Meet the 2020 NextGen Award Winners

Meet the 2020 NextGen Award Winners

The American College of Financial Services
October 28, 2020

Each year, The American College of Financial Services selects five of the brightest up and coming professionals to be awarded the NextGen Financial Services Professional Award. These award winners are people to watch in the coming years as they continue to work on the forefront of the industry, especially during times of turmoil and change.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the world, altering the fabric of society and changing the financial planning landscape in the blink of an eye. Long-standing pillars of business found themselves forced to close down, their employees confined to working from home, as all but the most essential individuals adapted to a system of social distancing.

Next-gen professionals were at the forefront of this dynamic shift, leading efforts to transition traditionally in-person interactions into virtual formats and utilize the technology all around us in new and inventive ways. Above all, their understanding of the resources available at their fingertips helped many veterans of financial services reimagine their approaches to conducting business and has proven invaluable as financial planning continues to survive and thrive in a post-COVID environment.

Get to know the next-gen professionals you should be watching in the coming years as we announce our fifth annual NextGen Financial Services Professional Award winners.


Austin Dean, CFP®, ChFC®, CLU®, RICP®



Austin Dean has been in the financial planning world since 2010, when served as assistant to a financial planner while attending the University of Washington. Upon graduation in 2012, he started his own financial advising practice with the support of a small firm in Bellevue, WA. In 2020, he entered a partnership with Ron and Kristy Geer so they could combine their teams and resources to impact more lives. They currently do business as Geer Financial Group, but will be rolling out a new brand name in 2021 as part of the merger.

Austin and his team provide full-service financial planning, including financial plan creation, investment management, insurance planning, and any ongoing consultations needed to help their clients achieve financial freedom. Austin particularly enjoys working with entrepreneurs, real estate investors, and charitable communities. “By changing the way people interact with money, you can help influence generational change and culture shifts,” he says. “Our firm has been able to help get several hundred thousand dollars to charities this year that changed lives around the world. There are few places where someone can have as much influence as financial professionals do.”


Five Things You Didn’t Know About Austin

  • Favorite hobby: Reading a good fantasy novel or working out (Crossfit and Iron Man triathlete)

  • Favorite quote: “The size of your dreams must always exceed your current capacity to achieve them. If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.” – Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

  • Last meal: Peanut Butter Bacon Burger from Redmond’s Bar and Grill

  • Favorite podcast: Myths and Legends – I love a great story, and this podcast takes you to the roots of classic stories and mythologies, some of which I’ve never heard of, and makes it fun.

  • Favorite superhero: Captain America 


Soraya Morris, ChFC®



Soraya Morris is a lead trainer at Envestnet MoneyGuide. As a lead trainer, she delivers live and virtual training sessions to thousands of financial advisors, wholesalers, and broker-dealers across the country to expand their knowledge of financial planning topics and deliver quality financial plans to their clients. Before joining Envestnet Moneyguide, she worked for several fee-only RIA offices, always striving to educate clients and deliver an excellent experience with a fiduciary focus. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Finance with a concentration in Financial Planning from Virginia Commonwealth University. 

Having worked with both low-income and high-net-worth clients, Soraya has a diverse perspective of financial issues facing young professionals, business owners, and families. “I hope when other young women and people of color see my journey, they will be inspired to pursue a career that can make our communities better,” she says. “With the average age of financial advisors being in their mid-50s and it being projected that one third of advisors will retire over the next 10 years, it’s a great time to be a young professional in the industry. Due to national demographic shifts, the next generation of clients will be more diverse than ever before. That’s why it’s imperative that the next generation of financial planners, which is also the most diverse in the country’s history, to pursue the financial services training necessary to best serve the growing milieu that America represents.”


Five Things You Don’t Know About Soraya

  • Favorite organization: Member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the first Black Greek Sorority founded in 1908 (along with Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris)

  • Favorite podcast: “When I’m not listening to the latest true crime podcast, I love learning about random topics on the Stuff You Should Know podcast.”

  • Favorite quote: “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style" – Maya Angelou

  • Favorite vacation: “In 2018, my husband and I rented a convertible and drove up the Pacific Coast Highway in California. It is a drive with breathtaking views!”

  • Favorite book: The Grace Year by Kim Liggett (for the moment!)


Mark J. Schnobrich Jr., CLU®, ChFC®, RICP®



Mark Schnobrich is the Managing Director of Northwestern Mutual in Buffalo. A native of Syracuse, NY, he graduated Summa Cum Laude from St. John Fisher College in 2006 with a Bachelor of Science in both Personal and Corporate Finance. He started with Northwestern Mutual as a college intern during his senior year, and upon graduating transitioned into a full-time financial representative position to continue to develop his career. In addition to running a personal practice, he has had opportunities to lead and develop the college internship program, as well as to mentor and inspire future financial advisors. He lives with his wife Andrea in Amherst, NY.

