and investment world has been slow to provide good options for people needing help in multiple areas. When I was working with law and CPA firms, people would ask me for investment and personal financial advice almost every day it seemed. I asked myself where I would send a close friend or family member who needed financial advice. There were plenty of self-described “financial advisors,” and plenty of insurance agents, attorneys, accountants, and tax return preparers. Each would handle their area of expertise, but often without knowing what the others might be recommending. It is, in fact, a lot of work to find a good person in each of these areas and see that they communicate with each other. My ultra-wealthy clients had "family offices" to coordinate the full range of needed services, but there were no models for how needed advice could be efficiently integrated for the vast majority of Americans.
PrairieView Partners is, I believe, uniquely structured to accomplish this vision of client service. Our partners have diverse professional backgrounds as attorneys, CPAs, Certified Financial Planners®, CFA charter holders and investment advisors. We sell no products, are not tied to particular investment companies, and are completely objective in the advice we give. And because we came into the business from different professions, we do not carry the "bias" of any one approach to financial planning, nor any one model into which we force our clients. The result is a collaborative group of advisors that I would recommend to a friend or family member.
Education and professional experience…
I earned my undergraduate degree in Business Administration from Stetson University in Deland, Florida, majoring in Finance and Investments. After a year in production management with 3M, I attended law school at the University of Minnesota, graduating with honors. I joined the Minneapolis law firm Curtin, Mahoney, and Cairns where I advised closely owned businesses and their owners and gained special expertise in mergers and acquisitions, business transition planning, flow-through entities, and other business tax matters. After becoming licensed as a CPA, I moved to Wilkerson, Guthmann, and Johnson, which was the oldest St. Paul-based accounting and advisory firm. During my 11 year tenure there I developed many of the core competencies that form the basis of my skillset to this day. I served as the firm’s lead in-house legal counselor and was responsible for managing a broad spectrum of business and individual client relationships, ranging in scope and size from tax returns, to hundreds of estates and trusts, and to multimillion dollar corporate transactions often involving well-known Minnesota companies. I also played a pivotal role in establishing a formal personal wealth consulting division within the firm.
In 1998 I was approached by the young owners of local investment management and financial planning firm that had separated from Ameriprise and was transitioning from a sales to a consulting model. They were seeking to expand the breadth and depth of advice they could offer to clients. The challenge was appealing and I had a well thought out vision about how financial planning and investment advice could be effectively delivered in what I considered a new wealth management paradigm. So I made the difficult decision to leave my firm to establish a division with this fairly new private advisory company to provide tax compliance and planning services, trust administration, charitable consulting, executive compensation analyses and advice, estate planning and trust/estate administration. I held this role for nine years as the firm experienced unexpected success and grew from managing less than $75 million of portfolio assets to nearly $900 million.
I bring a wide and varied, multidisciplinary background to PrairieView Partners. I work closely with our clients on the full spectrum of their financial planning needs. I'm available to provide advice and counsel to both individuals and businesses on a range of financial matters, including personal financial planning, trust and estate administration, investment strategies, income taxation, estate planning, tax compliance, IRS representation, and business transactions.
My professional memberships include the Minnesota State Bar Association, the American Bar Association, the Minnesota Society of Certified Public Accountants, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, and the American Academy of Attorney-CPAs.
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