People call Greg McElheny the big guy with the bow tie — characteristics he says leave an impression on clients, which is important in the world of financial advising. The 35-year-old New York native is a father of three and works as a managing associate at Centennial State Financial (formerly New England Financial). After living and working in Florida for more than a decade, McElheny moved to the state in 2011 and now calls Colorado Springs home. Just weeks before his firm’s move to the Wells Fargo building downtown, he told us about his work, his kids, what he does for fun and what excites him about taking part in the local business community.
Can you tell me where you are from and about your professional background?
I was born and raised in Syracuse, N.Y., and when I turned 18 I moved to West Palm Beach, Fla., to go to school at Palm Beach Atlantic University. I graduated from there with a degree in theology and business, moved to Orlando and started my financial practice with American Express Financial Advisors.
How did you come to live in the Springs?
I have a passion for international orphan care and through the process of adopting a child from Liberia, West Africa, I got involved with an organization out of Palmer Lake called Children’s Hope Chest and became very good friends with the CEO. They ultimately asked me to come and run their Africa operations, and I did that for about a year before getting back into financial services with New England Financial.
What does your role at Centennial entail?
My role primarily is to help grow and lead the Colorado Springs office. I do work with our Denver office as well, and some of our outlying offices, but my focus is Colorado Springs and attracting experienced advisor talent and new financial advisors in our practice.
Are you actively involved in the local young professional community?
I’m involved in a couple of different ways. Locally, I’m the president of our National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors — the Colorado Springs chapter. Through that, we have an organization called the Young Advisors Team, which partners advisors and attorneys and gets them networking together.
Do you think this environment is conducive to YP success?
I think Colorado Springs is an interesting business climate compared to the others that I have worked in. … I do believe there is a strong undercurrent of young professionals who are driving business growth and business change here, and I think as a community, we are a fairly young one and that presents a lot of opportunities for not only financial services, but every other industry to grow and develop here. The beauty of Colorado Springs, I think, helps to attract business as well.
Do you plan to stay in Colorado Springs?
Colorado Springs is home: My family is here, my kids go to school here, my business is here, so this is home.
What do you do in your spare time?
A couple of my favorite pastimes are hiking with the kids, the dogs and with my girlfriend Sarah. I really enjoy just exploring Colorado and driving.
One of my favorite ways of seeing Colorado is just driving through the mountains, taking the backroads and using the four-wheel drive and all of that fun stuff. I also love golf.
What excites you most about your work?
I think that I have the best of both worlds, because I get to work with experienced financial advisors and really help them grow their businesses, which I really enjoy.
In addition to that, I get to work with individuals and small business owners and help them plan for their futures.
I think there is a gap in the market where a lot of folks are very product-centered in their approach to financial services, but we are really advice-centered.
Does your degree in theology affect the work you do?
I try never to impose my belief system on anyone and I try not to bring my theological views to the table, but I think that it’s always underlying: It’s part of who you are, and I think that comes out naturally. Having a degree in theology doesn’t play directly into the business world or the world of financial planning and advice, and it shouldn’t, but it definitely plays into the relationship world. Just like most businesses ours is a relationship business, and when people know that you care, it makes a difference.