Photo by Duane Tinkey
Photo by Duane Tinkey

Mark Stadtlander has added CEO to his title of president of Foster Group Inc., the West Des Moines-based investment advisory and wealth management firm that he’s been with since 1990. The firm is best-known in the medical community; about half its clients are physicians. Founded by Jerry Foster, Foster Group manages approximately $1.25 billion in assets. The firm recently added three more advisers, increasing its staff to about 30.

What’s driving growth for the firm?

Traditionally, we expand when things aren’t good so we’re positioned to be able to handle the flow of activity (when the economy improves). But we have a desire to grow, we have a good client base, and what we’re attempting to do is make sure we put the right people in place right now to create capacity.

Tell me about these latest leadership changes.

I think Jerry (Foster) has had a good visioning from the beginning, that we’re trying to build an organization that’s going to outlast any one of us. We believe we have two or three different generations in place so that there will be a continuation of business. Over the next five to 10 years, there will be a transition to new leadership, so my movement to CEO is in conjunction with Jerry moving away from CEO to the board and helping to position other people to run the company. I don’t have any expectation to leave for a while.

What do you view as some of your most significant accomplishments with the firm?

I’ve always considered Jerry to be a good mentor. Pretty much from the day I started, he gave me an opportunity to make decisions 50-50 with him. So I think one of my major accomplishments is that I’ve (continued) that with the other people we’ve brought in the firm. We work as a team; we have tremendous continuity and consistency in our deliverables and the people we have. Once we’ve put someone in front of a client full time, we’ve never had anyone leave our firm. So I think our ability to manage and help the people who work here has been a tremendous benefit for both the company and our clients.

What’s your philosophy on investing and wealth management?

We take a very academic approach to the way we invest. We don’t see any benefit to market timing or security selection; we believe that markets in and of themselves are efficient. We’ve spent the last 20-plus years creating an investment solution that captures the efficiencies of those and continues to reduce the cost so that more money ends up in the pocketbook of the investor.

Do the political gyrations in Washington shake investors’ confidence?

You often hear the comment, “It’s different this time.” We’ve lived through a lot of those “It’s different this time” situations with consistent deliverables on our investment process and have obtained successful results. There’s nothing earth-shaking up to this point that’s made us change our investment philosophy. And for 20-plus years, it’s worked.

How do you get involved in the community?

My involvement in the community really comes through the company; at least two times a year we’ll take a half-day where we’ll do a focused community activity, whether it’s Hope Ministries, Meals from the Heartland or Ruth Harbor. We’ll get 20 or 30 people for four hours and put some concentrated efforts there.

You live on a farm near Winterset. Is that how you grew up?

I actually grew up in a real small community in north central Iowa. Quite a few years ago, I participated in Strategic Coach, a national strategic coaching program, and one of the goals I set was to own a farm. So 16 years ago, we bought a reasonable-sized acreage. Then we decided it would be nice to have a little more land, so now we live in the heart of Madison County on about 100 acres. I’m what you would refer to as a country farmer. That means I watch my farmer do the work and live in the country.