Richard S. Brown
Firm: JNBA Financial Advisors
City: Bloomington, Minn.
Years as an advisor: 15
Years with current firm: 15
AUM: $500 million
About two years ago, at a banquet where he received an award for his work on the board of the Minnesota Special Olympics, Richard Brown met the cofounder of the Starkey Hearing Foundation and CEO of Starkey Hearing Technologies. Brown was fascinated by the group, which provides hearing aids to underserved communities around the world, and much to his surprise, was invited to go on the next seven-day mission to the Dominican Republic, St. Kitts and elsewhere—leaving the next day. Brown cleared his schedule and, in the morning, he left with the team, the first of 17 trips he’s been on since then to 12 countries—from Haiti to Uganda.
“I’ve been able to look hundreds of people in the eye and personally turn on their hearing aids, and watch them hear for the first time,” Brown says. He recalls a recent trip to Uganda, where a 12-year-old boy, who had lost his hearing the year before, was able to regain some ability with the help of a powerful hearing aid. “Everyone in that room was crying,” he says. Brown is now president of the board of the Starkey Hearing Foundation.
But when it comes to giving back, that’s only the tip of the iceberg for Brown. He has spent all of his 15 years as head of JNBA Financial Advisors deeply involved in one volunteer activity after another. Brown’s wife Kim, who became president of the firm about four years ago, helps him arrange his schedule and runs day-to-day operations. His long-term, personal goal is to spend about 70 percent of his time on charitable activities.
Not long after taking over the helm of the firm, which his mother founded 35 years ago, he started the Michael King Scholarship in honor of his influential fourth grade teacher in his hometown of Lakewood, N.J., to give college tuition to students who, he says, “were C students like me who needed a little push.” He kept it going until about eight years ago.
About 10 years ago, while coaching a softball game between the local firefighters and police, he heard a Special Olympics athlete speak. “It really struck a chord,” he says.
Brown and his wife decided to help start a summer camp, where 150 Special Olympics athletes could spend three days each summer. Through local Polar Plunges, in which Brown and volunteers jump in the icy Lake Calhoun, he raised about $30,000, which was used to cover one-third of the first year’s expenses. Since then, Brown and his firm have raised about $150,000 for the Special Olympics of Minnesota through their involvement in the Plunges.