Jillian Nel, CFP®, CDFA, is the director of financial planning for Inscription Capital, LLC. She is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional (CFP®) and a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA). Ms. Nel and her team provide comprehensive financial planning and risk management to individual clients, business owners & their families. She also provides consulting and advisory services for qualified retirement plans to business owners, plan administrators, and participants. Ms. Nel has a passion for education and the empowerment it provides to both clients and the general public. She regularly speaks at financial planning seminars and employee educational meetings on how goal setting and risk management is essential for success in any financial planning scenario.
In 2017, Ms. Nel became the academic director for the CFP® Certification Education Program within the Glasscock School at Rice University. This course prepares candidates to sit for the CFP® exam. Ms. Nel has also served as an instructor of Retirement Planning & Employee Benefits for the program since 2013 and continues to teach on a regular basis. Ms. Nel has the Series 7 & 66 securities license, as well as the Series 24, general securities principal, and is licensed as a General Lines Insurance Agent for the State of Texas.
Ms. Nel received a B.S. in business administration from the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She earned the CFP® designation in 2011 and became a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst in 2015. Ms. Nel's charitable efforts include membership in the Corporate Guild for Dress for Success Houston. She is the vice president of the board of directors for the Women’s Fund. She is also a board member for the HER Foundation that supports the Women's Fund and an advisory board member the Periwinkle Foundation, all local Houston charities.
Associate Academic Program Director
Andrea K. Freedman, CFP® , is an independent financial advisor, where she conducts in-depth reviews of each client’s financial circumstances and goals. She has more than 25 years of experience specializing in financial planning and asset management. Her expertise extends into areas of retirement and education planning, asset allocation, investment selection and risk tolerance analysis. She has NASD Series 7, 63, 65 and 31 licenses. Ms. Freedman holds a bachelor’s in communications from The University of Texas at Austin.
Course instructors for Rice University's CFP® Certification Education program are experienced practitioners in the financial planning industry and have met Rice University's standard of quality.*
James C. Abel, MSM, CFP®, ChFC®, CLU®, CRPC®, AEP®, AIF®, is a certified financial planner professional and a registered investment advisor representative with Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. in Saint George, Utah. Mr. Abel works primarily with members of the medical and dental community, providing comprehensive financial planning and investment management services. He started in the financial services industry in 1990 after serving eight years in the U.S. Navy as a Naval Air crewman. Professionally, he has worked in the banking, wire house, now the independent channel, and has seen the application of financial planning from several different modalities. An advocate of education, Mr. Abel holds several advanced designations along with FINRA Series 6, 7, 24, 63, and 65 licenses as well as life, health, and disability insurance licenses from multiple states.
He earned his B.S. finance from the University of Phoenix, and his M.S. management with an emphasis in leadership from The American College. Much of his education he received online, so he is very comfortable in the online environment. Mr. Abel has served in many civic and industry leadership positions and enjoys giving back to the community and his profession whenever possible.
Joseph R. Birkofer, CFP®, is the principal and founder of Legacy Asset Management in Houston. A consultant to individual and corporate clients for the evaluation of retirement plans, Mr. Birkofer also works with plan sponsors to improve communications, monitor investment performance and streamline administration. As a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and a Registered Investment Advisor, he helps clients concentrate on financial planning and asset allocation. Prior to founding Legacy Asset Management, he served as a trust officer with Texas Commerce Bank.
An active member of the community, Mr. Birkofer serves on local boards including The Periwinkle Foundation and The Houston Society of Financial Service Professionals. He has been published in or provided commentary for the Houston Chronicle, the Houston Business Journal, Benefits & Compensation Solutions and local Houston radio and television shows. Mr. Birkofer earned his bachelor’s degree in foreign service from Georgetown University and his M.B.A from The University of Texas at Austin. He has several securities licenses, including the NASD Series 7, 24, 27, 63 and 65, as well as various insurance licenses.
