Richard Mesirow on Being a ‘Holistic Wealth Manager’

Richard Mesirow has sponsored a musical premiere at Ravinia that sold out, similar to a Westminster Abbey performance (in which Queen Elizabeth II participated), and he counts Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a friend and is senior managing director of the highly successful financial firm that bears his family name – Mesirow Financial (MF).

But, what is most impressive about Mesirow is his ability to listen well, truly care, and be responsive to individuals who are fortunate enough to cross his path – and that Mesirow makes sure his path crosses those who most need and deserve help.

These traits – listening, caring, helping – also earned Mesirow his favorite unofficial title: “Holistic Wealth Manager.” They most certainly helped him grow MF, too. Mesirow joined the firm his father founded as the 10th employee in 1960. MF now has over 1,100 employees in 26 offices across six countries.

Mesirow works primarily out of the Highland Park office in order to be close to his home with second wife (of 25 years), Sara, and their blended family of five married children and 15 grandchildren, who all live in Chicagoland. However, Mesirow serves clients across the country and around the world.

‘Holistic Wealth Manager’

During an interview in Mesirow’s light-filled and organized office, it becomes apparent that his approach to wealth management not only helps clients grow their investment portfolios, but also assists in solving their most pressing personal problems. He provides three rapid-fire examples of his “holistic” approach.

1. Divorce Counselor

Some years ago, during a visit in her San Francisco home, a married client asked Mesirow if she could afford a kitchen renovation. He responded, “Yes.” A year later, when visiting her again, the same exchange occurred. During a third visit, Mesirow asked, “Why haven’t you renovated your kitchen yet?” That’s when she shared that she wasn’t sure she wanted to stay married.

Mesirow not only helped with the divorce, he also helped her with the mortgage for a new house, where she now lives with a new mate. Her new man hired Mesirow as an advisor, too.

2. Employment Counselor

Another client is Mormon and lives in Oregon with her large, close-knit family. When her daughter married a man whom she believed would have limited job options, the client asked Mesirow for help. Because he listened well to the woman’s new son-in-law, Mesirow learned that the young man was actually a highly-decorated veteran. With that information, Mesirow not only transformed his client’s perspective, he also improved family dynamics and guided the young man to excellent and satisfying work.

3. Learning Disability Advisor

The same client has a grandchild who was diagnosed with autism. Their Oregon community had few resources to help, so Mesirow quickly connected the family to outstanding institutions in Chicago and elsewhere. This eventually led to a second opinion from a doctor who discovered the boy had a hearing impairment, not autism. Within two months, the boy was hearing and speaking.

Equal parts psychologist, connected advisor and financial guru, Mesirow is always just looking to help. Who wouldn’t want a financial advisor with this much heart and ability to help?

Connections That Help

Mesirow revels in his ability to connect good people and good opportunities. As he frequently states, “It’s not just what you know, it’s who you know, too.”

The Westminister Abbey and Ravinia premieres were the result of an opportunity to help launch “Annelies: The Choral Setting of the Diary of Anne Frank,” which he says, “just fell into my hands.” Mesirow used this production and similar experiences to be a matchmaker and “opportunity grower” for a long list of Chicago nonprofits, including the Chicago Children’s Choir, Lincoln Trio, Harris Theater, Ravinia and Chicago’s Amandla Charter School. Mesirow’s eyes tear up as he describes some of the opportunities and remarkable connections.

The Rolfe Pancreatic Cancer Foundation, which Mesirow helped found 18 years ago in memory of a close friend, is another example of his strategically connecting all the right dots to grow something great. Likewise, Mesirow’s work with Cedille Records, which promotes the work of emerging classical musicians, led to his friendship with Justice Ginsberg.

Mesirow Financial Presents – A ‘Doing Good is Good for Business’ Model

Almost three years ago, Mesirow helped launch a concert series in the acoustically superb auditorium at the MF headquarters. The concerts serve as fundraisers for participating music nonprofits, and they epitomize his ability to create what I call powerful virtuous circles.

He initially hosted the annual Cedille gala at the MF auditorium. It was so successful that MF now underwrites an annual evening series called “Mesirow Financial Presents.” That means that the nonprofits receive 100 percent of ticket sales.

The nonprofits raise easy money and grow new audiences for talented performers. MF grows a philanthropic community, while making good use of its remarkable space. Mesirow gets to do what he loves best – connect people for the greater good. It’s a win/win/win.

Make It Better is proud to be a media sponsor of the Rolfe Foundation gala on Oct. 17. We also encourage you to attend the final 2015 Mesirow Financial Presents concert on Oct. 19, which will feature DePaul University Music School students and alumni performing “A Grand Night For Singing.”