Mark says he chose this career because of the unlimited potential to have both positive and purposeful impact in the lives of clients and on the communities he serves, especially in these uncertain times. “Our responsibility right now is to be a lighthouse for our clients,” he says. “We are their symbol of safety and security; it is our job to continuously show up and listen so that we can understand their concerns. Money is one of the most powerful things that exist, yet it is highly misunderstood. It’s important that the next generation continue to pursue this career because the need to understand finances as well as how to make money-based decisions has never been greater, especially in today’s environment.”


Five Things You Didn’t Know About Mark

  • Spirit animal: Rhinoceros

  • Favorite hobbies: Golf, lacrosse, anything outdoors

  • Favorite organizations: Eric Wood Foundation, Hearts for ALS, the Maine Cancer Foundation, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation

  • Coffee or tea: Coffee, black

  • Favorite vacation: Cruise around the islands of Hawaii


Bryce Simon, CFP®, CLU®, ChFC®, RICP®



Bryce Simon is a 2008 graduate of Purdue University, where he studied Management, Computer Technology, and Organizational Leadership. He has earned several professional financial designations and joined Northwestern Mutual after graduation from college, where he continues to work as a financial planner and wealth management advisor.

Bryce says in his work at Northwestern, the biggest challenge he sees clients face is one of maintaining lifestyle. “Very few people are naturally wired to be savers, and spending has become easier than ever,” he says. “We focus on aligning spending and values. We’ve found over the years the most effective way to combat misaligned spending is to define what a client’s values are. When values are defined, we now have clarity on how to use resources. Satisfaction happens when systems and actions align with values and you move closer to your goals.”

Bryce also says being a younger person in financial services has many benefits. “When I started at 20 as an intern, I didn’t have the financial pressures that many career changers end up having. I had the opportunity to learn with my age group who didn’t need sophisticated planning; they needed to develop good habits and have a system of accountability. Now in my mid 30’s and over a decade in practice, I have the advantage of working with people double my age, giving them confidence that over the next 30 years of my career, I’ll get them through their version of retirement.”


Five Things You Didn’t Know About Bryce

  • Favorite hobbies: Woodworking, Little League coaching

  • Biggest mentor: “Tom Canale, CLU®, ChFC®, ChSNC®, is my managing director and an advisor 15 years my senior.  He has an incredibly successful full service practice and is the reason I stuck with the business in my early years. Tom’s biggest influence on me today is to help me keep things simple.”

  • Last meal: A full Thanksgiving dinner

  • Favorite book: The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John Mann

  • Favorite quote: “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I'd spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.” - Albert Einstein


Heather L. Szyperski, ChFC®, CLU®



Heather Szyperski graduated from The Westminster Schools in 2002 and received a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from the University of Georgia in 2006. Heather entered the financial services industry as an internal wholesaler with Jackson National Life after graduation, where she completed courses in IRA distributions, charitable remainder trusts, credit shelter trusts, annuity titling and 72(t) and (q) distributions. She joined Heinz & Associates, Inc., in April of 2008 and became president of the company in 2019. She and her husband Bobby live in Vinings, GA, with their 2-year-old son James and two dogs.

Heather says her role is to coordinate the different aspects of a client’s financial plan and fill in holes where necessary, and that more next-gen professionals are needed in the financial services space. “Many younger clients may choose to manage pieces of their financial picture on their own, but I have often found that there is still a need for a professional to make sure that what they are doing coincides with other aspects of their financial health,” she says. “Also, most people in their 50s or 60s are in a position where their financial planner is also retiring. I tell those clients that just like you need a younger doctor, you also need a younger financial planner to make sure all those years and plans made by your first planner are executed correctly.”


Five Things You Didn’t Know About Heather

  • Favorite book: Lee Smith’s Fair and Tender Ladies

  • Favorite pastime: Amateur choir

  • Biggest mentor: “My father (Charles Heinz, MSFS, CLU®, ChFC®, LUTCF®) and my grandfather (the late William L. Heinz, Jr., CLU®, ChFC®): my grandfather for his ability to listen to and respect everyone even when I know he disagreed with them, and my father for his constantly positive outlook.”

  • Coffee or tea: “Neither…much to my husband’s embarrassment, I choose Coke Zero.”

  • Last show binge-watched: Teenage Bounty Hunters


For more information about the NextGen Financial Services Professional Award, read our official announcement. You can also learn more about The College’s work with next-gen financial advisors on the NextGen Advisory Task Force’s web page or on our Podcast page with the NextGen in 10 podcast.