Christy Brown, CFP®, CLU, is a Certified Financial Planner® and Chartered Life Underwriter® with over 10 years of experience in comprehensive financial planning. She specializes in helping successful financial advisors incorporate insurance‐based solutions into their practice. As vice president of National Accounts, Ms. Brown works closely with financial advisors and their clients, seeking first to understand the clients’ needs, then communicating even the most complex solutions in terms everyone can understand and feel comfortable with. Ms. Brown and her team understand the importance of the advisor‐client relationship, and pride themselves on delivering a high level of service as if each client were their own. As a trusted team member, she brings innovative ideas and solutions for high net worth clients seeking strategies beyond investing, such as minimizing income and estate tax, creditor protection, business succession planning, and wealth transfer, as well as disability and long-term care planning.
Ms. Brown is a member of the Financial Planning Association; the Houston Estate and Financial Forum; and the Houston Business and Estate Planning Council, an exclusive, invitation‐only professional organization. Ms. Brown is involved in her local community and supports The Women’s Home and The Women’s Resource of Greater Houston. She holds a B.S. in business administration and a B.A. in French.
Matt E. Caire, CFA, CFP®, CMT, joined Houston Trust Company in 2014. As senior vice president of investments, he is responsible for managing approximately $446 million in fixed-income investments, performing equity manager due diligence and constructing the asset allocation for client accounts. Mr. Caire previously was a portfolio manager with Patriot Wealth Management, where he managed approximately $500 million in fixed-income investments. Prior to that, Mr. Caire was a research associate and Bond Trader with Linscomb & Williams. Mr. Caire has served on the Board of Directors of the Financial Planning Association of Houston, for which he was also the symposium director for 2014 and 2015 and was the education director in 2012. He has also served as the co-chair for the Houston CMT Association and he is a member of the CFA Institute and the CFA Society of Houston.
Mr. Caire holds a bachelor’s degree in business marketing-cum laude from Texas State University and a master’s of finance degree from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business. He is also a CFA® charterholder, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) professional and a Chartered Market Technician (CMT). Mr. Caire serves as an arbitrator for FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) and is an Eagle Scout.
Andrea K. Freedman, CFP®, see instructor biography above.
W. Ben Keel, III, CFP®, ChFC®, CFE®, CLU®, is a financial advisor with Financial and Insurance Consultants. He was named as one of the Top Financial Planners in the Nation by Consumers’ Research Council of America in 2008 and 2009, and he was listed as a 2010 five-star Wealth Manager® by Texas Monthly. Mr. Keel is currently serving on the Board of Directors of the Houston Financial Planning Association. He is also a Certified Financial Educator teaching financial education classes through the non-profit, Heartland Institute of Financial Education, for companies that would like to offer non-biased financial education to their employees. In addition, he teaches financial literacy classes to all branches of the United States Military as well as government employees. In the past, he has been a financial planner with American Express Financial Advisors, Fidelity Investments and his own firm. Mr. Keel served in the US Army and Texas Army National Guard branch detailed Airborne Infantry. He holds a B.B.A. in finance from Stephen F. Austin State University.
Brian La Rocca, CFP®, ChFC, has over 20 years of experience in the financial services industry. He holds both the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and Chartered Financial Consultant Designations. In addition to these distinguished designations, Brian has obtained the Series 9/10, 7, 66, 31, 26, 6, 63, and Texas Group 1 Life & Health Insurance license. Mr. La Rocca is currently vice president and resident director (Producing Branch Manager) for Merrill Lynch where he manages a team of advisors & associates. He is a Senior Financial Advisor and has earned the Merrill Lynch designation of Senior Portfolio Advisor. Mr. La Rocca and his team provide an end-to-end “high touch” wealth management experience for his clientele. Prior to working as an advisor and leader in High Net-Worth Wealth Management, Mr. La Rocca was a top producing financial center manager, where he successfully led multiple centers and associates.
