Jeff Dobyns of Southwestern Investment Group: “Ask them how they are paid”

Make sure that they are following the fiduciary standard when providing financial planning services. The fiduciary standard states that an advisor must put their clients’ interest above their own and that they must follow the very best course of action, regardless of how it affects them personally or their income. Therefore, choosing an advisor who […]

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Make sure that they are following the fiduciary standard when providing financial planning services. The fiduciary standard states that an advisor must put their clients’ interest above their own and that they must follow the very best course of action, regardless of how it affects them personally or their income. Therefore, choosing an advisor who follows the fiduciary standard when providing financial planning services ensures that he or she will be taking care of you and making unbiased recommendations. Your financial goals should always come first.

As part of our series about what one should look for when hiring a financial planner or adviser, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeff Dobyns.

Jeff Dobyns has enjoyed extraordinary success providing comprehensive financial planning to retirees, entrepreneurs, entertainers, and executives by taking the time to truly know his clients, understand their goals and develop and execute their ongoing, strategic, financial plans.

Jeff earned his finance degree in business administration from Ohio University and has held executive positions with financial planning firms for more than two decades. After serving as Vice President of Investments of Lykins Financial Group, CPA’s, in his hometown of Westerville, Ohio, Jeff moved to Nashville, Tennessee to found Southwestern Investment Group in 2002. As its President, Jeff has led Southwestern Investment Group to remarkable success, holding the distinction of being one of Raymond James’ top independent contractor offices, and a member of its Chairman’s Council*, every year since 2008.

Jeff’s true calling, however, is working directly with clients, helping them plan their financial futures in a manner that aligns with their values and helps provide them with financial confidence. To help meet these goals, Jeff leads the team of Dobyns Wealth Group and also incorporates the expertise of attorneys, accountants and other professionals to provide quality financial, tax and estate planning, and ongoing asset and risk management.

As independent advisory businesses, neither Southwestern Investment Group nor Dobyns Wealth Group hold any assets on behalf of clients, with such custodial and brokerage services being provided by Raymond James. As a leader in wealth management, Raymond James has an exemplary reputation and today serves more than $930 billion in client assets through 8,200 financial advisors worldwide (as of 9/30/2020).

In order to meet the highest standards of professionalism and ethics in the industry, Jeff is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM practitioner**, a Chartered Life Underwriter and a Chartered Financial Consultant. Jeff is also a participant of the Dave Ramsey SmartVestor program.

Jeff’s work and personal life are both guided by his faith and the Christian principles of honesty, generosity, compassion, and integrity. Accordingly, Jeff devotes considerable time and resources to a number of causes, including serving as a board member of Men of Valor, a prison ministry and mentoring program. Jeff is also on the advisory board of The Signatry of Middle Tennessee, which works with families to increase their charitable giving to their favorite causes. Lastly, Jeff is an Advisory Board Member for Halftime Institute, an organization that coaches marketplace leaders to discern and engage in their life purpose. He is a past board member of Porter’s Call, a Nashville charity that provides free counseling for musicians and their families, and the Martha O’Bryan Center, which empowers those in poverty to transform their lives through work, education, employment, and fellowship.

Learn more at

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know you’ a bit more. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Thank you for having me! When I was 10 years old, my family used to drive around and look at houses with the Amortization book and we would calculate how much you would have to pay for the house, the rent, and how quickly you could pay off the debt. I have always been fascinated with how to grow wealth and, as I got older, that fascination grew into how to pay less taxes and how to help people achieve their retirement goals. Being a financial advisor and financial planner was the only career I aspired to have and after almost two decades, I am still fortunate to do what I do.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I am, thank you for asking. Our team is very passionate about helping people understand the massive power of gifting appreciated assets and the tax avoidance opportunities based on the tax strategies and charitable vehicles used. The ability for people to be generous and help their favorite nonprofits, while also receiving a massive tax deduction by avoiding the capital gains when you gift those assets directly to the charity is a really exciting way to help people give more and pay less taxes.

We have expanded our charitable planning services to inform and empower donors, business owners, ministries, and families to maximize their charitable giving efforts, increase the impact of their gifts, and build multi-generationally generosity. Anything that we can do to help people pay less taxes and gift more to charity is something that motivates us.

So, if you or someone you know is charitably-inclined, I welcome the conversation with our team to explore ways that we can help make donations go further with appreciated assets.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lesson that others can learn from that?

I was fortunate enough to get started in the investment business by partnering with a really successful CPA practice. I recognized that if you can focus on helping people plan wisely and look at all facets of their financial situation, from maximizing their 401k to reducing debt to ensuring their estate plan is as desired, then the financial success of the practice takes care of itself.

So, while this may not be the answer you are looking for, truly, the key to our success has been just focusing on serving our clients really well and being a financial planning team that our clients want to refer to their friends and family.

