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Financial Times rates advisors among tops in US

December 1, 2017
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Kimberly Hammond
Kimberly Hammond. Courtesy Merrill Lynch

A group of West Michigan financial advisors have been ranked among the best in the nation by an industry publication.

Three West Michigan Merrill Lynch advisors — Kimberly Hammond, Brett Howell and Craig Sharp — and a Raymond James advisor — Jeffrey Vander Weele — landed on the third-annual Financial Times "Top 401 Retirement Advisers" list published this fall.

The Financial Times "Top 401 Retirement Advisers" list represents the best professionals in the nation who specialize in advising defined contribution plans, or DC plans, offered by corporate, nonprofit and government employers.


Financial Times and its sister organization, Ignite Research, contacted large U.S. brokerages, independent advisors and other wealth managers to identify qualified applicants.

Applicants were required to advise on at least $50 million in DC plan assets and have at least 20 percent of their client assets in such plans.

The qualifying advisors completed a questionnaire about the nature of their practice and their investment recommendations.

Financial Times used seven key criteria to rank the advisors, including DC assets under management, specialization, growth rate of plans, years of advising experience, industry certifications, participation rate in plans advised and compliance records.

According to the publication, “because each adviser takes a different approach to their practices, the FT '401' list is unranked.”

West Michigan honorees

Kimberly Hammond

Hammond and her team are based in Muskegon and combine their industry knowledge and capabilities to provide a full range of wealth management services to corporate executives and their families.

During her 28-year tenure with Merrill Lynch, Hammond has helped clients integrate their corporate benefits into a long-term financial strategy that focuses on risk management.

She has been recognized on the Financial Times "Top 401 Retirement Advisers" list each year since the list was started.

Hammond has a B.A. in economics from Michigan State University.

Brett Howell

Howell is one of the founding partners of the Grand Rapids-based Howell & Sharp Group at Merrill Lynch.

Since joining Merrill Lynch in 2000, Howell has focused on retirement planning for individuals as well as qualified and nonqualified retirement plans for corporations and nonprofit organizations.

In addition to providing traditional advice and guidance, Howell draws from his experience to help clients pursue their objectives by building and managing custom investment strategies.

Howell has a bachelor’s degree in business marketing from Michigan State University.

Craig Sharp

Sharp focuses on advising individuals, nonprofit organizations, foundations and those planning for retirement on a wide range of investment management issues.

Also a founding partner of the Howell & Sharp Group, he helps clients develop wealth management strategies through a defined process that includes goal definition, portfolio development, risk mitigation, performance measurement, income management, tax minimization and liability management.

He joined Merrill Lynch in 2000.

Sharp has a B.A. from Hope College and two master’s degrees from the University of Michigan.

Jeffrey Vander Weele

Vander Weele is a financial advisor with Grand Rapids-based Blueway Financial Partners of Raymond James.

He advises individuals, families, institutions and corporations on retirement plan consulting for defined contributions plans, as well as investment consulting for defined benefit plans, foundations, endowments and corporate cash accounts.

Originally from Wisconsin, he moved to Michigan to attend Calvin College, where he earned a B.A. in finance in 1987.

In 1990, he completed a master’s degree in accounting and finance from Grand Valley State University.

He also is a Certified Investment Management Analyst through the Wharton School of Business.

Vander Weele has worked at Raymond James since 2011. He became part of Blueway Financial Partners of Raymond James when it launched in 2016.

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