Earlier in his career, Mr. La Rocca served as classroom training leader for Bank of America in New York, specializing in the wealth management and sales leadership curriculums. To this day, he still keeps in contact and serves as a mentor to many of his former associates. Mr. La Rocca received his bachelor’s of business administration from Hofstra University’s Frank G. Zarb School of Business in New York.
Michael Middendorf, MS, CFP®, MPAS℠, CRPC®, is the regional director of client services for Alpha Cubed Investments and serves on the Investment Committee. He has been in the financial services industry since 1995 and earned designations as a certified financial planner, master planner of advanced studies and Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor®. Mr. Middendorf has worked for Merrill Lynch, Ameriprise Financial and TD Waterhouse. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Kentucky and an M.S. from the College for Financial Planning in Colorado Springs. Mr. Middendorf holds FINRA Series 7,63,66,9 and 10 licenses as well as various insurance licenses. He served on the board of directors for the Houston Financial Planning Association form 2013 to 2015. He enjoys coaching youth sports non-profit organizations such as the South Montgomery YMCA and Nemesis Athletics.
Jim Munchbach, CFP®, CLU®, ChFC®, CPCU®, is founder and CEO at Family Wealth Builder of Houston and director of wealth management at Tremont Street Advisors. Mr. Munchbach has been teaching personal finance at the Bauer College of Business at University of Houston since 2012. Mr. Munchbach and his team are dedicated to helping individual investors, families, and business owners manage the risk and opportunity of everyday life, recover from the unexpected, and realize their highest purpose.
Mr. Munchbach is the author of three books related to financial life planning, is a lifetime member of the Christian Coaching Network, and a non-active previously qualified member of Kingdom Advisors.
Ali A. Nasser, CFP®, ChFC®, AEP®, is the principal of Altruista LLC, an independent, comprehensive wealth-planning firm providing specialized services to high-net-worth business owners, corporate executives and professional athletes. Mr. Nasser utilizes a unique planning process that integrates tax and legal components to an overall financial plan. The core areas of his practice are in estate, investment and retirement planning. He holds a degree in finance from the University of Houston and is CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) practitioner, chartered financial consultant and an accredited estate planner. Mr. Nasser is a member of MDRT Top of the Table, Financial Planning Association, AALU, Strategic Coach, and Valmark Securities.
Jillian Nel, CFP®, CDFA, see instructor biography above.
Kathy Oakley, MBA, CPA, and CFP®, is the former director of planning for the Houston Office of Lincoln Financial Advisors. Ms. Oakley served as an internal resource to planners associated with Lincoln Financial Group and Sagemark Consulting. As director of planning, Ms. Oakley was responsible for financial plans in the Texas and Louisiana region and contributed to development of plans by the National Planning Group for Planners and Advisors across the United States. Prior to joining Lincoln Financial Advisors, Oakley (Hartin) served as vice president and chief financial planning officer with Kanaly Trust Company. An active member of the community, Ms. Oakley is a member of the Financial Planning Association and served as chair and past chair of the Council on Education for the CFP Board of Standards. She is a former board member of the Pearland Economic Development Corporation, and former member of the Members in Industry Committee of the Houston Chapter of CPAs. Ms. Oakley earned her B.S. degree in finance and her MBA from the University of New Orleans. She holds a CPA license and CFP® certification, and formerly held a Texas Insurance license and various securities licenses, including the NASD Series 7 and 63.
Ben Simiskey, CFP®, CPA/PFS, is the owner and founder of PLS Advisory, LLC – a fee-only financial planning and investment management firm. He focuses on providing wealth management solutions to oil and gas professionals in the greater Houston area. He has been a CFP® since 2007, and a licensed Certified Public Accountant since 2004.