What three pieces of advice would you give to your colleagues in the finance field to thrive and avoid burnout? Can you give a story or example?

After 20 years of running a company with four young children, I was exhausted. I went through a year-long program called Halftime which followed Bob Buford’s book of moving from success to significance. This really helped me recalibrate and make me realize I was no longer “Superman” — I know that I wasn’t before, but I thought I could do anything and everything. It was at that time that I really focused my need to scale an awesome team of really talented people that can provide advice and service to our clients which has made all of the difference.

So, my three pieces of advice would be:

  1. Get involved with a coaching or mentorship program. I made the decision for the last 20 years that I was going to be in at least one coaching program at all times. My business is up 400% in the last 8 or 10 years, and there are a lot of things that I’ve learned in these coaching programs that have made a huge impact on my business.
  2. Constantly invest in yourself and your business. By that I mean, you have got to spend money on infrastructure, pay people well, incentivize them, spoil them, keep them around, etc. and do not be afraid to hire to allow you to focus primarily on serving clients. This is especially important when looking to scale your business.
  3. Stay curious. Read books and continue learning and crafting your skill. Had I not been open to the Halftime program or still eager to learn being at a low point, who knows where I could be at this point in my career.

Ok. Thank you for all of that. Let’s now move to the core focus of our interview. As an “finance insider”, you know much more about the finance industry than most consumers. If your loved one wanted to hire a financial advisor (not you :-)), which 5 things would you advise them to find out about before committing? Can you give an example or story for each?

  1. Ask trusted friends who are in good financial situations who they would recommend. It is important that you find someone that you can trust and like. There is a quote, “the best compliment you can give is a referral”, so if they are willing to share their positive experience, they most likely value that person or team and think they could also bring you value.
  2. It is really important to find someone that does comprehensive financial planning, rather than simply focusing on selling a product. I believe that picking the correct product that works for you is the easy part. The hard part is the planning. Our team believes that every good plan should keep an eye on taxes, estate planning, investment planning, insurance planning, retirement planning, charitable planning, and more. Just focusing on the investments in a huge mistake because we have had clients pass away with improper beneficiary designations and it costs them millions of dollars of unnecessary taxes or their assets are not titled correctly because no one quarterbacked their estate plan properly. A team to provide comprehensive planning is critical.
  3. Make sure that they are following the fiduciary standard when providing financial planning services. The fiduciary standard states that an advisor must put their clients’ interest above their own and that they must follow the very best course of action, regardless of how it affects them personally or their income. Therefore, choosing an advisor who follows the fiduciary standard when providing financial planning services ensures that he or she will be taking care of you and making unbiased recommendations. Your financial goals should always come first.
  4. Ask them how they are paid. The answer to this question should be straightforward and clear. Your financial advisor is the person you will trust with your assets and look to for sound advice, so it is important that he or she is as transparent as possible about their process.

Speaking of process, determine what their process looks like. Hiring a financial advisor looks different from firm to firm, so asking about an advisor’s process will give you insight into whether their approach works with what you had in mind and your personal situation.

I think most people think that financial advisors are for very wealthy people. This is likely not actually true. Can you explain who would most benefit from hiring a financial advisor and why? Can you give an example?

Anybody and everybody that has a plan to be successful financially needs to get with a professional that has the heart of a teacher to guide them. As financial advisors, we have a responsibility to help provide advice to people that are just getting started but are passion about improving.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I have been extremely fortunate to have a lot of great mentors and people that have poured into me to help me grow over the years. I had an old mentor, Bill Cochran, who was a legendary businessman and philanthropist that always wanted to get together to have me help him raise money for United Way, which was a big focus of his post-retirement. I told him that I would love to get with him if he helped provide me advice on how to build an innovative and comprehensive financial planning practice.

Bill has since passed away, but his passion and generosity were so impressive that I learned a lot from him and I was so grateful to have that time with Bill.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

As I mentioned earlier, I am super inspired to share the message of generosity. I think we are so fortunate to live in the United States and to have the resources, wealth, and standard of living compared to other places around the world, so I am very excited and motivated to encourage other financial advisors and clients to give.

A big component of that is determining with clients how much is enough and what strategies to implement to give most efficiently to their charity of choice. Many people are not aware of the various giving vehicles including real estate, business ownership, land, music catalogs, appreciated stock, etc. that could help them to save huge on taxes and get more money into their church and charity. Everybody wins but the Government!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I can be found on LinkedIn at and our Dobyns Wealth Team pages are on Facebook at and LinkedIn at

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

Jeffrey T. Dobyns, CFP®, CLU, ChFC

President, Southwestern Investment Group

Financial Professional, RJFS

801 Crescent Centre Drive, Suite 600, Franklin, TN 37067 | Direct: 615–861–6102

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