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February 15, 2021
Nearly a straight shot 69 miles northwest of his hometown of Alexander City, Alabama, sits the home office of Nowlin and Associates, where Lee Williams, WMCP®, and the team spend their days monitoring how financial markets impact clients' goals-based plans.
Yet, Williams’ journey to the wealth management firm specializing in investments, insurance planning, and financial planning took a far more circuitous route – aspirations that came with a prestigious collegiate golf career at Auburn, a victory that vindicated the lengthy days spent “rounding the edges of the circle,” as his swing coach liked to preach, a taste of competition at the pinnacle of the sport on the PGA Tour, and a chronic back injury that required a dramatic course-correction.
Williams’ win at the Web.com Tour’s 2012 Mexico Open – at a golf course in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato, some 1,550 miles from Alexander City – was metaphoric of the nomadic journey many professionals take with the game, a suitcase-and-continental-breakfast lifestyle required to chase the dream.
Reaching the winners’ circle led to PGA Tour status – a card Williams held for two seasons, before his journey was derailed by a bad back that limited his ability to play without pain.
From One Beginning to Another
Williams never put pressure on himself as a junior player, understanding it was just the first step in his golfing career. That perspective – underlying his immense skill and drive – helped him land a golf scholarship at Auburn, where he earned three-time All-American status and helped the Tigers capture the 2002 SEC championship.
Ten years later, he lifted the trophy on the Web.com Tour, and with it shook off the immense pressure that came with carving out a sustainable golf career. Yet, just months later, he felt a twinge in his back following a gym session at an event in Knoxville, Tennessee. What started as nagging pain grew sharper, more persistent, and eventually chronic.
Despite his best efforts on the PGA Tour in 2013 and 2014, Williams’ physical limitations curbed his ability to compete, and after taking a major medical exemption in 2014, he left the game he’d pursued since childhood.
Despite this, Williams never considered himself to be at a crossroads. He took his studies seriously at Auburn, earning accolades as a two-time Academic All-American with a degree in Economics. “That balance between golf and school was a crash course in time management,” Williams said. “It also meshed with my mentality to be the best I could at everything, giving energy and effort on the course and in the classroom.”
Williams parlayed his academic accomplishments and affinity for finance into an opportunity as a financial advisor.
“I always had something else other than golf that I enjoyed,” Williams said. “So, I naturally jumped at the opportunity to transition to a career in financial services.”
Williams approaches the business, and the value he provides to his clients, with the same mentality that he approached his career hitting fairways and greens. “It’s all about creating a network of peers to grow your skills and forging relationships with your clients, understanding their needs, and then honing my skills to meet those needs,” he said.
His client-first mindset is rooted in his experiences at the Walker Cup, a team amateur competition between the United States and Great Britain and Ireland. Williams played on two teams alongside current PGA Tour players Bill Haas, Ryan Moore, J.B. Holmes, and Bryan Harman.
“Golf is an individual sport, except in these team events, where it’s about something far bigger than you,” Williams noted. “In financial services, it’s the same way. It’s not about you, it’s about your clients, their family, their business, their legacy. It’s an immense and humbling responsibility.”
How The College’s WMCP® Program Changed The Game
Williams is accustomed to taking advantage of opportunities – a fortuitous bounce off a tree into the fairway during his golf career, and an open invitation to take The American College of Financial Services’ Wealth Certified Management Professional® (WMCP®) program to expand his applied knowledge.
“I got an email from Ameritas Growth Leaders (AGL) – a study group for financial professionals in their first decade in the business, and Ameritas was offering to pay for our continued education through The College’s WMCP® program. They wanted to invest in me, and I wanted to invest in myself and my clients,” Williams said.
After doing his due diligence, Williams was sold. “I liked everything I saw – the program offers an expansive view of wealth management that’s more than portfolios; it’s managing accounts, tax issues, and estate planning. I was ready to go,” he said.
Despite running into a testing delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Williams is now a Wealth Management Certified Professional®, growing his skills in “tax management and a whole lot more.”
“I learned so much about putting certain investments into certain accounts for tax efficiency,” Williams said. “I now grasp estate planning at a foundational level, and I understand its value. I’m now connected to an estate planner and sit in those meetings with my clients. I’ve identified greater growth and value possibilities that truly enhance the potential for greater client outcomes and business growth.”
As Williams looks to the future, he holds his WMCP® credential proudly – just as he held that trophy in 2012. It’s indicative of the beginning of a new career journey, one that brings him great pride and satisfaction.
“I like to follow Wayne Gretzky’s words, ‘I skate to where the puck is going, not where it’s been,’” he said. “Just building portfolios is the past, but WMCP® has set me up to expand my expertise and my services now and in the future.”