Brian G. Tees, J.D., LL.M., is an attorney with the law firm of Ewing & Jones, PLLC, a full-service commercial law firm located in Houston, and he is Board Certified in Estate Planning and Probate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Mr. Tees focuses his practice on representing individuals in all forms of estate planning, and individuals and businesses in a wide variety of commercial transactions. He regularly helps his clients form comprehensive estate plans, which may include tax planned wills, trusts (revocable/irrevocable), family limited partnerships, and general business succession planning. Mr. Tees also prepares Federal Estate Tax Returns (IRS Form 706), including returns for taxable estates, and Federal Gift Tax Returns (IRS Form 709). He holds a J.D. from the University Of Texas School Of Law, an LL.M. (taxation) from the University of Houston, and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Texas A&M University
Thais Amaral Tellawi founded Amaral Tellawi Law, in Houston, a boutique family-owned law firm representing domestic and international individuals, families, and the owners of privately-held and family-owned companies in the areas of estate planning, business, and real estate. Ms. Tellawi enjoys educating people about estate planning and seeing her clients achieve peace of mind. She has spoken at more than 40 seminars on topics related to her areas of practice, including trust and estate planning, wills, probate, estate administration and guardianship.
Prior to her legal career, Ms. Tellawi served her clients as a financial advisor; helping them develop appropriate financial strategies. This unique and multi-faceted knowledge of clients’ financial needs, along with a firm belief in estate planning education, helps Ms. Tellawi stand out to clients as a trusted advisor who speaks a language that people understand. She takes pride in helping clients successfully traverse the different challenges in wealth generation, wealth growth, and wealth preservation. She is guided by the principle that trust and estate planning are significant undertakings, ultimately for the benefit of those people and causes we love. We help our clients do it for them.
Ms. Tellawi received her bachelor’s degree in corporate and organizational communication from the University of Houston and her Juris Doctorate from Texas Southern University. She serves on the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Leadership Committee.
Ms. Tellawi was selected by her peers to be included in Houstonia Magazine’s December 2016 issue as a Top Lawyer in the areas of Wills, Trusts and Estates. Ms. Tellawi was previously nominated for the 40 Under 40 Awards produced by the Houston Business Journal. In 2015, Amaral Tellawi Law was a finalist in the running for Texas Family Business of the Year by the Baylor University’s Institute for Family Business.
Phillip Turboff, CFP®, CPA, is the managing member of Bergeron, Turboff, & Co, LLC, an accounting firm, and collaborates with Bergeron Wealth Management Co., LLC, a financial planning firm. Mr. Turboff graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s in accounting, finance and management information systems. He also received a master’s of taxation from the University of Denver and is a graduate of CFP® Certification Education Program from Rice University’s Glasscock School of Continuing Studies. After beginning his public accounting career at Grant Thorton, and later, Johnson Sprague & Co, LLC. Mr. Turboff has over 20 years of expertise in tax and estate planning.
Jennifer N. Williams, CFP®, is the financial planning manager at Trustmark. She has more than ten years 10 years of experience in comprehensive financial planning. Ms. Williams holds FINRA Series 7, 63 and 65 securities licenses as well as the General Lines license in Texas. She received a bachelor’s in science from Xavier University of Louisiana and is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional (CFP®). Ms. Williams is a member of the Financial Planning Association. She serves her local community being a member of the Junior League of Houston.
David Zahn, CFP®, CPA, is an assistant vice president and client relationship officer at Sentinel Trust Company and is responsible for the delivery of investment, planning, fiduciary and family office services to a select group of ultra-high net worth families. Prior to joining Sentinel, he worked in public accounting with a focus on taxation for high net-worth clients and closely held businesses. Mr. Zahn earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston. He is also a graduate of the CFP® Certification Education Program from Rice University’s Glasscock School of Continuing Studies and holds his CFP® license. Mr. Zahn currently serves as board chairman for the Young Catholic Professionals of Houston and is a two-time Ironman finisher.
*Licensed but not practicing.
Instructors are subject to change.
Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, and CFP (with flame logo)®, which it awards to individuals who successfully complete initial and ongoing certification requirements.